Dog Behavior Explained
Sometimes dogs engage in destructive behaviors such as digging, chewing, excessive barking and many others. The first thing to remember about a problem behavior is that for you it is a problem. For the dog, it's a reaction to a completely different problem that he is experiencing. For example, let's say a dog is lonely or bored. That is his problem. His solution might be to chew on something, which you see as the problem. However, this action happens to relieve his tension, and it provides the dog with something to do. It's a fact that every destructive behavior is a solution that the dog finds to his problem. Fortunately, there are ways to solve both your and your dog's problems.
Destructive dog breeds
Dog behavior problems and solutions
Dominant behavior in dogs
Separation anxiety in dogs
Why do dogs roll on their backs?
Why do dogs sniff butts when they meet?
Understanding a dog's body language
Destructive dog breeds
Some dog breeds are champions when it comes to destructive dog behavior around the house that includes scratching doors, chewing furniture, ripping things apart, digging in the garden and doing other damage to your home and property.
Top most destructive dog breeds:
Basset Hounds can be destructive dogs around the house. They enjoy chewing on things, including your furniture.
Beagles are capable of being destructive dogs around the garden. Beagles like to dig and can benefit from having a separate area in the garden where they are allowed to dig as much as they like.
Boxers have a lot of energy to burn and if you leave your Boxer home alone, you may learn the meaning of destructive dog behavior when you come home.
Dachshunds have a repuatation for destructive dog behavior. Like Beagles, Dachshunds like to dig. They can benefit from having their own part of the yard where they can dig all they want.
Bulldogs are in the list of destructive dog breeds because they do enjoy scratching and chewing. Don't be surprised by scratched doors in your home if you have a Bulldog in the house.
English Setters have destructive dog behavior that is very similar to that of Bulldogs - they enjoy scratching things around the house.
Whippets are also destructive dogs who are capable of staining your favorite rug in a record time.
Chihuahuas are among the most destructive dog breeds despite their tiny size. These little dogs are notorious for staining carpets and rugs and finding other ways to be destructive around your territory.
Great Danes are in the list of the most destructive dog breeds. These giant dogs can use their teeth and paws to chew on the furniture, rip your sofa cover and scratch your doors.
Dog behavior problems and solutions
Destructive dog behavior such as damaged furniture, chewed up shoes or a garden full of "beautiful" dog-made holes in the ground can be very upsetting for dog owners. To understand the causes for such destructive dog behavior you may want to consider the following factors.
How to stop a dog from chewing:
Your dog's age may be one of the factors for destructive dog behavior. When dogs are between 3 and 6 months old, puppies begin teething, and with teething comes chewing. They will chew anything and everything. As their baby teeth fall out and their adult teeth erupt, chewing relieves the discomfort. Puppies go through a second chewing phase when they're between 7 and 9 months old as a part of exploring their territory. Unfortunately, puppies develop a fondness for chewing during these phases. They find out how much fun chewing can be! It relieves tension and anxiety, and makes their sore gums feel better. For adult dogs, chewing massages their gums, removes plaque, and occupies their time. If you have a young puppy that is going through a teething period then the reason for your chewed up shoes or furniture can be easy to see. The puppy's sensitive gums with erupting teeth need something to chew on to relieve the symptoms. It is reasonable to expect that you may lose some of your favorite pairs of shoes to the new puppy teeth and potentially some of your furniture may get chewed up. You don't have to silently suffer and watch your favorite shoes get chewed up as there are some effective ways to help yourself and your puppy at the same time. Provide your puppy with puppy toys made for sensitive gums with sharp new teeth. Be sure that the toys aren't sharp and do not break easily so that the puppy doesn't accidentally swallow a part of the toy. Get a few different teething toys for a good variety and let your puppy chew on these toys to relieve the sensitivity that the puppy is feeling as the new teeth are emerging. Another very good way to save your favorite pair of leather shoes from the sharp puppy teeth is very straightforward. Puppy-proof your home and hide all of the valuable items such as your new leather shoes or a purse away, where the dog can not reach these items. Lay down on the floor, and look around. See the world from the puppy's perspective and then remove all of the items that may appear interesting for your puppy. This way you can save yourself a lot of painful surprises that you may be presented with if you leave your puppy even for a moment alone in the room. Do not punish your puppy if you find something chewed up. Unless you catch the puppy in the act of chewing your valuables, yelling at the puppy or punishing the puppy is useless and may actually cause psychological damage to the dog because the puppy will not understand why you are punishing it. If you do catch the puppy in the act of chewing your valuables, the best way to handle the situation is to say "No!" and take away whatever the dog is chewing on. Then give the puppy his chewing toy and praise the dog when it's chewing on the teething toy.
