Category Archives: behavior problems

How to Stop Your Dog’s Excessive Barking

By Suzanne Alicie

You love your dog, and you love knowing when there is danger or something lurking on your property; what you don’t love is when your dog barks excessively or for unknown reasons. Excessive barking is something that can be trained away. The secret is to make your dog understand that there is a time when they need to bark, and a time when they should be quiet. Keep in mind that your dog cannot read your mind, so it is your job as a responsible pet owner to teach him how you expect him to behave.

The sooner you get started on curtailing this excessive barking problem, the easier it will be to train your dog to stop the barking habit. The best way to begin is to dedicate yourself to consistently teaching your dog two basic commands: “speak” and “quiet.” It may be quite frustrating for you to break your dog’s excessive barking habit, but by remaining consistent and not allowing the dog to bark continuously for no reason you are slowly teaching him that barking is a method of communication and shouldn’t be used unless there is something important to “say.” For more on consistent dog training, be sure to read Linda Cole’s article, “Dog Training with Consistency and Patience.”
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Is Your Puppy or Dog Chewing Out of Control?

By Linda Cole

Puppies are so cute, you can’t help picking one up and giving it a big hug. But they aren’t nearly as cute when you find them chewing their way through your home. Even an older dog is capable of destroying your shoes or that heirloom quilt passed down from your great grandma.

A puppy or dog chewing on your things or furniture isn’t doing it to make you mad. They’re just doing what’s natural for them. Since dogs can’t pick things up and see them like we can, they use their mouths to investigate what they find. Sometimes an interesting smell on something causes them to chew. Others chew because they don’t know what else to do. A bored dog can dismantle a chair in a single afternoon. I know because I had a really comfy chair that fell prey to a bored dog one day. She completely destroyed my favorite chair.
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Training a Sensitive Dog

By Linda Cole

Dogs have different personalities just like we do. Each one is an individual who does show us how they feel, as long as we pay attention. Dogs can be confident, laid back and eager to please their owner. Others show a more sensitive side. It can take a little more prodding to train a sensitive dog, because you first have to gain his trust. If your dog seems hesitant, he may be sensitive.

We’ve been taking care of a friend’s dog since late winter. Dozer is a gentle and loving dog who acts like he wants to do what we ask, but he’s sensitive. Because he belongs to a friend, we were hesitate to get too involved with training him, but he needs to know basic commands whether he’s here or with his owner. We began a normal training program with him and failed miserably. Since conventional methods weren’t working, we needed to change tactics to gain his trust and help him find his confidence.

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The Best Way to Help a Scared Dog or Cat

By Linda Cole

Fear can be paralyzing to any living thing. Most animals and people who have gone through a fearful situation will remember it and react accordingly the next time they encounter anything that reminds them of it. As much as you want to help your scared dog or cat, there is a right way and wrong way to go about it. The last thing you want to do is reinforce their fear. I’m not talking about a scared pet who has a severe reaction to thunderstorms, fireworks, a neighborhood dog or cat, other pets in the home, or other situations that cause them to overreact with fear. This article is concerning mild to moderate cases of fear with no aggression issues associated with it.

When a scared dog or cat can’t tell us what scared them, we have to try to figure out where their fear came from. Sometimes the reason is easy to determine, but we may not always know why a dog or cat is showing signs of fear. As a responsible pet owner, you want to help a scared dog or cat by comforting them and reassuring them everything is alright. Your first reaction is to pick them up or sit beside them and gently stroke their coat and tell them, “It’s alright,” but this only reinforces their fear. To your pet, you’re saying it’s OK for them to be fearful. The next time the fearful situation comes up, the cat or dog remembers how you reacted, and the positive feedback they received during the stressful situation can reinforce their fearful reaction to it.

When you attempt to comfort a scared dog or cat, you’re teaching the pet to be dependent on you, but pets need to be able to work through occasional periods of fear themselves. No pet owner wants their dog or cat to be upset or frightened, but they need to be given an opportunity to learn how to be confident and brave during scary situations, because you can’t always be around to reassure them.

The best thing to do when your dog or cat reacts to something they believe as threatening is to ignore their reaction completely, unless it was warranted and your pet reacted to a potentially dangerous situation. Dogs and cats look to us to help them understand things that happen in their world. When they see you reacting as if there’s nothing to worry about and the situation poses no threat, they will adopt your lead. Once a frightened pet learns nothing bad happens during their episodes of being scared, they begin to relax and calm down on their own. The next time they encounter the scary moment, they will remember how you reacted to it and their fear will gradually be forgotten.

