Dog Behavior Problems

by DFS-Pet-Blog on September 10, 2009

Why does my dog do that? It’s driving me crazy! These are questions and comments more and more dog owners are asking. In fact, questions concerning a dog’s inappropriate behavior are leading reasons why dog owners are taking their pets to see their veterinarian.

Believe it or not there are now medications available strictly to help control undesirable behaviors in dogs. While these medications can and do help dogs and their owners manage their lives together, they are only a part of the solution. Medications almost always need to be coupled with appropriate training to have any effect on the inappropriate behavior.

blog-border-collie-runningThere are some very common reasons for these undesirable behaviors. It has been my experience that there are people who purchase a dog based on how the dog looks with little regard for the inherent behaviors that the particular breed was created to express. They then confine and ignore these dogs for large blocks of time.

Border collies are wonderfully smart, incredibly intuitive animals but they absolutely need something to do. They were bred to work closely with their owners herding live-stock on a day-in and day-out basis. Idle time for these dogs can spell trouble. Upland bird dogs such as the setters, spaniels and pointers are very popular breeds. However, they were created to point and/or flush game birds on an endless expanse of prairie. Left without this kind of interaction and exercise they can develop inappropriate behaviors. Dogs are social animals and crave interaction with their “pack.” They want to be a part of the action! It’s really no wonder that some dogs act out.

Take heart, there are few things in life that can match the relationship an owner develops with their dog. But remember, bringing a dog into your life is serious business. It requires an educated and reflective look at your lifestyle, your home, your family, structure and your finances. To avoid behavioral problems be sure you choose your dog wisely, spend lots of time with him, and consider having him trained.

Proper socialization and lots of positive interaction between you and your dog can go a long way in preventing unwanted behavioral problems.

The fact is most dogs that are acting out are starving, starving for attention!

Note: For other tips for problem dog behavior, read our article titled “Got a Stressed Dog? Try These Tips!

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Dog Exercise: A Tired Dog is a Good Dog!
December 27, 2012 at 1:58 pm

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

William Franklin September 15, 2009 at 12:29 pm

If he were a person, he’d probably be either a mechanical engineer or a surgeon. My 5-year-old Australian Shepher/Lab mix (one of two in the family), Biscuit, enjoys dissecting his dog beds and scattering their contents. When he and his sibling were young, we tried several of the “chew-proof” dog beds, but they usually lasted only a week or two before their innards started to appear. For the last couple of years, I’ve been primarily using U-Haul quilted furniture pads, although the quality of those pads has taken a nose-dive in the last few years, and they’re no longer as good a value as they once were. I just purchased a cheapo dog bed for him on Saturday. He had his first hole by Sunday morning and the stuffing was all over the garage by that afternoon. Any suggestions? Does anyone make a truly bullet-proof dog bed/cover?

Patricia Viamontes September 15, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Our Bichon, Petey, was adopted from a shelter three years ago at age two. Bichons are a different world! LOL! We also rescued our miniature poodle, Misty, who is as quiet and dear a little girl as you can imagine. But Petey is LOUD! He wants to stand in front of you and just bark at a range that goes right to your brain. It hurts everyone’s ears. I have tried every trick in the book…nothing works. I get anxious now when I know company is coming as he wants to bark and get attention. Other than that and a few problems with urinating, Petey is a dear heartwarmer! We love him to no end. When you are hurting, he will lay next to you to warm you and never leave your side until you are well. I bought one of those shock battery collars two years ago and haven’t had the heart to use it on him.

Terri Guzzy September 16, 2009 at 6:33 am

I adopted 2 puppies in January (crazy, I know), and one of them is a digger and destoyer of dog beds. We went through dog beds like crazy. We found a company called Primo Pads, I expected the pads to be destroyed in no time, but so far they are in perfect condition. The pads are made of a heavy vinyl and I have no idea what they are stuffed with, but they are fairly firm and appear to be comfortable. Hope this helps…

Nicole September 16, 2009 at 8:12 am

I have a large ‘big black mutt’ (80#) who also LOVES to shred and eat fabric. I’ve tried everything and she will sooner rather than later, eat it piece by piece. She is an adopted dog who came to us with hip displasia so I try to make her comfortable so I keep looking for a new chew-proof cushion. I’m going to try the Primo Pad, but if anyone has other ideas, please post it. She was a poop eater until I changed her food and add plain yogurt every meal.

