Abnormal Dog Behavior: Why It Develops and How to Fix It
Every time we open up YouTube and search for puppy videos, we are immediately amazed at how smart and funny dogs are. Yet, there is a dark side to puppies and adult dogs, and it can often come up in the form of abnormal dog behavior. That’s why most dog owners are left wondering if anything can be done about them and why they even develop in the first place.
So, let’s discuss abnormal dog behavior problems, their causes and some solutions that may help turn our furry rascals into obedient pooches again.
Common abnormal dog behavior
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of a certain behavior problem, there are some common reasons that may help us figure out a proper solution.
One of the most challenging abnormal dog behavior is separation anxiety. This sort of anxiety is brought on by dog owners who frequently leave their pooches all alone at home.
Of course, we cannot blame them. Humans have to make a living, and hiring a pet carer every time we leave the house is not possible. Furthermore, it goes without saying that some pooches are too clingy, which we will talk about more later on.
Nevertheless, the most common symptom of separation anxiety is pure chaos. Dogs that get too anxious when their owners are not at home tend to urinate in the weirdest places. In addition, they may also destroy furniture, personal things and even chew on stuff we thought they wouldn’t ever think of touching.
Yet, we have to understand that some dogs are just naturally prone to such behavior. Beagles, for example, really hate being alone, so most owners usually take them to work, on holiday, etc. Otherwise, they can wreak havoc in one’s home. In fact, we’ve heard real horror stories regarding beagles and their destruction methods. Some love getting into the pantry and dragging groceries around. Others, however, prefer ripping pillows apart and urinating on beds.
In any case, separation anxiety is a huge problem. We cannot easily fix it without resorting to extreme measures, like leaving our dog while it’s whining in front of the door. Thus, we can say that sometimes, this condition requires expert attention too.
The old saying “a barking dog never bites” may be true for some dog types. However, we can all agree that excessive barking is, for the lack of a better description — downright annoying.
Still, it’s their most common trait, and at times, it’s a positive occurrence. Some dogs bark and howl when they sense there’s an intruder at the door. Furthermore, dogs are very people-oriented, so they can actually sense when someone is a rotten egg. They may start growling and barking because they don’t want that person touching them, petting them or getting close to their owner.
Yet, dogs can also bark if they are simply asking for attention or are bored. This sort of barking can severely irritate the owners, and it is difficult to stop it if we don’t want to introduce punishment for it. Also, anxiety can make the dogs bark more than usual, as they are trying to vocalize their concerns, issues, etc.
Stealing and hiding food or other objects
If you’ve ever had to raise a puppy, then you probably know that they’re prone to stealing things and even hiding them from us. It’s their way of saying “mine is mine, and yours is also mine,” and it’s mostly associated with boredom, being a very bad boy/girl or just plain hunger.
This sort of abnormal dog behavior is not as problematic as the previously mentioned ones, but it can cause issues. Namely, we’ve seen people accuse each other of taking stuff when the dog was actually to blame!
Now, stealing food from the owner’s plate or the garbage can is a big no-no; it shows we haven’t taught them how to behave properly. What’s more, some dogs even love hiding food in the most unlikely places. There are owners who may find doggy biscuits in their beds, and let’s just say that the dogs aren’t that excited once their secret treasures are revealed.
Nevertheless, unlike some other dog behavior problems, this one is rather easy to solve. The dog cannot get its paws on something if it cannot reach it. So tidying up our home and hiding things we don’t want the dog to see are easy fixes.
Now, in contrast to all other behavior problems, except jumping on people, for example, aggression is a real warning sign. This behavior isn’t just something that will annoy us or cause us distress. It can affect other people too and cause the dog to bite children, their parents and other animals as well.
Usually, dogs that had a difficult life before getting a new home are the ones who can display aggressive behavior. If they were tortured, made to fight other dogs or beaten a lot, it doesn’t matter what breed they are — they will perceive every touch as an attack. However, there are also dogs that are maybe too attached to their owners. Thus, they see every other dog, child or adult as a threat.
It’s needless to say that this sort of behavior requires immediate attention, especially if the dog is big. Rottweilers and similar breeds can grow a lot. Hence, even if they are not usually aggressive, once we get on their bad side, they can tackle us and cause serious harm.
In most cases, behavioral therapy and regular socialization can resolve this. Still, we also have to pay attention to our own behavior. We might be the root cause of this problem! If we have spoiled them and taught them that they could act this way, then the dog will easily get confused when we finally decide to put an end to it.
We all know that dogs may jump on us out of pure joy, just like Dino did in the Flintstones. However, it’s entirely different when a pug is jumping and when a Cane Corso jumps on us. These dogs are not aware of their strength. What’s more, they don’t know that unlike them, we don’t have sharp teeth to defend ourselves.
As such, it’s vital to curb their enthusiasm right at the beginning; we have to train them not to jump on anyone for any given reason. That way, we’ll ensure that they don’t hurt people, either intentionally or accidentally. After all, some of them use jumping to show dominance, and a dominant dog doesn’t like being told “no.”
