Behavioral Problems In Dogs
What's the hardest thing about being a dog trainer? I think virtually all professional trainers would agree that it's the instance of a dog owner having problems with their dog's behavior, letting that behavior occur over a period of time and not seeking help. Personally, I see this on an almost daily basis, through the Facebook posts of frustrated dog owners who seek advice from other dog owners, most of whom lack the professional expertise' and knowledge to render any truly effective advice - and, shockingly, often that non-professional advice involves using outdated methods that involve force or intimidation. I often offer to help these people, as do other trainers, and usually our offers are ignored, which is both frustrating and sad because trainers are here to help! I feel confident that, in most instances, when dog owners fail to ask for help it's because they think they can't afford it - which begs the question, what is your dog worth to you? A crucial question, because . . .
7 million dogs are surrendered to shelters and rescue groups every year in the United States, and over half those dogs lose their lives as a result. We're a throwaway dog society, and it's our mission as professional dog trainers to change that trend, one dog and one life at a time.
Dogs truly are man's best friend - but, sadly, it's mankind who causes most behavioral problems in dogs. When I meet a fearful, aggressive or misbehaving dog, my first thought is all about solutions: how I can restore the dog's confidence, how I can teach him or her that the things he or she is afraid of are actually good things, as well as what needs to be done to ensure the dog lives a full, happy and fulfilling life, free of fear and bad behaviors. I want to help every dog achieve greatness!
Dogs do not naturally behave as we'd like, and if we do not teach them we can and will experience jumping, nipping, biting, distration, "not listening," running away, fearful behavior and possibly even aggressive behavior. It's our job and responsibility to treach our dogs, in a positive and kind way, and not dump them at a shelter because we failed as their parents and leaders.
I always urge dog owners to seek the help of a knowledgeable, professional dog trainer - because virtually all problem behaviors in dogs can be traced to things the owner is doing or not doing for / to the dog. Let's face it, very few dog owners are professional dog trainers, and they most certainly can benefit from the help of a true professional who knows how to resolve problem behaviors and create the happy, well-behaved dog your dog was meant to be.
We hope you find this information on behavioral problems in dogs useful and informative - and that you never give up on your dog, instead getting the help you need and helping your dog become an incredible, well-behaved canine good citizen. Knowledge is power!
Jeff and Rocky Junior
Causes of Behavioral Problems in Dogs
MEDICAL - related to illness, injury or disease
BEHAVIORAL - influenced / caused by people
GENETIC - caused by a dog's genetic makeup
Let's start with MEDICAL, a fairly common, but often overlooked cause of problem behaviors in dogs. Please keep in mind that dogs cannot communicate verbally with us, so their communication is expressed through behavior. If you and your dog need help, please consult a veterinarian and/or trainer for assistance.
Thryroid Disease, Diabetes, Neural Deficits (lesions, tumors, growths, etc.), Injuries, Infections and more can negatively impact a dog's behavior, even causing aggressive behavior.
Hypothyroidism, which Rocky Junior suffers from, is characterized by low thyroid hormone levels, making the dog feel tired, run down and grumpy. Hyperthyroidism is characterized by high thryoid hormone levels, making the dog feel excess energy and alertness. Both can cause dogs to growl, bare their teeth, or even bite or attempt to bite. Dogs suffering from these conditions don't feel well, and may let people or animals know by giving warnings to stay away. Thyroid disease is effectively managed through the administration of inexpensive prescription medication.
Diabetes, when not controlled, can result in high or low blood sugar levels, causing the dog to feel tired, experience blurred vision and dizziness, and just not feel well. When dogs don't feel well they can't tell us what is wrong, so their communication will be spoken through their behavior.
Neural Deficits can be caused by a wide variety of conditions, to include tumors, lesions, growths and more. As we know, anything that interferes with brain function can dramatically alter behavior.
Infections can impact a dog's behavior, in a variety of ways. The dog may want to be left alone, avoid eye contact, have a droopy, haggard expression and not be very responsive to interaction with humans.
Injuries cause pain, and again, since our dogs cannot communicate verbally with us, their attempts at communication will be made through their behavior.
As a professional dog trainer I always urge a medical screening prior to training if "aggressive" type behavior is being displayed by the dog. Why, you might wonder? If your dog's behavior if related to a medical issue, training will have little impact on the behavior. You have to get your dog well first.