Bobbi September 16, 2009 at 9:15 am

My Papillon (11#) is also a poop eater. I’ve tried everything and nothing stops him. I will try the plain yogurt. Never heard of that one. How much do you give your dog and which dog food did you switch too?

Appreciate the info.

Nicole September 16, 2009 at 11:45 am

I switched from Science Diet for older dogs to Nutro Lamb and Rice for older dogs. I give the larger dog about 2 heaping tablespoons with every meal. The smaller Rat Terrier (18#) gets the same treatment with about 1 tablespoon. I don’t remember which site I got the information from, but had searched on-line for any help I could get! Good Luck. I do remember the advice said to keep changing brands of dog food until you find the one that works. Seems like the issue can be undigested foods that still smell good (to the dog!!)

Jackie September 16, 2009 at 2:49 pm

Patricia- I have a 1/2 bichon, 1/2 shih tzu dog, Murphy. He definitely has taken on more of the bichon with the same piercing bark you describe with your Petey! I’ll admit that he is a handful- but I wouldn’t trade Murphy for anything as he too is very emotional and a great cuddler! He has the same habit of barking at you for attention. I too tried many things- from obedience class (which even the instructor got a kick out of the barking) to an ultrasonic bark control unit that sits on the counter. One thing that has really helped is we’ve increased his exercise. We used to only go for a short walk- however, now we walk nearly twice what we were and I run ‘sprints’ around the yard with him when we get back from the walk. Since we’ve increased his activity- I’ve noticed a calmer behavior in him, even when we have company. You may also consider some great toys to keep him busy like ones you can hide treats inside or puzzle toys that hide smaller stuffed animals.

Baker September 19, 2009 at 8:52 pm

I have a 25 pound mix breed who is the love of my life. To me, he is perfect in every way, EXCEPT he occasionally poops in my house. He is potty trained, and lets me know when he has to go out, so I’m baffled. At first, it was only when we left, so I assumed seperation anxiety. Now, he does it at random times, even if I’m in the other room. We walk him 3 times a day and sometimes he’ll go weeks without an accident, while others it’ll happen twice a day. The other day, we took him for a walk, on which he did his business, then an hour later I walked into another just to find a pile of you-know-what. Just looking for any advice or suggestions I can get!

Chris September 22, 2009 at 7:47 am

Hi Baker

Have you tried Crate training your dog. It is best done in puppyhood but is still a good training method for all ages. A dog will not want to soil where they sleep so this may help. Please make sure if you do this that the dog has room to stand up and laydown stretched out. Always provide the Dog with water and do not force him in to the cage. For more info please visit my site.

Dr. Scott A. McKay September 24, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Dear Baker, It sounds like your dog is not completely housebroken. Even though he goes for “weeks” without an accident. I would echo Chris’s comments. A crate can be a great training tool. Your dog needs to develop a substrate preference that is appropriate; something distinctly outdoors. Be positive and consistent. Best of luck!

Peggy September 29, 2009 at 10:47 pm

Help… I am having a difficult time with my neurotic Chihuahua mix. He came to live with me at 8 yr old after being my daughter’s baby and then biting her three year old son unprovoked. We know he is anxious and the other option was finding him a home or putting him down. I have three other dogs so my house is full of interesting things to do and be a part of. They are all crate trained and get 4-5 walks a day. He gets much more outside time than he did in his previous home but still has gotten into the habit of ‘marking’ around my house. He pees on my lamp base, the bath tub, flower pots, just about anything he feels like. Some days are better than others but I recently finished a new deck, now he is peeing on new deck corners. I wash things up as soon as I find it but I doubt if the smell comes out of porous pottery pots or fresh wood. My daughter said I could give him away if I need to but how can I ask anyone to take him knowing he will do the same thing at their house and not be well accepted? In other ways, he is no trouble at all and mostly gets long with the other dogs. I have tried vinegar, yelling, and I never see him do it so I have trouble repremanding him for soemthing I can’t catch him at. And yes, I know it is him as the other three are females and don’t lift their legs to pee up on thigns.

Peggy September 29, 2009 at 10:53 pm

In regard to the above, Rylee the Chihuhua did not ever do this in his previous home.

