Pet Tips

Tip 50 – Dog behaviour – understanding your dog’s behaviour

Dogs behave in doggie ways and not human ways. Understanding this simple principal may help to cure unwanted behaviours. When we are unhappy with a dog’s behaviour it is important to know that dog’s rarely do things to upset us on purpose. (There are exceptions to this rule like attention seeking. If we ignore our dog completely, it may well engage in bad behaviour to get our attention. From a dog’s (or even a child’s point of view, negative attention is often better than no attention at all.) However for the most part like all living things, behaviour is related to genetic makeup and environment. Therefore if the behaviour is bothersome to us humans, instead of scolding the dog for something that comes natural to it, we must ask WHY is it happening.

The needs of most dogs are fairly simple and predictable. Dogs need to be well fed and watered. Dogs need play and exercise. Dogs need attention and love. Dogs are pack animals and need to be part of a family, your family. Depending on what breed of dog you have, you can also expect to encounter breed specific behaviours. Obvious examples are terriers that were bred to dig and chase game, and hounds being able to sniff out even the weakest scents. These behaviours have been bred into particular breeds on purpose by humans. Those breeds that did not exhibit desired characteristics were not allowed to reproduce. Some of the behaviours that were originally bred into certain breeds and are now hardwired, are no longer attractive qualities for us humans. This of course is a good reason to do some research on dog breeds BEFORE you get a dog,

When bad behaviour arises it is important to ask WHY is this bad behaviour happening, A good example is chewing. Dogs often chew up their owner’s shoes and other clothing . This is very upsetting to many dog owners and they often scold or worse, hit the dog. This is the wrong approach. First off, hitting a dog for any reason is wrong. It is an old school approach like whipping a school child with a tree branch or a ruler. Instead, we must ask why is the dog doing this. Only then can we or with the help of a trainer, solve the problem. In this particular case it is because all dogs love to chew and chewing is absolutely normal dog behaviour. It gives the dog an activity, helps clean its teeth and gums and when it happens to be an owners shoe, it has the owner’s scent on the shoe so it is soothing to the dog. Now you know why and now you can solve the problem. The easy solution here is give the dog stuff that it is allowed to chew and hide or make less desirable things it is not allowed to chew. If you don’t want your dog to chew your new shoes, don’t give it an old shoe. Give the dog something it is allowed to chew like a large uncooked bone, or a Kong stuffed with peanut butter.

Only when you ask why your dog is doing what it does can you learn to solve particular problems. As a rule most behaviour problems are easily solved once you know what’s going on. Deal with problems sooner than later and puppies are easier to train and correct than adult dogs.

31 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar Lou Spink says:

    My female god \s name is: KRIKET. She is 2.5 yrs. Yorkie/Poo. She freaks out when she hears garbage trucks, jets, and sometimes helicopters coming around the neighbourhood or flying up above.
    She runs downstairs to hide from the noise. What can I do to help her overcome these fears??

    • Avatar Marko says:

      You can try RECORDING those noises. Then when you are cuddling your dog have someone else play the noises at a LOW level. Keep cuddling or petting your dog. Then gradually increase the volume of the recording until (hopefully) there will be no reaction.
      Good luck!

  2. Avatar Meagan says:

    One of my two dogs has the tendency to sleep on my pillow and lay her head across my neck. She shows no signs of aggression or dominance towards me, but is the dominant dog. It is to my understanding that my husband holds the role of the alpha,the dominant dog, that of the beta, the second dog is the omega, and that I am the “caregiver”. I am wondering why the beta dog exhibits this type of behavior towards me. Is it possessiveness or dominance well hidden behind what would appear to be affection?

    • Avatar Marko says:

      This is a FABULOUS question!
      In my opinion dog hierarchy is not completely linear or as simple as this.

      Just as an FYI ALL human members of a household should be “higher” in rank than any dog, but these facts are more important when the dog is showing signs of dominance or aggression.

      I don’t really know if your dog IS showing dominance by lying across your neck….it could be, then again it could be snuggling. If this were my dog, and there really was ZERO aggressive/dominance behaviour going on, I’d likely let the snuggling continue because snuggling is fun.

      SOME dog trainers will tell you that your dog should not be on your bed, period. Just letting you know that.
      Good luck!

  3. Avatar Lou Spink says:

    I also have a small dog who likes to lay across my shoulders when I’m watching TV. Is she showing dominance also? I think she gets a better view of what’s going on outside through the window and likes to be at our level to be able to do that.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      It might be Lou, can’t know for sure. If that’s the only behaviour that ‘might’ be dominant and there are zero other issues, then if it were my dog, I’d likely allow it.

