A dog is a human’s best friend! But there are times when your best friend may do things that confuse you because, in the end, humans and dogs are two different species. But, by knowing some of the common dog behavior issues, you have a chance to understand your BFF better!
There are a lot of different behaviors that are very common in dogs. Howling, licking, and pulling on the leash are examples that shouldn’t worry you a bit, but there are also other things you have to pay more attention to, to avoid the most common dog behavior problems.
Since dogs can’t speak, they intend to communicate with their masters through different actions or behaviors. Some behavior issues are common in all dogs regardless of the breed or size, and more often, they mean the same thing.
Aggression in dogs refers to aggressive behavior that can manifest in various forms, such as growling, snarling, biting, or lunging. There are many different reasons why a dog may exhibit aggressive behavior, including fear, territoriality, possessiveness, or a lack of socialization or training.
Dealing with aggression in dogs can be challenging and should be done with the guidance of a professional. The first step in addressing aggressive behavior is to consult with a veterinarian or a certified professional dog trainer or behaviorist. This will help determine the underlying cause of the behavior and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
The treatment plan may include positive reinforcement training, which teaches the dog more appropriate ways to behave and rewards the dog for displaying desired behaviors. In addition, desensitization and counter-conditioning techniques may be used to help the dog learn to associate positive experiences with the things or people that trigger their aggression.
It’s important to note that in some cases, medication can be prescribed by a vet for the treatment of aggression, along with a behavioral modification plan.
In general, the key to dealing with aggressive behavior in dogs is to be consistent and patient and to work with a professional who has experience with aggressive dogs.
Dogs howl when they want to communicate something to their owner or when they are simply bored. Nobody wants a howling dog, but understanding why and when she howls will give you a better idea of treating the problem.
Dogs are wired to sense danger, so if your dog is howling, then it may mean that she sensed something unpleasant or doesn’t like someone next to you. Since dogs were bred for hunting, they have a natural instinct to howl.
Howling is very common among a few dog breeds like the Siberian Husky. According to the AKC, a Husky regularly howls to express a range of emotions or talk to its masters.
But howling can also be a form of displaying anxiety or distress by dogs. If your dog has separation anxiety or if she’s punished, then she may start howling to express what she’s feeling.
So, what can you do about it? You can begin by making a note of when or why she howls every time. Your dog may howl in response to certain high-pitched sounds or sirens or may howl when she’s kept at a certain space at home when she’s alone or to have your attention.
Whatever the case, by identifying the cause, you can deal with the problem in a better way.
A humping dog is a sight everybody enjoys because they find it cute. But why does a dog hump? Is it something pet parents should be concerned about?
Humping is a common dog behavior among puppies specially and may mean that they are sexually excited. But if humping is commonly seen in senior or adult dogs, they may want to show dominance over other dogs.
Dogs hump for many reasons; for example, they do it if they are sexually excited, display their dominance, or react to something exciting. Whatever it may be, it is okay if it’s not a frequent behavior in your dog.
Puppies are prone to humping anything they see, from blankets, and soft toys to even humans. While it is a cute sight to see, the behavior can be controlled by stopping the puppy at that moment itself. You remove the toy or walk away to show that it is unacceptable behavior.
Mounting other dogs is also a way of playing among dogs. They may even take turns to mount over each other without fighting. But, if your senior or adult dog is mounting excessively, then stop the behavior by separating the dogs.
Compulsive Licking or Scratching
Are you bored of looking at your dog continuously licking or scratching every part of her body? If yes, then you are not alone. Most pet parents have complained about this behavior in their dogs. Compulsive licking or scratching is a common dog behavior issue, and there are many underlying reasons.
Just like the way humans like to look at their nails or brush their hair when bored, dogs do the same. They like licking or pampering themselves when bored. If you notice this behavior every day, then maybe you should take your dog out for some playtime.
Excessive licking or scratching at one spot or all over the body may also mean that your dog is having some allergic reaction. This is especially true if you notice it right after your dog chews on something or introduces him to a new diet.
You must quickly check the skin for any inflammation or redness. It is recommended to rush to the vet immediately.
- Dry skin
Dry skin in dogs may cause irritation and lead them to scratch and lick in the area. This mostly happens during winters or if your dog has fatty acids deficiency. It would help if you used a moisturizing dog shampoo during winter.
- Wound or infection
Dogs have a habit of excessively licking a wound or infection. If your dog is licking just one spot, then it’s likely to be an infection. Take a quick look and treat the infection immediately.