Sometimes an adult dog engages in the same destructive behavior as a teething puppy. When you have an adult dog at home, finding your furniture ruined by the dog can be very unpleasant to say the least. This destructive behavior may have different causes and the most common causes are boredom, loneliness, inadequate exercise or stress. All dogs do not enjoy being left alone especially for several hours every day. Some breeds, especially the companion breeds need their human family with them most of the time. Even a few hours without the favorite owner can stress out the animal. To relieve the stress of being left alone some dogs may get into the habit of chewing the owner's shoes or other items. If you regularly leave your dog alone and there's no one who can take care of the animal while you are away or at work, then consider getting your pet a companion pet such as another dog. Not all adult dogs will welcome a new dog in their life with "open paws" and it is easier to socialize the two or more dogs when they are still puppies. Before you leave your pet home alone, remember to walk your dog, exercise your dog, leave the dog with chewing toys and remove all of the valuable things that the dog may damage while you are away. Do not leave your dog alone for many hours or overnight - it is not kind to your animal that needs regular walks, fresh water, food and your company. Find someone to take care of your pet while you are at work.
Some highly active and energetic dog breeds may get destructive because of insufficient exercise. When you are selecting a puppy, be sure to learn as much as you can about the breed's exercise needs on a daily basis. If you can not provide the dog with enough exercise, your dog may start exhibiting the destructive behavior as a way to find a way to release the built up energy and frustration from lack of exercise. Play with your dog and walk your dog before leaving the animal home alone even for an hour. And be sure to have some chewing toys around to keep the destructive dog behavior to a minimum while you are away.
Some dog breeds are more likely to dig holes in your garden than other breeds. It is only reasonable to expect that your Dachshund or Beagle will enjoy digging holes as this behavior is built into their DNA. Strong hunting instinct may be responsible for this destructive behavior. Another reason for your dog's digging is that the dog could be hot. Digging down the cool soil could be both refreshing and fun. A female dog will also engage in digging behavior if she is pregnant. Digging is a normal nesting behavior for pregnant dogs. The dog may be trying to escape. This could be a combination of wanderlust, boredom, loneliness, and predatory instinct - all the good game outside the fence. What you can do besides making your garden covered with concrete if you have a dog that is trying to dig a tunnel straight to China from your backyard? Your best bet is to supervise your dog any time the pet is visiting your backyard if you know that the dog will dig holes. Keep the dog busy in the backyard by playing with the animal or by providing it with dog toys that the dog enjoys. A kind thing would be to allocate an area where the dog can dig a hole and let the dog do what it enjoys there. This way the dog will satisfy its need for digging and everyone will be happy at the end. If your dog is hot, bring him inside where it's cool to stop the digging. If boredom is the cause for digging, then provide your dog with exercise and more of your company to end the destructive behavior. If your dog is pregnant, find her a suitable whelping box.
There can be many other reasons for your dog's destructive behavior and the best course of action would be to hide the important things from the dog's sight whenever you are not supervising the animal and check with your veterinarian or with a professional dog trainer who may be able to help with resolving this behavior issue.
