Illustrated Articles

Dogs + Behavior

  • Dogs often steal objects to play with them or to get someone to chase them. Stealing thus becomes rewarding to the dog. Supervision to prevent stealing is the best strategy. It is important to refrain from chasing your dog to retrieve stolen goods. Dogs can be trained to give back stolen items.

  • What is normal and what is not? The answer is: when the behavior is harmless or just annoying, it is probably normal. When the behavior is destructive, disruptive, or places people or other pets at risk, it is not normal. Addressing the problems early, before they become ingrained, is the best hope for avoiding future problems. Dogs will be dogs, but people are still ultimately responsible for them.

  • Chewing is usually a totally normal and needed behavior for puppies and adult dogs, but it can be unsafe if non-food items are chewed on or ingested. Puppies chew when they are teething and puppies and dogs can chew when playing, seeking food or attention, investigating new items, and when they are bored. Encourage your dog to chew on appropriate items. Teaching your dog to “give” is important in order to have your dog drop contraband items. If your dog shows signs of concerning chewing (persistent ingestion of non-food items, chewing to escape from the yard, chewing around doors or windows, chewing on his own body), contact your veterinarian.

  • Dogs dig for a variety of reasons. It may be done to accomplish a goal that, to a dog, is reasonable, but it can also be a sign of an underlying behavior disorder. This handout describes the most common causes of destructive digging and methods that can be used to manage it.

  • Dogs can be amazing family members and greatly enrich our lives! Adding a dog to the family is also a serious commitment, and research before choosing a dog will help set the family and the dog up for success. This handout goes over some factors to consider when selecting a dog.

  • Single traumatic experiences or repeated exposure to frightening stimuli can cause reactions ranging from mild fear to extreme phobic reactions. The onset of noise sensitivity may occur during different developmental or life stages. Medical conditions such as pain (i.e., ear infection or arthritis) have been associated with noise sensitivity in dogs. Dogs that experience extreme fear and/or phobic behaviors need professional intervention. The first place to start is with scheduling an appointment with your veterinarian.

  • Lack of early positive environmental exposure during the socialization period can be as damaging as a traumatic or negative experience in a particular environment. Fear may be associated with unfamiliar sights, sounds, or even the odors of a particular location. Use of verbal reprimands, punishment, or correction in a specific environment may lead to fear and anxiety associated with that environment.

  • There are many reasons why dogs can develop a fear or phobic response toward people or other animals including lack of socialization, traumatic learning experiences, genetic predisposition, and medical conditions. Proper socialization is the cornerstone to raising a dog that is comfortable with people and animals. This exposure must begin before 3 months of age and continue throughout the first year. Dogs that are frightened may display fight, flight, freeze, or fidget/fret responses when afraid. Dogs that experience extreme fear and/or phobic behaviors need professional intervention. There are many behavioral medications that can be helpful for reducing fear or phobic responses in dogs.

  • Fear is an aversive emotional state with physiological, behavioral, and emotional reactions to stimuli which are perceived as an actual threat or danger. Fears may be rational or irrational; they may be adaptive or maladaptive. Fear may result in aggressive responses by pets. A phobia is a sudden, profound, or excessive fear response. Anxiety may be defined as diffuse generalized feelings of apprehension, unease, and/or nervousness regarding an imminent event, uncertain outcome, or an anticipated threat or danger. Fear can be the result of an early experience that was unpleasant or perceived by the pet as unpleasant but it does not always take an unpleasant experience for fear to develop. Any stimuli that a dog or cat has not been exposed to during its sensitive period of development, which is up to 3 months of age in dogs and 2 months of age in cats, may become a fear-evoking stimulus. Illness, pain, or the effects of aging may lead to an increase in fear or anxiety in situations where there was previously little or no problem. A good program of socialization and exposure to many new and novel situations while a pet is young and in a thoughtful and proactive manner can be helpful in preventing fears and phobias. Professional intervention can help to prevent the behavior from worsening.

  • Dog food has been made so palatable that it can easily create gluttonous behavior. Meal feeding and portion control are important to prevent obesity. Owners should not give in to begging behavior. Dogs that are still hungry after their meal can be supplemented with snacks such as green vegetables recommended by your veterinarian. Dogs that eat too quickly can be fed creatively to slow down eating.