It is totally normal for dogs to heavily pant after a rigorous exercise or when the weather is hot, and it is a coping mechanism for them to cool themselves off, just like the way humans sweat to cool down.
But, there may be other reasons why your dog is panting so heavily. One of the most serious causes of heavy panting is heatstroke. If the weather is hot and your dog’s heavy panting doesn’t seem to stop, then there are chances that she’s having a heatstroke.
A quick remedy when your dog has heatstroke is to give ice cubes to lick and dip her paws in cold water. Always keep your dog in a shady area when the temperature is high.
A few other reasons for heavy panting in dogs are excitement or medical conditions like eclampsia which happens in nursing mothers when the calcium level is low. No matter the cause, if you think your dog is heavily panting for long hours, then immediately call the vet.
Pulling on Leash
Leash pulling by dogs is a common dog behavior that can be very annoying sometimes. But with good leash training, you can take your dog out anywhere without being dragged at her own whims. But why do dogs even pull on the leash?
Dogs are free animals by nature, and being on a leash tethered to a human is alien to them. Also, dogs love to explore and engage with their environment. Therefore, your dog may want to sniff and step on every new spot she likes.
A quick tip here is to always go for walks with treats in your hand. If your dog pulls the leash at any point in time, you must immediately stop and call your dog for a treat. Make her sit, give her the treat, and then continue the walk.
Sitting Between Your Legs
Your dog sitting between your legs could be because of offer or anxiety. Most dogs do that when they feel threatened by seeing other animals or the space and are trying to feel safer by staying close.
You can make your dog comfortable by patting her and praising her when she does that.
Circling Before Lying Down
This is very common dog behavior and is mostly seen among puppies. It is a form of nesting for puppies and trying to make the spot comfortable before sitting down. You may notice this trait in some adult dogs too.
If you have noticed your dog urinating in front of other dogs while playing or when with you, it is a sign of submission. Dogs have different ways of showing who’s the boss, and one way is to lie on the back and urinate.
This behavior is very common among puppies, especially when they see other big dogs, but puppies outgrow this behavior with time. However, if the behavior still persists into adulthood, then your dog may need some boost of confidence with some positive reinforcement training programs.
Running in Circles
Dogs love running in circles when they are super excited or want to impress their masters. It is common dog behavior, and there’s nothing to worry about. In fact, you can be part of this ordeal by running behind your dog and playing with her.
Running in circles is also called “zoomies” and is a favorite game among dogs. When dogs have an excess energy buildup, they love to zoom around the backyard or even their masters. But, constantly moving in circles may be a sign of an underlying health issue too.
Whining is a very common dog behavior, and it is very cute to see a dog whining. But why do dogs whine? It is a form of canine vocalization and may mean a number of different things. Dogs whine when they are excited, anxious, seeking attention, or don’t approve of something you do to them.
Whining is also a form of response to stressful situations and may sometimes be involuntary. If you notice your dog whining after you leave the house, then it is mainly because of separation anxiety. It is a way your dog is trying to tell you not to leave her alone.
Dogs can also whine when they are greeting somebody. Such whines are usually motivated by excitement and happiness to see the person they love. Pain is another reason why your dog may whine. If your dog starts whining suddenly, then it may probably be because of pain, and you must check her immediately.
A dog licking you is a very common dog behavior you see everywhere. Most people think that it’s a way for dogs to kiss us, but it may not always be true. Your dog may lick you as a way of grooming you. Just like the mothers lick their puppies and clean them, your dog may be trying to do the same to you out of love.
Some dogs may also find the action of licking a human soothing and relaxing.
If you own a German Shepherd, then you must have definitely seen your dog’s head tilt at least once. Head titling is a cute canine habit when they are intrigued by what you are saying, and it’s a way of showing you that they are listening.
However, head tilt may also mean that your dog has an ear infection or there’s something inside the ear. It is a sign of discomfort among dogs if they do it continuously. According to vets, middle ear infections are quite common and lead to more persistent head tilting in dogs.
If you notice that in your dog, then try to feel the ear by gently pressing and checking if your dog whines or makes a sound. If she does, then she’s likely suffering from an ear infection.
Barking is a form of communication that dogs use. They can bark to protect their territory more fiercely and aggressively when the threat is nearer. They can also bark when something catches their attention or when alarmed.