Do not underestimate the importance of providing your dog with toys. Dog toys help the dog to prevent boredom and destructive behavior associated with being bored. Pets with toys are less likely to ruin furniture and other household items. Dogs and teething puppies need hard rubber or plastic toys to chew on. Chewing toys also help your dog to keep the teeth clean and strong. There are many different types of toys. Some toys are designed to keep your dog active. Squeaking toys are great for terriers and retrievers to satisfy their natural instincts. Provide your dog with various dog toys and see which type of toys he is more interested in.
Barking is a natural behavior for dogs. While it's nice to know that your dog will warn you of trespassers, strange-looking birds, and a twig falling in the yard, sometimes it can be annoying, especially to your neighbors.
Sometiems dogs bark for no reason, just as people talk for no reason. Most of the time, dogs know very well why they are barking. Dogs learn a lot of information about other dogs, just by hearing them bark. They know how far away the other dog is and how excited, sad or angry the other dog is. Loudness, pitch and rate are good indicators of these things. If your dog is barking to warn you of visitors, that's fine. Praise the dog for that and reassure him that all is well. If he continues to bark, ignore him until he stops. If the dog is barking to request something like treats or going for a run, deny the privilege until the dog ceases to bark, and then reward the quiet behavior. If your dog is barking because he is excited to go outside, bring him in the second he starts. He'll soon learn that barking results in being brought back into the house.
Dominant behavior in dogs.
Some dog breeds may have more dominant temperament than others. Some dog breeds may naturally be inclined to dominant behavior. These breeds need an experienced owner who is able to control the dog once the dog is fully grown and in some cases may be a large breed that weighs more than the owner. Some examples of dominant dog breeds include the Rottweiler, Akita, Anatolian Shepherd and many others. For a novice dog owner these breeds may be too much to handle. An overly dominant dog that is not properly trained can become very stubborn, will try to assert his dominance by always walking ahead of the owner and may even show aggression towards the owner or family members. It is very important to do a thorough research on the breed that you are planning to get so that you can be sure that the temperament of the dog will be a good fit in your family. Dogs that are dominant and have leadership tendencies will often display one or more of the following behaviors.
Dog is reluctant to get off the couch even when the owner is in the room and is clearly interested in sitting on the couch.
Dog is not willing to let the owner take away a toy.
Dog doesn't react to owner's commands immediately.
Dog is showing aggression towards the owner even when the owner is only trying to pet the dog.
Dogs can show dominance during walking. Dog is the one "walking" the owner by constantly pulling on the leash and "leading the way".
For any dog owner it is important to ensure that in your pack - you are the leader. Your dog needs to understand his position in your pack. If the dog is unsure about who is the leader in the pack - he may feel the need to assume the leadership role. Have you ever seen a dog "walking an owner" and pulling on the leash as the owner is trying to catch up? This is just another way the dog is exercising his leadership skills. What happens when the dog assumes the role of the leader of the pack? This scenario often ends in a lot of frustration for the owner as the dog is acting "out of control". The more you learn about establishing yourself as the leader of your pack - the more rewarding and pleasant will your relationship be with your pet. Being a leader doesn't mean that you need to be cruel or aggressive with your dog. Being a leader of the pack is having clear boundaries with your pet where the dog understands his role in your pack. Consistency is the key. Whenever the dog is overstepping his boundaries - the owner needs to ensure that there are consequences to such behavior. For example if your dog all of a sudden decides not to jump off the couch whenever you're about to sit down - as a leader you need to ensure that this behavior is not tolerated. A strict tone of your voice "GET OFF THE COUCH!" should be enough in this case as long as the dog immediately follows the command. Some dogs are naturally more inclined to more dominant behavior and that means that as a pack leader you have to ensure that your dog has clear boundaries to acceptable and not acceptable behaviors.
Dogs pay close attention to what you're tell them through your body language. Here are some examples of using body language to convey to your dog that you are the leader in the pack:
Initiating an eye contact with a dog means that you're establishing yourself as a leader. Not all dogs are willing to accept this message. Very dominant dogs will start growling or even get aggressive with the human that initiates the eye contact. Make sure you're only using this animal body language with your own dog - as some dogs can get aggressive. It is important to start teaching your dog to be accepting to an eye contact as this puts you in the leadership role. Starting to train an older dog to be accepting to an eye contact can provoke aggressive response from the more mature dog.