Dr. Scott A. McKay October 1, 2009 at 11:14 am

Peggy, marking behavior is something that is very natural to male dogs. He may think he is helping define the perimeter of his new pack. Your task is to convince him where it is appropriate to mark (urinate) and where it is not appropriate. Crate training is a good way to control his elimination behavior. When he leaves his crate he needs to be on a leash and led to the area where he can eliminate. Much praise when this task is accomplished. In addition, I would strongly recommend a pet odor neutralizer to eliminate the smell from his previous markings. This is very challenging with small breed male dogs. Consistency is the key. Also lots of praise for good behavior. Good luck!

Kathy Mueller November 12, 2009 at 4:24 pm

Please help, I have a Fila Braileiro pup who is 3 months old, he snarls and growls when we get to close to his food or water bowls. I want this to stop before before he gets to large. My other Fila is 10 months old gets very upset when we leave our property, he throws up and keeps nipping me in the side, like trying to tell me that he doesn’t want us to go,

PLEASE if you have any ideas please help!!! These are very large dogs, full grown between 140-160 lbs.They are very loving animals but just have a few quirks. We will do anything to get these situations stopped.

Dr. Scott A. McKay November 13, 2009 at 9:51 am

Dear Kathy,
As you know the Fila is a breed known for its loyalty to its owner, family and close friends. They were bred for protection and hunting. These qualities can be problematic in a household that is very busy; lots of coming and going. I would stongly recommend that you seek out a qualified dog trainer; preferably one that has experience with this breed. Get some references. Both of your dogs are young so training would be very benificial at this point in their lives. Consistency is the key. Best of luck! Enjoy your dogs.

Sharon Skok December 17, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I have an 8 yr. old adopted male papillon. How do I stop Joey from eating cat poop & outdoor bird seed? I have a baby gate across the door but he jumps it. He is over weight & I do have him on a low cal dry food. Joey is very active…like the energized bunny. He eats it so fast like he is starving. I notice that he has to pee outdoors every half hour. Is it because he has a small bladder or because he drinks too much water? Should Joey be checked by the vet A.S.A.P.?

Dr. Scott A. McKay December 18, 2009 at 9:13 am

Dear Sharon,
If your dog is drinking a large amount of water and urinating frequently; that is cause for alarm. I believe you should have your dog checked by your veterinarian ASAP. While you are there, you may want to discuss your dog’s other issues: Weight management, exercise and his eating habits. Best of luck!

Starlynn Archer February 8, 2010 at 6:55 pm

I have a 15mo. old terrier mix, neutered male who is very difficult to deal with on a few things. My current problem is, I want him to walk with a halter, he only pulls a small percent of the time, the
other times he walks (heels) very well. The problem is he won’t let me put a halter on him. I’m embarrassed to say but, he gets wild and growls, and bites (no blood), and rolls over, anything to keep me and other people he knows from putting the halter on. By others, I mean I have had others assist me in trying to get the halter on. He acts the same way when we try to do other things with him like trimming his nails (I can touch his paws all I want, but not the nails) the other thing that will make him crazy the same way, but I’m working him out of this is, if his collar is flipped over and I go to flip it back he will snarl and bite. I have worked on this since it only takes a second to do, I’ve had success. Also, I can only put his collar back on him if he knows we are going out, then he’ll sit still and let me slip it over his head.

We have had him since he was 6wks. old and I know of nothing that has happened to him to make him fear these things. P.S. The vet, or probably any stranger, can trim his nails with no problem.
Thank You-Star Archer

Dr. Scott A. McKay February 12, 2010 at 9:29 am

Dear Star,
This is a situation that may require some outside assitance. Your dog is/has developed some undesirable habits. He needs to realize that there are things you will need to do to him. And that these things are not painful or threatening. Putting his halter on, rearranging his collar and trimming his nails plus a host of other things, are all interactions that will need to be accomplished for the rest of his life. Is there a veterinary behaviorist and/or a qualified dog trainer in your area that could assist you in modifying your dog’s current behavior? Best of luck!