Begging for food
Puppy eyes or not, a dog begging for food often gets table scraps as a reward. Therefore, it’s safe to say that this is one of those dog behavior problems that are entirely our own fault.
Think about it — dogs are always yearning for our attention, and begging for food is sometimes their MO. Giving in to the pressure just shows them that they can engage in similar behavior again and again. Furthermore, dogs cannot digest some sorts of human food; we may actually endanger their health purely because we lack control.
Although boredom can sometimes be the root cause of this problem, it’s generally just a habit that evolves while we’re trying to teach the dog other things. It’s one of those behaviors we don’t mind that much and sometimes even encourage. However, once the dog sees that you’re OK with it, it’s a slippery slope from there. Who says they won’t then try to steal the food or even eat off the plate itself if they can climb onto the chair?
From barking to running around without any purpose, inappropriate elimination is yet another frustrating behavior issue. Namely, it means the dog is frequently urinating or pooping in inappropriate places because:
- it’s marking its territory
- It is frightened or anxious
- It’s looking for some love and attention or
- it just wants to annoy us and get revenge for something.
Now, it’s important to note that we cannot stop puppies from urinating or pooping. They are still young, so we have to mold them into well-behaved dogs. On the other hand, older dogs that engage in this sort of behavior require serious attention. They may be angry at us, looking for a way to show their fears or anxiety or they see us as the pet and themselves as the owner. Either way, we have to find a solution. After all, urine and poop can easily ruin our home!
Since certain dog breeds were once hunters, they may start digging for treasure or in order to hide certain objects. Therefore, we cannot really say that we blame them for this, as it’s just in their nature. However, there are things we can do to stop them from digging up our entire yard and ruining our peonies. Namely, we ought to learn how to firmly say NO or STOP THAT before the problem gets out of hand.
In addition, it’s important to know that digging could be a sign of excessive boredom and lack of exercise. Dogs don’t feel well when they haven’t got anything to do. So the best thing they can do is enjoy a bit of digging to entertain themselves. Furthermore, they may be anxious and are looking for some comfort by creating a nest in the garden. In fact, they may be even trying to escape.
Nevertheless, we can correct this issue by acknowledging the dog’s behavior and pointing out that it’s bad and undesirable. Certain cues and hints will help the dog realize that we are not pleased with them when they dig out a huge hole.
Just like digging, chewing on stuff is a form of destructive dog behavior, so we will need to stop it. After all, who has the time or the money to replace all their shoes, clothing, and personal stuff?
Still, puppies tend to chew on things because they are curious or teething. The best thing to do about it is to find chewy toys they will grow to love more than our sneakers. In addition, older dogs may benefit from such toys as well; in most cases, the dog is simply bored and is looking to entertain itself.
Getting attached to a pet is quite normal. Despite that, it can spell disaster if the dog turns to aggression in order to mark its territory. For example, dogs that are used to getting all the attention are likely to growl, show their teeth and even try to bite other people and dogs.
As such, clinginess is one of those problems we should avoid by letting the dog know we’re not their property. They should be able to socialize with other humans and animals without us having to hold them so that they don’t hurt anyone.
What’s more, clinginess can even destroy relationships and marriages, especially if the dog doesn’t like our partner. Having to fight all the time about whether or not the dog can sleep with us is a common issue, for instance. Some people like that, and some don’t, but it is a sign of clinginess, and it must be corrected unless we want to drive our partner away.
Finally, we couldn’t end the list of common abnormal dog behavior without mentioning the most disgusting one — dogs eating poop and other weird stuff.
Although there are real reasons this problem occurs (malnutrition, anxiety, underlying health problems, etc.), it’s certainly avoidable. We just have to take some time to teach the dog that eating poop is not nice and that other stuff they decide to eat can cause them harm.
Some dogs love finding bones in parks. However, we never know whose bones those might be or if they might choke on them. Thus, training the dog to eat treats and their food — and nothing else — is essential and will ensure they live a long and happy life.
How abnormal dog behavior develops
Lack of mental stimulation
As we have seen, boredom is one of the main causes of dog behavior problems, and it’s mostly due to a lack of mental stimulation. Just like us, dogs need something to do, and they need proper training. If we don’t provide them with that, they may engage in destructive behavior, aggression or badgering the owner for attention.
Toys, games, obstacle courses and frequent walks are a sure thing here, as these will allow us to not only stimulate them mentally but tire them out too. What’s more, they may even make their lives more interesting than they are right now. After all, since most dogs were hunters before, getting to hunt for a treat in the yard will surely make their day!
Lack of exercise and poor dietary habits
A dog that doesn’t get enough walkies may resort to inappropriate elimination, either out of anger or pure necessity. Likewise, if we feed our dog low-quality food, it may start eating its poop and other strange things, as well as begging for our own food because it’s not getting enough nutrients.
As always, we ought to check for signs and red flags in order to think of a good exercise and diet routine. Only that way can we determine if there’s another underlying cause we should sort out. In general, when the dog isn’t feeling good, it can start wreaking havoc, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Separation anxiety goes hand in hand with loneliness, as the dog probably misses us so much that it starts to destroy things to comfort itself. Yet, we can easily resolve this issue if we manage to take the dog with us everywhere.
