Category Archives: behavior problems

How Do Dogs Think?


By Linda Cole

Dogs aren’t usually thought of as problem solvers. However, they are pretty good at manipulating us to get what they want. They definitely are not dumb. Dogs do think and can remember things. It’s hard not to wonder what your dog is thinking about when you catch him staring off into the distance or watching TV. Of course they don’t process information the same way we do – or do they?

Researchers believe the canine mind processes images in their mind via their senses. Dogs think using smells, sounds and images. It’s really not unlike how we process information. When you talk to a friend on the phone, you can visualize that person’s face. Our minds are full of images, smells and sounds we’ve learned throughout our lives. If you’re thinking about buying a new car, you see the image of that car. Growling and hissing outside your bedroom window conjures up an image of two cats fighting. The smell of a neighbor’s steak cooking on his grill lets you see that steak cooking. Like dogs, we get a mental picture in our mind associated with different smells, sounds and images. Although our thought process is more sophisticated, a general observation would entertain the notion that dogs think like we do.

Take for example, a dog waiting for his owner to return home. Researchers believe dogs think about us while we’re gone. Since our smells are everywhere in the home, it’s easy for dogs to have a mental picture of us in their minds. Look at it from your dog’s point of view. Before you walk out the front door to go to work, you’ve engaged in a specific routine. Your dog knows you are getting ready to leave. He watches and learns what you do, and pays attention to what you’ve touched whether you know it or not. That’s why the remote may have chew marks on it or you find your favorite book in shreds in the middle of the living room floor. It smells like you and it gave your dog a positive feeling, especially if you sat on the couch last night with him by your side as you read or watched TV.

Your dog’s favorite smells are everywhere around the home, allowing him to think in images of things you do every day. In order to make himself feel better, especially if you are running late, he may “borrow” something of yours. This could act as a sort of crutch to help him get through until you arrive home.

When most dogs think of their owners, their thoughts of us are positive, which is what we want. A combination of positive and negative images can begin to confuse a dog, who then starts to exhibit behavioral problems. Yelling at your dog for something he did wrong while you were gone does nothing except to begin a reinforcement of negative feelings in him associated with you coming home. Any punishment after the fact is useless because he has no idea why you are yelling at him or punishing him. The only fair punishment is at the time the infraction took place. Dogs don’t hold grudges and neither should we.

As responsible pet owners, it’s up to us to understand how dogs think in order to understand how our reaction to finding something destroyed while we were gone will affect the dog. The last thing you want to do is give your dog negative thoughts connected with you returning home. The best thing to do is to count to ten, clean up the mess, and try to think like a dog and see his environment from his view. He doesn’t understand how expensive your new CD was or the sentimental value of the book that was handed down to you from your great-great grandfather, or the importance of the photo album you were looking at last night that was left on the coffee table.

Your dog will search for anything with your smell on it, and it makes him feel good and happy while he waits for your return. It really isn’t his fault if you forgot to put something important or expensive away. So instead of getting mad and dishing out punishment that means nothing to your dog, provide him with appropriate items he can safely snuggle with or chew on while you’re gone. Give him a break. Your home is filled with your smell which keeps you in your dog’s mind.

Dogs think, even though it’s not on the same level as a Rhodes scholar. Most people will admit that their dog has them wrapped around their little finger. If you don’t believe dogs think, then how were they able to train us so well?

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.

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How to Stop Wool Sucking in Cats


By Julia Williams

I had a gray tabby cat named Binky who was the sweetest, most affectionate feline I’ve ever known. Binky was my kitty companion for 19 years, and I loved her dearly. But Binky had a bizarre habit – she sucked on my blankets and sweaters until they became a soggy mess. Like countless other cat owners confronted with such odd behavior, I thought something must be mentally wrong with Binky. Should Binky see a cat therapist, I wondered? I opted to consult with my vet instead, who informed me that Binky’s behavior was actually fairly common. It even had a name: wool sucking.

What causes wool sucking in cats?

Some cats, like Binky, become fixated with sucking, licking or chewing on fabrics. Because wool is generally the fabric of choice, this behavior became known as wool sucking. Although there is no definitive answer as to why cats engage in wool sucking, it is believed to be a misdirected, compulsive behavior related to nursing and too-early weaning of kittens. Genetics may also play a part. Although many people wonder if there might be something missing in the cat’s diet that causes them to be wool suckers, my vet said this was highly unlikely.