Being taller than your dog is another way of showing your dominance to the animal. This is one of the reasons that whenever you want to get friendly with an unfamiliar dog - you can get on your knees and the dog will be more accepting of you as you're not showing your dominance by being on the same height level as the dog. Some dog owners will notice that once the dog learns to jump on high furniture in the house and is allowed to be on the bed or on the couch by the owner - the dog begins to express more leadership tendencies.
The dog owner can also show leadership by ignoring the dog's attempt for establishing contact and by only paying attention to the dog whenever the dog is following commands.
Dog should never be allowed to express leadership towards any human being - a child or an adult. Here are some steps to avoid this situation:
Be gentle with your puppy especially from birth until about 4 months old.
Do no allow anyone to feed the dog from hands and teach your dog not to jump on food during feedings.
Do not let your dog run after children in the park.
Do not allow your dog to "greet" people by putting his paws on a person or by jumping on a person.
Do not let the dog growl for no reason.
Do not "fight" with your dog even playfully.
Do not punish your dog physically even for aggressive behavior. Create an environment where the dog has no reason to break any rules and guide the dog to correct response in different situations. For example whenever someone is petting your dog - the dog should be taught to stay calm.
Do not leave children unattended with your dog. Children should be taught to properly handle the dog.
Separation anxiety in dogs
A dog with separation anxiety exhibits extreme problem behaviors when left alone. After his owner leaves, the dog will dig, chew or scratch at the door trying to get to his owner. He will howl, cry, and bark, and might even urinate or defecate from distress.
Though dog behavorists don't know exactly why dogs behave this way, they do know that the dog is not punishing his owner or seeking revenge for leaving. These behaviors are part of a panic response.
Some things seem to trigger separation anxiety. Dogs who are used to being with their owners constantly and are suddenly left alone for the first time may exhibit panicky behavior. A traumatic event, such as time spent in a shelter or kennel, may trigger the anxiety. A change in the family's routine or structure, such as a child leaving for college, could also cause stress in the dog's life.
If you believe your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, here are some ways to correct the behavior:
Keep your departures and arrivals low-key. Don't give your Yorkie kisses before you leave and more when you get home. Quietly leave the house and when you return, ignore the dog for a few minutes before acknowledging him.
Leave your dog an item of clothing that smells like you.
If your dog chews excessively when you're gone, leave him a chew toy filled with treats
More severe cases of separation anxiety require you to systematically train your dog to get used to being alone. Discuss options with your veterinarian or trainer to find more long-term solutions.
Why do dogs roll on their backs?
By showing you the belly, your dog is showing you the most vulnerable part of her body. This animal body language means that the dog is displaying full trust and submissiveness. "I know you are the leader of my pack and I trust that you won't hurt me."
Sometimes dogs display their belly to other dogs. This submissive dog body language means your dog accepts the new dog friend as her superior.
Why do dogs sniff butts when they meet?
Many dog owners wonder "Why do dogs sniff each other's rear ends when they meet?" As strange this dog behavior is to humans, dogs have very good reasons for sniffing butts when they meet. Puppies that stay with their mom for at least seven weeks learn this dog ritual that enables dogs to learn valuable information about each other. When a puppy is removed from its mom earlier than seven weeks old, it may not learn this dog rule and may have a tough time making friends in the dog park. Each dog has a unique scent produced by a dog's anal glands. When dogs sniff one another they can learn if the other dog is young or old, healthy or sick, and even what the other dog ate for dinner. Dogs also identify one another by the signature smell. The proper dog etiquette is when one dog stands still while the other dog is sniffing its behind. Then dogs switch positions so that both dogs get a turn. This is the way dogs say "Hello!" to one another.
Understanding a dog's body language.