However, it’s unlikely we can spend the whole day with the dog, so it might be a good idea to look into pet carers. In addition, if the dog is suffering greatly, leaving it with a family member while we’re away could comfort it too. But generally speaking, dogs that haven’t been spoiled or are not clingy won’t cause issues. So maybe it’s time we take a good hard look at ourselves and see if we are encouraging bad behavior with our own.
Health issues can make the dog lethargic, prone to aggression in some cases, and even anxious. Therefore, we will keep this one short and sweet: if the dog shows any signs of health issues, we ought to get it to the vet as soon as possible. There’s a good chance it might be nothing, but we cannot know that for sure.
Overriding poor genetic makeup is possible, but it would require us to devote a lot of time to behavioral therapy. Thus, if someone wants to get a dog, it’s important to check the parents’ temperaments as well. Just like with humans, some traits may transfer onto the puppy. If both the mom and the dad had an aggression issue, there’s a good chance our dog will have it too.
Lack of training
Dog owners have to realize that taking in a dog is quite similar to having a baby. It’s not a decision we should take lightly nor is it something we should consider as temporary. Thus, just like children, we have to teach the dog certain things and give it proper training. Otherwise, lack of training could lead to serious health issues and dog behavior problems such as aggression. Without knowing they shouldn’t eat something or jump somewhere, they can jeopardize their health. Likewise, not having a routine and being spoiled can make the dog aggressive when we decide that enough is enough.
Frequent changes in their routines and inconsistency
If we keep changing the location of the dog’s bowl or our mind as to whether or not they may jump on the bed, there’s a good chance we will simply confuse the dog. It won’t know if it should feel bad or good after jumping nor will it know where its food is.
Furthermore, changing their routine often is bound to cause issues. If the dog is used to going for a walk in the morning, it will be disappointed if that suddenly changes.
Frequent changes in their environment can lead to general confusion in dogs, purely because they’re used to certain things. However, although we can always show them where their bowl is, constantly changing our mind about other things, such as jumping on the bed, couch, digging holes, etc. can lead to serious consequences in the future. In any case, the dog will often misbehave because it hasn’t learned what’s good and what’s bad.
Negative or no socialization at all
Dog owners and dogs alike love to socialize with other humans and dogs. Most of them form lifelong friendships in the parks, which is great news, as socialized dogs tend to be well behaved. However, negative socialization can also happen. It refers to dogs that have had a bad experience at the vet, while playing with other dogs or humans, and at home as well.
Therefore, it’s important to figure out how to get the dog to socialize in a fun, safe way. Dogs shouldn’t be limited to their owners only — they need to learn about the world too. So the earlier we start, the better.
When the dog is just a puppy, it needs to learn how to respect older dogs and how to safely play with children. More importantly, it should never see that we are scared it might hurt someone. That might put it off the whole socialization idea completely.
Fear and negative puppyhood experiences
Finally, many dog behavior problems stem from bad experiences and pure fear. Dogs are prone to anxiety just like humans, and if someone treats them badly once, they believe it will happen again. As such, behavioral therapy is the right call if the dog is displaying unusual behavior that’s leaning towards dangerous.
But we have to play our part too. They have to see that we just want to help them get over their fears and that we’re there to provide them with love and care for the rest of their life.
How to fix abnormal dog behavior
Pinpoint the changes
Before we deal with any of these dog behavior problems, we first have to get our facts straight. Has the dog always been aggressive or is that something new? Has it ever tried to steal our food or urinate in strange places?
By pinpointing the changes, we can find the root cause of the problem and fix it accordingly. Going in it blind is never a good idea because we may fix one thing that could cause another issue to arise. Therefore, when in doubt, we should consult a vet, do our research and even talk to other dog owners. There’s a good chance some of them have experienced the same changes in their dog’s behavior.
Prevent boredom as much as possible
Life is never actually boring, especially when one is a puppy. Thus, if we determine that our dog is misbehaving due to boredom, we should, as they say, nip it in the bud immediately. We can introduce games, toys and a more interesting routine into the dog’s life. In fact, we can even consider getting the dog a companion — someone who will always be there when the dog is alone.
Correct their behavior
It’s obvious that a bad boy or girl is usually bad because no one has taught them to act differently. As such, we have to do the responsible thing and correct our previous mistakes. We have to teach them to behave as they should and set up ground rules that will guide them through their life. Only then can we hope to avoid many dog behavior problems that can affect almost all parts of our cherished friendship.
Introduce exercise and a proper diet
Finally, know that a decent exercise routine goes a long way in raising a well-behaved dog. Likewise, getting the dog food that will give it the right amount of nutrients is imperative. As mentioned, dogs are like children to us; we have to do whatever we can in order to ensure they have a happy life, no matter how short or long it may be.
Don’t lose hope — solving the most common abnormal dog behavior is possible!
Whether ignorance is bliss is debatable, but we can honestly say that when it comes to dog behavior problems, the more we know about them, the better. Hopefully, every reader will learn something new from these paragraphs, and if possible, recognize some red flags.
In the end, know that every problem has a solution. The question is — how hard are we willing to try to get to it?