For survival reasons, a young kitten’s drive to nurse is quite strong. Healthy kittens nurse vigorously until they are about six to seven weeks old. After that, the momma cat usually rebuffs the kittens when they try to nurse, until they are completely weaned and eating solid food on their own. As the kitten grows older and naturally progresses to solid food, their drive to nurse fades. But in some cases, when a kitten experiences abrupt early weaning while their nursing drive is still strong, they may turn to non-nutritional substitutes that have the same feel as Mom, such as that soft wool blanket on your bed.

Is wool sucking dangerous for your cat?

Wool sucking is a strange behavior, to be sure. Having spittle -soaked blankets is no picnic either. But is wool sucking harmful to your cat? As long as the behavior stays at the wool sucking stage and doesn’t progress to the chewing and swallowing stage, it may not be a problem that requires intervention on your part. The kitten may also outgrow the behavior in time. If they don’t, and the wool sucking turns to chewing and swallowing, the behavior could be dangerous for your cat because they could suffer intestinal obstruction from the ingested fabric.

What can you do about wool sucking?

As I said, sometimes the wool sucking will subside on its own. It may go away completely, or your kitten or cat may only engage in wool sucking in times of stress or conflict. If your cat engages in wool sucking, the right course of action would be to have your cat examined by your veterinarian to rule out any medical causes for the behavior. Then, depending upon what your vet recommends, you may want to consider consulting with a cat behaviorist.

If your vet feels that your cat’s wool sucking is endangering its health, they may suggest one of the following treatments:

Aversion – If your cat only sucks on one or two objects, you can try a pet deterrent spray. Just be sure to test it on a small, inconspicuous area first to make sure it won’t harm the fabric.

Eliminate or reduce sources of stress for your cat – Some possible stressors include: separation anxiety, conflicts with other cats and dogs in your household, neighborhood cats coming into your yard, rowdy visitors and loud noises.

Redirect the wool-eating – When you see your cat chomping on your favorite sweater or blanket, offer it something else to suck on, such as a fuzzy sock or a soft cat toy.

Drug Therapy – Your veterinarian may prescribe medication such as anti-anxiety or anti-depressants.

Discourage the behavior – If you catch your cat in the act of wool sucking, gently tap them on the nose and say, “No” in a firm voice. You can also help to discourage the wool sucking by not giving them access to the objects they like to suck on. For example, keep all clothes picked up and put away, and always make your bed so the blanket is covered up.

I found Binky in my backyard when she was only about five weeks old, so the theory that wool sucking is caused by abrupt early weaning makes sense to me. Binky never did outgrow the wool sucking behavior completely, but since she did it less frequently as she got older and never progressed to wool eating, I viewed it more as an annoyance rather than a problem which required treatment. As in all cases where your cat exhibits strange behavior, you should discuss it with your vet to determine if treatment is necessary.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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.

The Strange Behaviors of Cats


By Julia Williams

Does your cat do weird things? Rest assured, if your feline friend regularly engages in strange behavior that makes no sense to you –you’re not alone. I could fill a book with all of the peculiar things my cats have done over the years. It leads me to believe there must be some unwritten “rule of paw” that every cat knows about and agrees to adhere to, once they get adopted by a human. It probably goes something like this: “I will always engage in strange behaviors that drive my human crazy.”

Okay, maybe not. But having been around cats all of my life, it does seem like they are always doing odd things for no particular reason. Perhaps my cats have a perfectly good reason why they won’t sleep in the adorable plush cat bed I bought for them, but will curl up inches away from it on the cold, hardwood floor instead; if so, it eludes me. Perhaps they know exactly what makes a cardboard box – any cardboard box – so darn irresistible. I’ve seen my cats turn into little Cirque du Soleil-like contortionists to wedge themselves into a teeny tiny cardboard box for a nap. It doesn’t look the least bit comfortable to me, yet they snooze away.

My cats are disinterested in most of the cute cat toys I buy for them. They like to play with straws instead, and will even steal them out of my drink when I’m not looking! My idiot kitties used to hang their behinds off the side of their litter box and leave little “droppings” on the floor, but I put an end to this objectionable behavior by switching to a covered cat box. However, I have not yet found a solution to their confounding habit of forever trying to stick their furry little rumps in my face. “No Thank You” doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel about that behavior.

