Dog Behavior 2017-04-12T18:36:28+00:00

Dog Behavior

This section will help you learn more about:

  • Barking
  • Fears and Phobias
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Bark Collars
  • Chaining


Rule #1 is that dog behavior is learned. Learning begins early on and within the litter. A weeks-old suckling pup is already learning; it may receive a nip or nudge from its mother should it become obtrusive or disruptive.

Dogs are animals of opportunity and will continue to learn life-long by these very means. This is what’s known as “action and response” and the principle applied to nearly all dog training methods.

Certainly your dog provides you with love and companionship. Most people tend to project human emotions on dogs. While this human-like bond is what makes a dog “man’s best friend,” your dogs see things in a different light.


Most all that consumes a dog’s mind has a purpose and yes, pleasing us is a purpose that works well in our favor. Understanding dog behavior and how dogs think will give you a major advantage in both training and achieving the desired behavior of your furry friend.

“Many studies have shown that a major reason dogs are given up is behavioral problems. Sadly, many of these unwanted animals end up in shelters.”

Fact is that poor dog behavior is rarely the dog’s fault but rather a misunderstanding between dog and owner. While some dogs may be bred of poor temperament, or just hardheaded troubled animals, these cases are rare.

Think Like a Dog

Dogs do not have the ability of abstract thinking; rather, their thinking is immediate, here and now. Unlike humans they don’t have a moral perspective of what they do. This is the basis to all training via positive/reward, correction reinforcement, or anything in between.

The canine mind views a sequence of events in a more immediate way. People tend to humanize their dogs in a sense that they understand punishment and pleasure. What a dog understands is consequence — what is achieved via action. The result, if desirable, will be repeated. Here we regress to the basic principle of action and response.

It is common knowledge that dogs are pack animals that willfully will do whatever it takes to maintain their position amongst their pack. This works for us, humans, as they want to please, or, on the other hand, dominate to lead.

As much as I love my dogs my belief is that there is no “limbo” for our dogs — they either lead, follow, or blend in.

Companion dogs by nature are pack animals and in one way or another will seek to find their position in your home, your pack. Yes, in a dog’s mind they will instinctively view their human family as members of their pack. By projecting your position as alpha, your pup will be confident and secure among your family.

Bad Dog Behavior

First off remember that a dog does not know right from wrong — this is learned behavior. Dog behavior and actions that you as a human see undesirable are perfectly normal to a dog.

Problems like barking, chewing, jumping up, marking, and destructive behavior are all acceptable in the canine world. It is our job to condition and train our dogs what is right and what is wrong. Most all dogs aim to please their owners.

Dogs can read our body language and emotion quite easily and often will react to an angry gesture. For instance, a puppy that just peed on the living room carpet will in many cases show remorse by cowering, lowering its head, or hiding as you hastily clean up the mess.

Again, we can over think what’s on the minds of our pets and honestly, probably not that much, maybe a second or two worth of reality. It’s all about the response achieved by their “current” action. A watchful eye is key here as we must teach our dogs what is right and wrong.

Can dogs feel punished? Maybe so, if they return after a half hour while you stood out in your pajamas calling, only to be corrected and scolded upon return. This is why timing, command and correction is so important. On the flip side, click, praise and treat your pup and the wrong point and your point is mute.

To yell, scream, hit, or crate your dog for bad behavior will not resolve the issue. We must look at things like a dog does. It’s all fair game, remember?

Dogs by nature are social creatures and thrive to interact with their human counterparts. They should also receive ample exercise and social time within your family. A pent-up, bored, or neglected dog is more apt to show troublesome dog behavior than others. With training you must always stay consistent.

As mentioned, dogs learn by action and response. Consistency, repetition and reinforcement of commands are key to successful training, be it by positive praises, or correction reinforcement.

Dog Behavior Training & Behavior Modification

What’s the purpose of dog behavior training? Let’s face it, no dog is perfect. And I for one have had my share of problem dogs. Thankfully, there are techniques to share that address many of these common problems.

Dog behavior training, also known as “behavior modification,” is used to address specific problem behavior and bad habits. Unlike obedience training, behavior training differs in that we are not conditioning commands such as sit, stay, heel, etc. Here we are focusing on a specific problem and with training, aim to modify the behavior appropriately.

Keep in mind that in most cases obedience training has nothing to do with dog behavior modification. Yet often, obedience techniques are used in conjunction with behavioral modification methods. Also, a well socialized dog with a solid obedience skill set is less likely to develop behavior problems.

And as always, with any type of dog training, methods and beliefs vary by trainer.

Bad dog behavior can be quite troubling, I know. Should you have a dog with problem behavior, our library of dog training tips offers excellent techniques to help break these habits. Methods used by many professional trainers and behaviorists the world over.