Understanding your dog's body language is essential for building a strong relationship. Understand your dog better with the dog behavior explanations provided below:
1. The dog wags his lowered tail. Meaning of this dog behavior: If a dog wags his tail slowly, he doesn't understand what's going on. The dog is asking you what you want him to do. Feel free to help your dog navigate the situation. If a dog wags his tail rapidly, this means he admits that you are in charge.
2. The tail is raised and tremors slightly. Meaning of this dog behavior: The dog is issuing a challenge to your authority because he considers himself to be in charge of the situation. The dog sees himself as brave and strong. The dog is in good mood and is saying to himself that he is proud of himself.
3. The tail is tucked between the legs. Meaning of this dog behavior: A tucked tail means that the dog is scared, afraid of pain or feels uncomfortable. Most often the dog tucks his tail when he is really afraid of something or of someone. However, if there are no obvious reason for concern and your pet still tucks his tail between his legs often, you should take him to the vet as the dog may be in pain.
4. The eyes are wide open and alert. Meaning of this dog behavior: This is how your dog is trying to get your attention. This means he is challenging you. Your dog expects you to respond firmly. Keep in mind that when you are approaching an unfamiliar dog, it's better to avoid looking directly in his eyes as this may provoke aggressive behavior. For dogs staring at the eyes means aggression.
5. The dog squints and blinks. Meaning of this dog behavior: This means the dog is ready to play. It's time to play with the dog or take the dog for a walk. If your dog squints a lot, his eyes may be in pain and you need to take him to the vet.
6. The ears are standing straight up or inclined forward. Meaning of this dog behavior: The dog is showing you that he is curious and reacting to some event in his environment. The dog is paying close attention to everything that's happening around.
7. The ears are flattened against the head. Meaning of this dog behavior: It's a sign that a dog is scared. Sometimes your dog may have only one ear down. And most of the time it's a left ear. This is how dogs react to unfamiliar people or people they are afraid of. You can calm down your dog by petting him.
8. The dog yawns. Meaning of this dog behavior: This means your dog is nervous. Puppies yawn very often when they are surrounded by big, unfamiliar dogs. But if your pet yawns after you, this means he's very attached to you. Also this behavior can mean that it's late and the dog wants to sleep.
9. The dog licks his face. This means your dog feels stressed or feeling pressure or danger. By this gesture the dog might encourage potential aggressors to remain calm.
10. The dog exposes his teeth and there's no snarling. This means the dog is protecting his territory. Dogs often do that while eating. Never come closer to an unfamiliar dog while they are eating because the dog might think that you are going to steal his food.
11. The dog rolls over and exposes his belly. This means that the dog trusts you and wants to please you. When you rub your dog's belly after he rolls over, it means you're showing him that you're pleased with his behavior. Keep rubbing because dogs love this.
12. Dog puts his head on your knee. This means the dog wants to get attention and show shat he needs you. If your dog touches your hands with his nose, he wants you to pet him.
13. The dog puts his paw on your knee. This means the dog is trying to dominate. Trainers suggest looking into the dog's eyes and removing the paw. That's how the dog will understand that you are in charge.
14. The dog has one paw raised. This stance means your pet wants to ask you something. Maybe he's hungry or wants to play. Sometimes dogs do this when they notice something interesting. It's typical for hunting dog breeds.
15. The dog turns his back. This means your dog trusts you a lot. Congratulations! You've become a real friend with your pet.
16. The dog shakes. Dogs may shake like they shake water off after a bath as a way of relieving tension. Probably your dog was in stress or met an unpleasant person or dog.
Informational resources for dog owners
How to get an ESA (emotional support animal) certificate?
Here's how much your dog will cost you per year.
How to select a puppy from a litter
How to introduce a new pet to a dog
Common health issues in dogs.
How often should I feed my dog?
List of foods you should never feed your dog.
Help! My dog is overweight.
Does my dog need to be vaccinated?
How can I protect my dog from ticks?
When to see a veterinarian?
Senior dog info. How to care for an older dog.
Common health issues in older dogs.
Calculate your dog's age relative to human age.
Golden years with your senior dog.
What to do after a dog passes away.
Grieving the loss of a dog.