Keep in mind, however, that not all pets can get over their fears this easily. Ignoring more severe cases can put other pets or people at risk. When a pet, especially a dog, reacts aggressively to a scary situation each time they’re scared, then it’s time to talk to a vet or animal behaviorist who can help your pet deal with their fear. Some scared dogs or cats have phobias that are a mystery to us, especially an adopted pet from a shelter or one you may have found wandering lost on the street. There are times when ignoring their fears could cause them more harm. Responsible pet owners need to be able to distinguish between a severe phobia that may require help from a professional animal behaviorist, over a scared reaction from a one-time event or even a mild case of fear that can be dealt with by ignoring the reaction and showing them there’s no reason to be scared.

Most owners think of their pets as members of their family. You want to protect them and help them be as confident as they can be. Watching a scared dog or cat can be heartbreaking and our first reaction is to coddle them. I know from experience how difficult it is to ignore them when all you want to do is comfort them by reassuring them it’s alright. But I know the best way to help is to ignore their fear, as long as it’s not a serious or aggressive overreaction that could escalate, harming others or themselves. Be patient and stay consistent and over time, their fear will subside once they learn nothing bad happened when they were scared. A self confident dog or cat is a happy and well balanced pet.

If you have a dog who has a fear of water, Ruthie Bently recently wrote an article on how to help them overcome their fear of water.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Understanding Aggressive Behavior in Dogs

By Linda Cole

Even the friendliest dog can demonstrate aggressive behavior at times. There’s a number of reasons why your dog can suddenly become aggressive towards you, another pet or a stranger. But what a dog considers to be normal behavior is certainly not acceptable to us. It’s important to remember that just because your dog is acting in an aggressive manner, it doesn’t mean he’s become aggressive. Before you can change your dog’s behavior or know if he even has a problem, you need to understand what caused the aggressive reaction in the first place.

Dogs are social animals and consider their people and other pets as members of the pack. It’s normal behavior for a dog to protect his family and he may, at times, show a protective aggressive behavior if he feels a threat from outside his family. It becomes a problem when the dog can’t distinguish between friend or foe. The dog guarding a new baby may be cute until no one is allowed to see the baby. It’s natural for a mother dog to protect her puppies, but not to the point where she refuses to let anyone close to them.

Possessive aggression is where the dog will protect whatever he considers important to him. It can be his food or even his empty bowl. A dog may feel he needs to protect toys, beds, treats and his owner. If he feels threatened, it will trigger aggressive behavior. Some dogs will even take their favorite things and stash them in hiding spots around their home. If another pet or human is unknowingly near one of his hiding spots, the dog can become aggressive if he thinks his “treasure” has been discovered. The dog protecting his human may lash out at anyone or other pets who get too close.

Dogs who are afraid will show fear aggression. Usually, this dog won’t attack someone or another animal unless they feel cornered or trapped. You can tell if a dog is fearful because they’ll try to not look at what’s causing their fear. Their tail is tucked between their legs and they may have a hunched back posture. Do not turn your back on a dog with fear aggression. There are different reasons why a dog is fearful and if one is showing fear, caution should be used because they can lash out in an aggressive attempt to get away from what’s scaring them. This kind of aggressive behavior can be sudden with no warning signs.

Territorial aggression is a bit like protective aggression. The dog feels a need to protect his home and yard from strangers or other animals who violate his space. Like the protective dog, this can be a problem when people come to visit or if other animals, wild or domestic, wander into the dog’s territory.

A dog who has been injured or is in pain for any reason can exhibit pain elicited aggression. Even the most loving, friendly dog can lash out at the person or animal who caused his pain. Many owners have been bitten while trying to treat a dog’s minor injury or while grooming a dog with painful hips or joints. Long haired dogs who need their coats combed to remove tangles can bite when a stuck tangle pulls too hard.

Predatory aggression is when the dog chases bikes, cars, people running down the street, the neighborhood cats, squirrels, rabbits or anything else he sees moving. When his prey drive is activated, the dog with a more aggressive behavior may act on his natural instinct to capture his prey and he may harm what he catches if it’s another animal. A dog showing predatory aggression is also apt to bite the person on the bike or the person jogging down the street.