Barking can be used to convey other needs such as when they want attention, want to play, sheer boredom, or when anxious. Dogs bark when they seek attention from their owners or want to divert attention to one of their needs, such as going out, playing, or eating. They bark when they are playful or in play and are usually accompanied by their tails wagging.
Dogs are also prone to boredom since they are pack animals and crave companionship. If your dog is very bored, then she may resort to excessive barking and expel some of her buildup energy.
Anxiety is also one reason dogs bark often, and with the bark, they may show some compulsive behavior such as destruction of objects around them, depression, and pacing.
They may even bark excessively at the door as they associate the door with the arrival of a guest. A ringing doorbell, knock, or noises it hears beyond the door may be the cue it needs to signal you.
Dogs can have a biting problem or even bite when they are in a state of fear, or they are startled and can lash out and bite. They can bite if they are protective or guarding something, such as a mother dog protecting her puppies or when they are eating and guarding their meal.
If a dog is frustrated or overwhelmed in certain situations, it can resort to biting. If they are trapped in an uncomfortable situation, they may bite out of frustration. This could also apply to it wanting to reach something but is held back and, in frustration, may resort to redirected bite, i.e., biting at whatever is holding them back.
Being sick or in pain, the dog may bite as it is an overwhelming, scary, and stressful situation. Skin infection or irritation may result in dogs gnawing on themselves.
Dogs can also bite when they are playful, and it is a common way for dogs to engage while exploring. A case in point is how dogs bite their toys or their playmates while playing.
A dog may sometimes bring gifts. Not all dogs are gift-givers; some breeds are more inclined to this disposition of bringing gifts. Some reasons for them doing so may be due to the natural hunting instinct of bringing food back to the den.
Sometimes they would bring food back to the alpha, a behavior of submission and respect. In such cases, dogs see you as the alpha and hereby show your submission by bringing gifts. Another explanation is that the dog craves your attention or wants to play.
Dogs, especially puppies, can resort to destructive chewing while teething. The dog feels the urge to gnaw and be quite effective at it. Dogs can also resort to destructive chewing if they are bored or in anxiety.
Dogs have an instinct to chase. This may be attributed to their high prey drive. They may instinctively chase things on the move, such as small animals, cars, bikes, balls, their own tail, and even laser lights.
Certain breeds were bred to flush out prey such as rabbits, squirrels, or when in packs, a large game like wild boars. It’s the thrill of the chase that drives them, and they are sometimes so attuned to it that they need to finish what they started to the very end. Dogs will chase their own tails if they are bored or in anxiety.
Dogs love to dig and, in many cases, may become destructive. Dogs dig for many reasons. Some breeds bred to hunt small game may dig into flushing out prey. Such cases may be attributed to genetics.
Digging can also be a way for dogs to relieve stress as it provides mental stimulation and exercise. The most compulsive diggers are those that suffer from boredom or anxiety. Dogs also dig as they are naturally inclined to seek shelter in dens. They also dig the area around them before sleeping.
Some breeds are prone to drooling, especially those with loose upper lips. They drool more than other breeds. Sometimes drooling may occur due to mouth diseases such as tartar, gingivitis, mouth ulcers, a bad tooth, or inflamed gums.
Dogs can drool if they are suffering from heatstroke when they have motion sickness, or they are anxious. Drooling can occur when dogs consume something their body doesn’t agree with. It can be poisonous plants, insects, or amphibians.
Stomach aches can also cause drooling when dogs consume things such as balls, socks, etc. This causes nausea, stomach discomfort, and pain. Upper respiratory infections such as infections of the nose, throat, or sinus can also cause a dog to drool.
Scooting, or dragging the anus along the ground, is a common behavior in dogs and it can have various causes. The most common cause is anal sac impaction or inflammation, which occurs when the small glands located just inside the anus become blocked or infected. When this happens, the dog will often scoot in an effort to relieve the discomfort or itchiness.
Other causes of scooting can include worms, allergies, or even certain medical conditions such as rectal tumors or issues with the dog’s spine. Scooting can also be a sign that the dog needs to have their anal glands expressed, which is a routine procedure that veterinarians perform to empty the glands and prevent impaction.
In some cases, scooting may also be a behavioral issue, such as in dogs that have been repeatedly treated for anal gland issues and developed a learned behavior.
If you notice your dog scooting, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian to determine the cause and develop an appropriate treatment plan. In most cases, treatment will involve expressing the anal glands or administering medication to clear up any infection or inflammation.