My cats have always been very good about using the various scratching posts I’ve strategically placed around my house. Nevertheless, every so often I will catch Rocky (a.k.a., my “problem child”) in the act of sharpening his claws on the carpet – right next to one of the scratching posts!

One odd cat behavior that always makes me laugh is the overzealous and prolonged digging in the litter box. Sometimes it lasts so long, I think they must surely be trying to dig a hole to China. Another funny cat behavior is when they scratch the floor next to their food bowl. Some theorize this is because they’re unhappy with the food offering and are trying to cover it, but I’m not convinced. I’ve been feeding them FELIDAE cat food exclusively for about five years, and they seem to love it. Why would it be acceptable 99 days out of 100?

Kneading is a common behavior that almost all cats do. Kneading is a vestige of kittenhood, when they would knead the momma cat’s belly during nursing, to help the milk flow. When adult cats do it (very often on their human “mom’s” belly!) it’s typically thought to indicate that they’re happy and content.

A strange behavior my cat Annabelle does that looks similar to kneading is what I call “angry marching in place.” She will furiously march with just her back legs, usually on the bedspread or the carpet, with an odd expression on her face. I have no idea why she does this, but she looks more possessed than happy when doing it.

Does your cat follow you into the bathroom? I’m not sure why felines are so fascinated with what goes on in that room and want to be in there with you, but most cat owners I’ve talked to say this is a typical behavior at their house. I learned long ago to warn my guests to firmly shut the door when they use my bathroom. Otherwise, they could find themselves sitting on the throne with a cat staring at them, and the door flung wide open. Cats never gently nudge open a door; they push it open with all their might.

Drooling while being petted is another common cat behavior. Animal behaviorist’s say this simply means your kitty is happy and relaxed, and enjoying the attention you’re lavishing upon them. It makes sense to me. My three cats all drool excessively when I pet or brush them, but never at any other time. Once, at the end of a marathon brushing session with Annabelle, I reached down to kiss her paw and discovered that it was sopping wet! (I’m much more careful about what I kiss now).

Cats are funny creatures, to be sure. But those of us who love them, accept their strange behaviors because it’s a part of what makes them so endearing. If you’d like to share your own cat’s quirky behaviors, please feel free to leave a comment.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

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.

Why Do Dogs Roll in Disgusting Things?


By Ruthie Bently

I’ve lived with American Staffordshire Terriers since 1981 and have been lucky enough to own four of them. While they were all basically the same because they were AmStaffs, they were all different in their personal habits. AmStaffs are a wonderful breed and my first dog Nimber was a great dog that literally cleaved to my left hip, but for all his nice traits (and he had many) he had one habit that I was never able to break. He liked to roll in nasty things.

Before I had put up fencing for a dog yard where Nimber could exercise safely, there was one weekend that the person supervising his recreation period wasn’t leashing him for his walks. As a result he got loose and went wandering on his own. Nimber ended up getting three baths in a day and a half because he kept rolling in green deer poop. I am totally convinced that he went back to the same spot after each bath just to get smelly again. After I put up the dog run fencing, he was confined safely; but every time he got loose he found the smelliest pile of stuff to roll in.

There are many schools of thought as to why our dogs roll in things we think are nasty. Whether it is a pile of fresh cow or horse manure in a pasture, a pile of deer poop in the woods or maybe a dead animal carcass that they run across on a daily walk, some dogs will roll in it. I have happy news, though – not all dogs roll in smelly stuff.

Some people believe that our dogs roll in nasty things to cover a rival dog’s scent, which seems foolish to me. I have owned enough dogs, both male and female, that will mark a spot with either feces or urine after another dog has left a deposit of their own, but they never rolled in it. If anything they got perturbed by the miscreant marking territory that they felt was theirs.

I read something else that I tend to agree with after living with my own dogs, which suggested that the behavior goes back to that original pack. A dog finding something to roll in was doing it to take a message back to the pack. Bees go back to a hive and do a dance, ants lay a pheromone trail back to their nest for other ants to follow back to the food source they have found. What better way for a dog to take a message back, than to roll in the filthy mess? Their whole body is covered in a new smell!