Behavior Problem Library

I for one have loved over a dozen different breeds and can tell you honestly, certain breeds can be somewhat tougher to handle than others. In my experience working with dogs I find that many bad habits are developed early on during puppy development. Yet it’s never too late to modify dog behavior.


Often there are underlying issues to bad dog behavior. It could be a dog was poorly socialized, attacked, traumatized, left alone in a crate, fenced back yard, limited human interaction, or similar scenario. On the other hand, spoiling a dog or treating it as a human equal could also lead to behavior problems.

Lack of exercise, structure and establishing a hierarchy within your home can lead to problems like aggression. Age, physical condition and medical problems can also affect the temperament of a dog. It’s not uncommon at all for any of us, at one point or another, to come across undesired behavioral issues with our fur kids.


First and foremost, we must realize a dog is a dog and will behave like a dog. This is genetically programmed instinctive behavior. All breeds are not created equal. Certain breeds are more prone to be aggressive/assertive, while others are calm, passive, even fearful. The end result and behavior of our dogs, however, is directly related to how we raise them. Socialization, exercise, love, food, affection and guidance all play a major role.

From day one it’s important to understand dog behavior, pick up on early warning signs of future potential issues, and address them before they manifest. Yes, in a perfect situation we would all catch our young pups and nip this in the bud now.

Yet some may adopt an older dog with bad behavior, or over time bad habits develop that need to be addressed.

With dog behavior training, you first must determine what kind of behavior needs to be modified. Further, try to determine the underlying cause for this behavior. It is also important to rule out any possible medically related issues so most professional behaviorists will ask that a new client receives a full veterinary exam. Next, breed behavioral traits are considered, as well as environmental factors and family structure/routine.

The key to dog behavior training and solving behavioral issues is to first understand its cause. From here, adopt a behavior modification plan stay consistent and patient and don’t give up.

In many cases most dogs can be rehabilitated; it’s us, their owners that often need to be taught how to accomplish this.


Adapted from material originally developed by applied animal behaviorists at the Dumb Friends League, Denver, Colorado.

If you’ve ever wondered if your dog’s bark is worse than his proverbial bite, the answer may lie no further than your next-door neighbor.

Some canine behavior problems, such as house soiling, affect only a dog’s family. But problems such as escaping and excessive barking can result in neighborhood disputes and violations of animal control ordinances, and that means problems with your pet can soon become “people problems.” If your dog’s “talkative nature” has created tension with your neighbors, then it’s a good idea to discuss the problem with them.

It’s perfectly normal and reasonable for dogs to bark from time to time, just as children make noise when they play outside. But continual barking for long periods of time is a symptom of a problem that needs addressing—from the perspective of your neighbors and your dog.

The first thing to do is determine when and for how long your dog barks, and what causes him to bark. You may need to do some clever detective work to obtain this information, especially if the barking occurs when you’re not home. Ask your neighbors what they see and hear, drive or walk around the block and watch and listen for a while, or start a tape recorder or video camera when you leave for work. With a little effort you should be able to find out which of the common problems discussed below is the cause of your dog’s barking.

Social Isolation/Frustration/Attention-Seeking

Your dog may be barking out of boredom and loneliness if:

  • He’s left alone for long periods of time without opportunities to interact with you.
  • His environment is relatively barren, without companions or toys.
  • He’s a puppy or adolescent (under three years old) and doesn’t have other outlets for his energy.
  • He’s a particularly active type of dog (like the herding or sporting breeds) who needs to be occupied to be happy.


Expand your dog’s world and increase his “people time” in the following ways:

  • Walk your dog at least twice daily—it’s good exercise, both mental and physical. Walks should not only be considered “potty breaks.”
  • Teach your dog to fetch a ball or Frisbee® and practice with him as often as possible.
  • Teach your dog a few commands and/or tricks and practice them every day for five to ten minutes.
  • Take a dog-training class with your dog. This allows you and your dog to work together toward a common goal.
  • To help fill the hours that you’re not home, provide safe, interesting toys to keep your dog busy, such as Kong®-type toys filled with treats or busy-box toys. Rotating the toys will make them seem new and interesting.
  • If your dog is barking to get your attention, make sure he has sufficient time with you on a daily basis (petting, grooming, playing, exercising).
  • Keep your dog inside when you’re unable to supervise him.
  • Let your neighbors know that you are actively working on the problem.
  • If your dog is well socialized and you have your employer’s permission, take your dog to work with you every now and then.
  • When you have to leave your dog for extended periods of time, take him to a “doggie day care center,” hire a pet sitter or dog walker, or have a trusted friend or neighbor walk and play with him.