Problems in dogs that are Behavioral in nature are most often caused by inadequate socialization and training during the dog's primary socialization period, a critical point in a dog's life that only runs from the age of 8 weeks to 20 weeks. I commonly see puppies who are only 5 months of age or a little older who are displaying fear-based behaviors because of a lack of socilization and training during their primary socialization period.
I can't count the number of times I have heard dog owners say, "I can't understand this, I DID socialize him," only to learn through conversation that the socialization was limited to the home environment (people coming over to visit, etc.). Dogs are situational learners, and if they are only socialized at home, they will likely only be comfortable at home after turning five months of age.
Rocky Junior was a tiny, underage puppy, only 4 to 5 weeks of age, when I began to train and socialize him. He went everywhere with me, training in many kinds of environments, as well as seeing and experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the big world around him. Anything a dog does not positively experience during their primary socialization period can make them afraid when they are adults (5 months of age and older). So, when socializing your puppy, think in broad, very general terms. Want to ensure your dog won't be afraid of people in wheelchairs?Be sure your young puppy meets and has a positive experience with a person in a wheelchair, and that you administer positive reinforcement while the meeting is occurring, so your puppy learns from the experience.
Others causes of problems that are behavioral in nature include, but are not limited to, abuse, neglect, traumatic experiences, a lack of effective training and a lack of a strong, solid dog-owner relationship that is positive in nature and seen as high value by the dog, which results in great leadership and a great relationship.
A Lack Of Effective Training is absolutely THE most common cause of problem behaviors in dogs and puppies. Let's face it, if you're here reading this page, chances are you are not a professional dog trainer - yet most people try to train their dogs on their own, even though they lack the expertise' and knowledge needed to truly succeed. Most dogs, as a result, are mildly to thoroughly confused by their owners. Do you think your dog "doesn't listen"? In reality, your dog is simply confused and doesn't know what you expect. If you truly want your dog to succeed, seek out the help of a professional - especially so if you have problem behaviors occurring, because your dog's life absolutely depends upon you making the right choice.
More times than I care to admit I have heard other trainers say, "Your dog isn't trainable." This has got to be a soul-crushing moment for a dog owner, because they're essentially being told they're in a hopeless situation.
There is always hope! I have never met a dog I could not effectively work with. They are individuals and some learn faster or slower, but there is always hope. Unless your dog has a medical condition that needs to be resolved first, we can and will be able to work effectively with you and your dog. Skeptical? Read Rocky's Story!
Genetics: Unfortunately, we live in a world where the breeding of dogs and other pets is largely unregulated. When you consider that over 7 million dogs are surrendered to shelters and rescue groups every year in the U.S., with over half those dogs losing their lives as a result, it only makes sense that animal breeding should be controlled and regulated. But it's not, resulting in a proliferation of backyard breeding and puppy mills.
Professional, AKC-affiliated breeders don't breed dogs to make money - they do so to further the breed, which includes having sound genetics and meeting a breed standard. Unprofessional, backyard breeders and puppy mills have no standards - they breed to make money, and it's the dogs who suffer. Genetic problems happen all too frequently. As puppies, these poor dogs appear cute and irresistable - but as they grow, heart-breaking, ofen life-threatening conditions reveal themselves, and often the problems are difficult, if not impossible, to deal with because the root cause is poor genetics. Medication may help, but the fact is that we can't change genetics.
Every dog is capable of greatness and should be entitled to a happy, fulfilling life filled with confidence and happiness, free of fear and worry. Although from an overall standpoint genetic problems in dogs are fairly rare, they are much more common when we adopt from unprofessional breeders. Are those puppies in the retail parking lot just too cute to pass up? What about that adorable puppy on craigslist? Please keep in mind, these are the types of situations where your risk of acquiring a dog with genetic problems is much higher. If your heart is set on a purebred dog, research AKC.ORG for a professional breeder.
Otherwise, please adopt from a shelter or rescue group- you'll be saving a dog's life! You can find purebred and mixed breed puppies and adult dogs; many are living on borrowed time, and need to be rescued. Every dog and cat I've ever had was a rescue, including Rocky and Rocky Junior, and I wouldn't have it any other way!
If you suspect your dog may have genetic problems, please consult your veterinarian.
Do you need help with behavioral problems, or do you simply want the best training experience possible? Hire a Professional Trainer - you'll be glad you did!