Other types of aggressions include defensive aggression, social aggression, frustration elicited aggression, redirected aggression and sex related aggression.

A dog can show aggressive behavior at any time in their life. Any one of the above conditions can trigger a forceful response. Aggression can be reduced if you understand why they became that way in the first place. Any time your dog displays aggression towards you, another family member, other pets or outside people coming into your home or yard, it’s always best to speak with your vet, because medical conditions can spark an aggressive outburst. However, if there’s no medical reason for your dog’s behavior, your vet can recommend a qualified behaviorist who can help you and your dog deal with his aggression. There are different ways of dealing with different types of aggression, and some are more controversial than others. Always make sure you are comfortable with any recommendations given to you by a behaviorist.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.

Is it Separation Anxiety, or Something Else?

By Linda Cole

We all know what separation anxiety is. A dog just can’t stand being away from the people he loves. Left alone, the dog might whine, howl or bark all day which isn’t good if you live in an apartment. He may also destroy things in the home or scratch up the doors and windows. He gets all worked up and so do the neighbors. But, there could be something else going on that has nothing to do with a dog missing his owner.

Separation anxiety has become a sort of catch-all for behavioral problems. But it could also be boredom or a disease. No one knows why some dogs seem to miss their owner more than others. Some become anxious even with the owner at home but in a different room. Destructive chewing, howling or constant barking, drooling and doing their business inside are all symptoms of separation anxiety. Some dogs become so worked up they chew on themselves, causing self inflicted injuries. A mild case can be dealt with easily whereas a more severe case may require medication and/or working with an animal behavioral expert to help solve the dog’s anxiety.

A bored pet can be as destructive as one who misses his owner, but the two problems are quite different. Boredom can be solved with exercise before you leave the house and chew toys stuffed with dog treats. But before you can solve the mystery of whether your dog is destroying your couch because he’s bored or because he’s experiencing separation anxiety, you need to determine which problem you are dealing with. Discussing the issue with your vet can help.

There are medical reasons why your dog may be exhibiting what appears to be separation anxiety. Cushing’s disease, seizures, diabetes, renal disease, gastrointestinal problems or cystitis could be the problem. A fear of thunderstorms that increases when you are gone can upset some dogs enough that they howl or chew to help relieve their fear. Cognitive dysfunction, needing to go outside, marking their territory, a pup who is teething and not being completely housebroken can all be symptoms that you should have your dog checked out by a vet or an animal behaviorist, or spend extra time working on housebreaking and basic training.

Separation anxiety can begin at any age and for a variety of reasons. If you’ve moved into a new home, your dog may not feel as comfortable in his new surroundings. Separation anxiety can occur is you adopt a new dog who isn’t accustomed to you, their new environment or a new routine. It might manifest if your work schedule changes and you don’t have as much time to spend exercising and playing with your dog.

Other causes of separation anxiety include: a new baby in the home; new people living in your home; other changes in your living arrangements; a death in the family which can be a human or another pet. Separation anxiety might occur if your dog had an extended stay in a kennel or at the vet, or if you’ve adopted a new puppy or kitten. Your dog needs to know he hasn’t lost your love, so any time there’s a change, it’s important to reassure him he’s still your buddy. Dogs feel most comfortable and secure when their routine is maintained from day to day. Before making changes that are in your control, talk to your vet for recommendations on how to best implement the change so your dog doesn’t feel threatened. Changes you can’t control, like a death, may need to be dealt with by an expert if your dog continues to grieve.

Don’t assume your dog has separation anxiety just because it’s an easy explanation for why your dog is misbehaving. Any of the diseases mentioned above, boredom or lack of proper training could be the culprit. If you’re thinking about using a crate to help keep your dog from destroying the house while you’re gone, discuss your intentions with your vet before doing so. A dog with separation anxiety should never be put in a crate. It will only cause him more stress to be confined in a small area.

The more we learn about dogs, the more we understand how intertwined our lives are. Separation anxiety can be dealt with as long as that’s the problem. It’s always a good idea to have your vet give your dog a checkup just to make sure it’s separation anxiety and not something else.

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, corporate or brand names, is for information and convenience only. Such use does not constitute an endorsement by CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods of any product or service. Opinions are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® All Natural Pet Foods.