Dogs are very scent oriented in nature; they always smell each other when they meet (if their owners allow them). If a wolf were to roll in fresh deer poop, they could lead the pack back to the area, and the pack could track the deer, which in turn could lead to a new source of food.

Yet another theory that goes back to the original pack, mentions that our dogs may be trying to camouflage their own scent from others. Think about it – they roll in very smelly stuff and come home not smelling like our dog any more. What better way to protect themselves from anything that may want to harm them, or prey they may not want to smell their scent and become spooked?

The last theory is that our dogs get turned on by many odors. Maybe they just like to smell different than they already smell. We humans use perfume, and according to the findings of one laboratory experiment performed, the dogs tested rolled in a large scope of things, including rotting garbage, dung, tobacco, lemon rind and perfume. This would seem to shoot down either the theory about covering the scent of a rival or camouflaging their own scent from another animal.

So the next time your beloved dog rolls in something disgusting, try not to get angry. And if it makes you feel better, think of it as aromatherapy for your dog.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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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.

Jealousy and Possessive Behavior in Dogs


By Linda Cole

Possessive behavior in dogs is actually quite common. We often see them guarding their favorite toy or sleeping spot, or making sure other pets in the house stay away from their feeding bowl or treat “cookie jar.” In a way, it’s hard to blame them for protecting what they believe belongs to them, and that includes their human. After all, we display the same tendencies toward other people. Being possessive of a toy or favorite resting area is one thing, but if your dog is jealous, that’s another ballgame that can quickly get out of control.

Jealousy in dogs is not cute, and we unknowingly encourage bad behavior each time the dog is allowed to display this emotion with no correction from us. Jealousy can occur when you bring in a new pet, start a new relationship, have a baby or when there is any other change in your life which takes your attention away from your dog. In his mind, he has stood by you through thick and thin, and given unconditional love— and now you are giving your attention to someone else. How rude.

Kelly is my alpha female. She’s an adorable 14 year old terrier/mix who has eyes only for me. As far as she is concerned, I belong to her and it’s her duty to protect me. I didn’t realize she had taken on the role as my protector until the day she actually nipped at a friend who took one step too close to me. With my eyes opened, I began to notice it wasn’t just my friend. Kelly was also protecting me from the other dogs and cats in my pack. The change in our household was a job that required a lot of overtime. I also was caring for my father who had fallen and was recovering from a broken hip. They did not get along; his walker scared her, and he was afraid of her. I had to confine Kelly when I was at work, and her little heart was broken.

Jealousy and possessive behavior in dogs can be a serious behavior problem. Some dogs will exhibit signs of depression or a loss of appetite. They may be withdrawn or show signs of aggression that you’ve never seen before. Kelly would lie beside me on the couch, and if another dog or cat came too close, she would leap at them with a high pitched warning bark. She was like a rattlesnake lashing out. This stressed out not only her, but the other pets and me as well.

So how do you deal with jealousy and possessive behavior in dogs? The solution isn’t as difficult as it may seem, but it requires consistent dedication and a calm steady hand. Whether you know it or not, before your dog became jealous, the two of you had a daily routine. Perhaps it was a morning walk before going to work, playing ball after work, or a relaxing ear scratching session while watching TV. To a dog, routine is important because he sees any change as him losing his place by your side and in your heart.

Reassure him with extra attention and maintain a daily schedule of walking, feeding, talking to and playing with him. Encourage positive interaction between him and any new member of the pack, whether it is human or another pet.

Reestablish basic training ground rules. Your dog may need to be reminded who the boss is. A jealous or possessive dog needs to be watched and as the pack leader, you need to step in and control any signs of aggression or negative behavior before they get out of control. Make sure to reward desired behavior with a yummy treat (like CANIDAE® Snap-Bits™) or extra back scratching time. Your dog is just looking for reassurance that you still value him.

Kelly is still jealous of the other pets, but she has realized her role in the pack has not changed. I started a new routine: walks with other members of the pack, special time set aside just for her which included head scratching and girl talk, along with appropriate pack leader discipline from me when needed.

Dealing with jealousy and possessive behavior in dogs is ongoing. It’s worth the effort to maintain peace in the family for their well being as well as our own. Besides, our dogs think we are the most wonderful creatures around and want to please us. The least we can do is be responsible pack leaders and set rules that are consistent and clear. In doing so, our dogs will understand their place in the pack and know what we expect from them.

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.