Territorial/Protective Behavior

Your dog may be barking to guard his territory if:

  • The barking occurs in the presence of “intruders,” which may include the mail carrier, children walking to school, and other dogs or neighbors in adjacent yards.
  • Your dog’s posture while he’s barking appears threatening—tail held high and ears up and forward.
  • You’ve encouraged your dog to be responsive to people and noises outside.


  • Teach your dog a “quiet” command. When he begins to bark at a passerby, allow two or three barks, then say “quiet” and interrupt his barking by shaking a can filled with pennies or squirting water at his mouth with a spray bottle or squirt gun. This surprise should cause him to stop barking momentarily. While he’s quiet, say “good quiet” and pop a tasty treat into his mouth. Remember, the loud noise or squirt isn’t meant to punish him; rather it’s to distract him into being quiet so you can reward him. If your dog is frightened by the noise or squirt bottle, find an alternative method of interrupting his barking (perhaps throw a toy or ball near him).
  • Desensitize your dog to the stimulus that triggers the barking. Teach him that the people he views as intruders are actually friends and that good things happen to him when these people are around. Ask someone to walk by your yard, starting far enough away so that your dog isn’t barking, then reward quiet behavior and correct responses to a “sit” or “down” command with special treats such as little pieces of cheese. As the person gradually comes closer, continue to reward your dog’s quiet behavior. It may take several sessions before the person can come close without your dog barking. When the person can come very close without your dog barking, have him feed your dog a treat or throw a toy for him.
  • If your dog barks while inside the house when you’re home, call him to you, have him obey a command such as “sit” or “down,” and reward him with praise and a treat. Remember to pay attention to your dog when he’s being quiet, too, so that he comes to associate such behavior with attention and praise.
  • Don’t encourage this type of barking by enticing your dog to bark at things he hears or sees outside.
  • Have your dog spayed or neutered to decrease territorial behavior.

Fears and Phobias

Your dog’s barking may be a response to something he’s afraid of if:

  • The barking occurs when he’s exposed to loud noises, such as thunderstorms, firecrackers, or construction noise.
  • Your dog’s posture indicates fear—ears back, tail held low.


  • Identify what’s frightening your dog and desensitize him to it. You may need professional help with the desensitization process. Talk to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication while you work on behavior modification.
  • During thunderstorms or other frightening times, mute noise from outside by leaving your dog in a comfortable area in a basement or windowless bathroom, and leave on a television, radio, or loud fan. Block off your dog’s access to outdoor views that might be causing a fear response, by closing curtains or doors to certain rooms. Avoid coddling your dog so that he doesn’t think that he is being rewarded for his fearful behavior.

Separation Anxiety

Your dog may be barking due to separation anxiety if:

  • The barking occurs only when you’re gone and starts as soon as, or shortly after, you leave.
  • Your dog displays other behaviors that reflect a strong attachment to you, such as following you from room to room, greeting you frantically, or reacting anxiously whenever you prepare to leave.
  • Your dog has recently experienced a change in the family’s schedule that means he’s left alone more often; a move to a new house; the death or loss of a family member or another family pet; or a period at an animal shelter or boarding kennel.


  • Some cases of separation anxiety can be resolved using counter-conditioning and desensitization techniques. Successful treatment for some cases may also require the use of medication prescribed by your veterinarian.

About Bark Collars

There are several types of bark collars on the market, and we generally don’t recommend them. The main drawback of any bark collar is that it doesn’t address the underlying cause of the barking. You may be able to eliminate the barking, but symptom substitution may occur and your dog may begin digging or escaping, or become destructive or even aggressive. A bark collar must be used in conjunction with behavior modification that addresses the reason for the barking, as outlined above. You should never use a bark collar on your dog if his barking is due to separation anxiety, or fears or phobias, because punishment always makes fear and anxiety behaviors worse.

Do You Chain Your Dog?

From the Humane Society of United States

There are a variety of reasons why people chain their dogs outside. Many people believe that dogs should live outside, and they keep the dog tied up because he or she escapes the yard or digs in the garden.

Or maybe the dog has grown too large to be inside, or has developed a behavior problem that the owner is unable to deal with, so the dog stays in the yard. Or perhaps the dog is kept outside to protect the home.

Dangers of Chaining Change Minds

Whatever the reasons, fewer dog owners seem to be keeping their dogs tied up outside. And many communities have passed laws against long-term chaining of dogs. Why?

First, more people are learning that continuous tethering is bad for dogs. As pack animals, dogs have been bred for thousands of years to form a strong attachment to a human family. An otherwise friendly and happy dog, when kept continually chained and isolated, often becomes neurotic, unhappy, anxious, and aggressive. In fact, studies show that chained dogs are much more likely to bite than unchained dogs.

In addition, chained dogs may unintentionally hang themselves if they are tethered too close to a fence and attempt to jump it. Chained dogs are also subject to attacks by other animals and cruel humans.