DEE HUNTER February 15, 2010 at 8:56 am

I have a 7 year old male Corgi ( DJ ) . He has a problem with gas and eating cat poop . We had him neutered last fall as my vet advised and since then he is gaining too much weight . I tried giving him yogurt also. I fed him Purina Beneful heathy weight . I thought maybe something didn’t agree with him so I now fed him Hiis Science diet Lamb & Rice . We walk with him about 1 mile when weather permitts . What can we do to help him get to a healthier weight and elimate the gas problem? We only give 3/4 cup of food morning & evening . Am I still feeding him too much ?
Thank You
Dee Hunter

Dr. Scott A. McKay February 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Dear Dee,

Neutering a dog should have no impact on weight gain.
Weight gain/loss is a simple matter of calories in and calories out. In other words, If the animal burns more calories than it consumes, weight will typically be lost and vice versa.
Excess intestinal gas is related to how your dog is digesting his food. A food change is typically the answer.
I would recommend that you have your dog examined by your veterinarian to rule out any medical reasons for excess gas or weight gain.
If your veterinarian gives him a clean bill of health, then you will need to begin a weight loss program. This will involve carefully controlling EVERYTHING that is fed to your dog; food, treats, everything. Exercise is as important as his diet. If you can’t make it outside are there games that could be played inside to increase his activity level?
All members of the family will need to be in agreement on this strategy. Monitor his weight every two weeks to follow his progress. There are several “lite” dog foods as well as some prescription weight loss diets. There is even a weight loss medication available for dogs (consult your veterinarian).
Below are links to articles that should shed more light on these topics:
Best of luck!!!

Sheryl February 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

We have a 3 year old Toy Fox Terrier (female) who is alot of fun and full of energy. She is kept indoors most of the time. About 6 months ago she started going crazy when most produce is brought into the house. Even if she can’t see it, she will smell it – up on a counter or table – and jump continually trying to get to it. We now have to hide the produce in different cabinets or put in the drawer in the fridge. If she is around when you open the fridge, she will trying very hard to get to it. If she does get to an item, she will attack it with her claws and teeth. Anyone heard of this and any ideas?

Dr. Scott A. McKay February 18, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Dear Sheryl,
What an interesting case! It sounds like this behavior has an obsessive/compulsive component to it which could be rooted in anxiety. I would guess there are other behaviors that your dog demonstrates that are “different”. How does she handle seperation? Travel? Loud noises? Visitors? Is she obsessive/compulsive with anything else?
I would recommend that you discuss this situation with your veterinarian or a qualified animal behavioralist. I would think that the solution lies with behavioral-modification training and/or medications. Best of luck.

Sheryl February 22, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Dr. McKay,

Thank you for your reply. I will contact our veterinarian to discuss this. Our TFT (Buttons) loves visitors; she is very friendly. Loud noises rarely bother her. Ocassionally she will be startled by them if she is asleep, but once she checks things out, she will go back to sleep. When we go outside, leaving her in, she will bark at us initially. We keep her in the laundry room with a bed, water and toys when we leave for any length of time and she does fine – seems to mostly sleep. Over Christmas, we had many decorations within her reach, including a real tree. She gave very little attention to these items. Any other time she behaves at all obsessive/compulsive towards an item, I will bring it to her level and let her check it out (sniff, etc.). This has always satisfied her curiosity and she loses interest, but never with the produce!

Alison March 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm

We have a yr. old female yellow lab who has been impossible to potty train. She will not go inside the house, however she will go in our utility room, where she sleeps. We have tried everything: cleaning it up without saying anything or getting excited (didn’t work), confining her to a crate to sleep (didn’t work she messed and then danced through it making a bigger mess), telling her “no” after the fact, rubbing her nose in it, and spanking her (all of which I’m ashamed to admit and did work for a time but now no longer work). I love her but I am at my wits end. My husband and I are both gone for 8-9 hours a day. We also have a male, lab/pit mix, approx. 4 yrs. old, who she is with all of the time, but he was a dream to potty train and very rarely has an accident. While we’re gone they are in an outside kennel with a dog house, when we’re home they’re inside with us, and at night they sleep in the utility room together. I know that this behavior is my fault, but I need to get it corrected before I lose my sanity. PLEASE HELP!

Corina March 27, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Ok, we have 2 black labs that are 1 1/2 years old. Out of the same litter, brother and sister. Our female chews the collar off of our male CONSTANTLY. It is becoming a very annoying (and expensive!) habit. We buy the better collars with the metal buckles, but she just goes for another part of the collar. He will do this to her, but not as often. In a year’s time, we have bought over 20 collars!!! They are taken outside every 2 hours during the day and run and play frisbee, ball, really anything that moves. They are hardly ever left alone as I am a stay at home mom. We are at our wits end with this. They have rawhide bones, beef bones, rope toys ( yes, they are spoiled). Please help!!!! We want and need to find a way to break this habit!