Dogs being carnivores, do sometimes eat grass. The disorder of eating things that are not food is called Pica. Dogs sometimes eat grass because of some nutritional deficiency or out of boredom, especially when practiced by puppies.
A common assumption of dogs eating grass is a sign of illness, an upset stomach, or other health problems. Some dogs do eat grass and vomit it out later. Dogs may sometimes eat grass as a digestive need of roughage in their diet. A lack of roughage affects digestion and the passage of stool.
Sometimes dogs may eat grass out of sheer boredom or as a coping mechanism for anxiety. They may like the way grass smells and feels in their mouth.
Rolling in Feces
Rolling in feces is a natural and common behavior among dogs, especially those that are not domesticated. This behavior is thought to be related to their wild ancestor’s habit of using various smells and scents to communicate with each other and mark their territory. Rolling in feces is one way for a dog to pick up new scents and communicate with other dogs.
To handle this behavior, you should try to prevent your dog from having access to poop by keeping your yard clean and supervising your dog when outside. If your dog does come into contact with feces, it’s important to clean your dog off immediately to prevent them from rolling or licking poop.
You can also try redirecting your dog’s attention and rewarding them when they don’t engage in the behavior by training them to focus on you. You can teach them commands such as sit, come, or leave, and reinforce the command with positive reinforcement and treats.
Chasing Their Tail
If you’ve seen your dog chasing her tail and thought that she maybe be possessed, then don’t be scared! Dogs get bored easily, and when they do, they will find anything on earth to play with.
They are only having some fun by tail-chasing a bit.
Resource guarding is a common behavior in dogs, and it refers to a dog’s tendency to protect certain resources, such as food, toys, bones, or even people or areas, from perceived threats or competition. It’s a natural behavior for dogs, but it can become a problem when it becomes excessive or leads to aggressive behavior.
Dealing with resource-guarding behavior in dogs can be challenging and it is important to work with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.
The first step in addressing resource guarding behavior is to consult with a professional to help identify the specific triggers of your dog’s behavior and assess the severity of the guarding.
A common approach to addressing resource guarding behavior is to use counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques to help the dog associate positive experiences with the things they guard, such as food or toys, rather than feeling the need to protect them. This can be done by teaching your dog to drop or release objects on command, and rewarding them with treats or praise.
Additionally, management strategies such as supervising your dog when they have access to resources, or separating them when they’re eating, can be used to prevent the dog from practicing the resource guarding behavior.
It’s also important to note that, while training your dog is important, it is not enough, it’s also necessary to address any underlying causes such as anxiety or past traumas.
Licking Other Dog’s Urine
Seeing your dog sniffing and licking another dog’s pee can be disgusting but is very normal. Dogs urinate to mark their territory, so when your dog sniffs another pee in the territory, they are bound to be curious. It is a way for them to smell the aroma of the other dog and inspect it fully.
In some cases, you may find dogs licking their own pee; when your dog does that, it may be a sign of dehydration, shame of doing something embarrassing, or a UTI.
Tips on Stopping Bad Behaviors in Dogs
Here is a list of a few tips to follow if you don’t want your dog to indulge in bad behavior:
- Take your dog out for exercises daily to release all the buildup energy
- Give time for training with positive reinforcement techniques
- Reward good behaviors only and ignore any bad behaviors
- Prevent your dog from anything that may trigger a bad behavior
- Send your dog for professional training if the behavior is extreme
Dogs are interesting animals who can never fail to have our attention. They can come up with any kind of new behavior or trait every day, and we will never stop wondering about them. Most of the traits are quite commonly seen in all dog breeds except for some.
Apart from all the common dog behaviors discussed above, the other most common behavior is to come and cuddle with you when called. They are always loyal, obedient, and loving. They will reach the ends of the earth as long as they have their favorite human with them!
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) – Behavior problems in dogs: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues
- University of Bristol – Dog Behavior Research: https://www.bristol.ac.uk/vetscience/research/behaviour/
- Applied Animal Behavior Science – The development of behavior in dogs: what we know and what we don’t: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159107001001
- Journal of Veterinary Behavior – Puppy socialization practices of a sample of dog owners from across Canada and the United States: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1558787818302987
- Journal of Veterinary Behavior – Common behavior problems in dogs and cats: a review of veterinary behaviorists’ opinions: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1558787818302249
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