Dr. Scott A. McKay March 29, 2010 at 11:10 am

Dear Alison, I understand your frustration. I will try to offer some advice.
I am assuming she is defecating and not urinating in her crate and/or utility room. Could you feed her earlier in the day? She could then be walked after eating and possible defecate before you live for work.
How often do you exercise her? With a one year old lab, the more exercise the better.
Is it possible that there is a seperation anxiety component? Does she whine? Bark excessively? Destroy things?
Could you try to ignore her for 30 minutes before bedtime so she is calm before night time?
Is there a problem with the utility room? Was there any other experiences in this room that would have led to anxiety? Could her crate be placed in another room?
When she defecates and/or urinates in the appropriate place, is she rewarded with lots of praise and a treat?
Diagnosing behavioral problems must always begain with a thorough veterinary examination.
I wish you the best of luck.

Dr. Scott A. McKay March 30, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Dear Corina,
Behavioral problems must always begin with a thorough veterinary examination.
If your dog(s) are otherwise healthy, then you should consider modifying this behavior.
When the chewing begins could you distract her with a loud noise (not your voice)? Possibly a shaker can or similar device. When she stops the behavior and is no longer engaged with her brother, call her over and offer her praise and a treat. Continue to reinforce the appropriate behavior.
Have you tried applying something with a foul taste to the collar? Below is a link to a product called Chew Stop:
Applying this to the collar could help break this habit.
I realize this may sound radical but a properly fitted basket muzzle would inhibit chewing while allowing normal breathing and access to drinking water. This device, worn for a period of time, may help break this habit.
Best of luck!

Debi May 2, 2010 at 8:54 am

My 1 1/2 year old poodle has a very strange habit. She has this little yellow stuffed duck and she will put a piece of her food in her mouth and then grab her duck. She will haul it around,with the food in her mouth, for 5-10 minutes before she drops the duck and then eats her piece of food. She has done this for about the last 9-11 months, since she was a very young puppy. She is not even 5 lbs. and is the absolute cutest thing you have ever seen! We allow her to do this because it doesn’t seem to hurt anything. Just an odd behavior that we were wondering about.
Has anyone heard of such a thing?

Dr. Scott A. McKay June 16, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Dear Debi, This is indeed an odd behavior, but not that unusual. Our family’s 3 lb yorkie insists that he take his food from his food bowl to the carpet (4-5 feet) before he will chew and swallow the food. I think this is just his thing. If your dog is in good health, then enjoy your dog and his behavior. He sounds like quite a character.

Anthony June 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm

I have a 4 yr old mutt that I adopted from a shelter when he was about 6 months old. He is a loveable dog but lately his moods have been changing. When you ask him to get off the bed or something like that he bares his teeth and growls. If you tell him to do something and he does not want to he does the same thing. Just today my 2 yr old daughter was petting him and he got nasty with her. Also, if someone walks in my house that he does not know, he will circle them and being to growl and give them a warning before he strikes.

My daughter loves being around my dog but I am running out of options on what to do. Any idea would be greatly appreciated.

Dr. Scott A. McKay June 24, 2010 at 1:23 pm

This is a very serious situation. You obviously cannot allow your dog to threaten, or worse, attack you, members of your family or your friends. I would advise you to have your dog thoroughly examined by your veterinarian to determine if there is a medical reason for his change in moods. If things are medically normal, you should then look at aggressive behavioral modification training and, possibly, appropriate medications to help modify this behavior. You could seek the advice of a professional dog trainer in your area. I would make sure the trainer has dealt with issues like this and is willing to give you references. How much exercise does your dog get a day that involves interaction with you? A well exercised dog that spends lots of time interacting with his owner will generally behave better and have fewer issues involving dominance or territoriality.
I wish you the best of luck!

Marjorte Bowen January 21, 2015 at 6:13 pm

I just found this article re Dog behavior problems which I hope will be my savor. My Bichon is 5 yrs& for the past 6 weeks has started urinating all over the house. We have tried everything but he does not stop. He is a very picky eater so we gave him human food. he got hot spots on his back & hind leg. The vet treated him with injections & antibiotics. He is better but we stopped giving him our food. Is he reacting to this &urinating to spite for his deprived treats or is he ill?
My husband asked the attendant at the vet but she ignored him. Timmy is everybody’s, he’s loving and a handful… the usual Bichon Frise actor! Please advise what we can do with this problem. I would appreciate your advice ASAP. Many thanks in advance. Jany 21, 2015

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