  4. Avatar Lou Spink says:

    Thank you for your advice…….she is my baby Kriket.

  5. Avatar Meagan says:

    to Marko:
    I was aware of that fact. It’s actually my faults they sleep on the bed. They were rescues, were not house broken, and I figured they would wake me up if they had to go out… I was unfortunately right; they never wake my husband for their morning walk.

  6. Avatar Heather says:

    Marko, we have a 6mth old cocapoodle named Annie, we have a cat 15yrs. we have had her since she was 8 wks. she is crated during day while alone, no problem, she spends alot of time downstairs with my husband, 1 cause she can’t be trusted upstairs, lol, we have been letting her up more often lately, but she has been peeing and pooing upstairs, even when she has just come in from outside, she’s peed on our comforter, peed on the couch, pooed on the couch, the carpet, kitchen floor.

  7. Avatar stacie says:

    we have a half black lab who is 5. a few days ago she started a new behavior that we are wondering about.
    our elderly neighbor passed away 2 weeks ago and our 14 year old cat a week before that :( . our neighbors little poodle and our dog used to play but she has now gone to live with the neighbors son.
    a few days ago our dog started bringing the toy into bed with us or where ever shes going to sleep (not EVERY time, but a lot of the time). and when she lies down she is scratching at the blankets or pillows. she has also become very sucky – forcing her love on us (which is wonderful but she is HEAVY :) ) we are not sure if the reason is, she is missing her friends or what?! and should we be concerned or just leave it be
    we checked and she doesnt seem to be in heat and we know she isnt preggers (i dont know? do pregnant dogs nest?)

    • Avatar Marko says:

      If the dog was spayed then there is zero chance she is pregnant, if she was not spayed, please consider spaying her.

      Dogs do show signs of depression when serious changes (from the dog’s point of view) happen and this ‘suckiness’ as you call it might be related to that.

      Good luck!

  8. Avatar mary says:

    our 9 year old dog has never had an accident in our house, we adopted her 5 years ago. I took her to the normal groomer 3 days ago and since coming back home she has pooped in the house 3 times. I don’t know if something happened there that scared her or what’s going on. Her bowel movements are normal looking so no tummy problems. HELP! I don’t know what to make of this or how to fix it.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      I recommend posting this on our forum to see what other people suggest. Personally if this was the first time and it’s continuing… it might be medical.

      Good luck!

  9. Avatar MAGGIE says:


  10. Avatar mark says:

    I have a 4 yr old choc lab. she is a spayed female who bird hunts with me. When in the back of a pick-up truck, she whines, yelps, and cries—constantly. She will not be quiet. It drives me nuts and scares the birds away at times. She is fully secured by a steel cable, but even when she is not tied up she is the same

  11. Avatar Kelly-Ann says:

    We have a rescue dog that is approx 14 mths old. We have had here now for 7 mths. We have followed the same nighttime routine but she has started getting up earlier and earlier each day. I put her in her kennel between 10 & 10:30 pm each night after going outside. She has her blanket and toy there with her. We normally get up at 5:30 am for work each day but she has been crying to get out any time before that. This morning, for example, it was 3:30am and yesterday it was 4:40am. I have not had a full nights sleep since we got her and we are looking for any assistance.
    Thank you.

  12. Avatar Joan says:

    My 4 year-old female Maltese/Schitzu cross is a super intelligent little gal. The past 2-3 months, she has started peeing on our rug in the bedroom, no other place in the house. She knows she has done wrong, but continues to try my patience by doing it. I have scolded her, never hitting or doing anything physical to her, but today I stuck her in her cage, which she never uses. I feel like an abuser doing this to her, but am at my wits end. She only does it when my husband or I are in a different part of the house. She is very demanding of our affection and gets more than any dog I have ever seen, and we love her dearly. Could it be attention-getting or could there be a physical problem?
    Hope someone knows how to solve this!! Thank you.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      You may want to also post this in our forum but a coule of things come to mind immediately.

      1 – If you are putting the dog in the cage more than 10 seconds after the dog has peed then u are wasting your time and damaging the relationship you have with your dog. This is because dogs can NOT associate their behaviour with the punishment if it happens after the behaviour has happened.

      2 – How are you cleaning the urine off the rug? If it’s not through a fabulous clear that has enzymes to remove the smell, the dog will still smell it and be attracted to that area again.

      For a better back and forth and additional ideas I encourage you to post this in out forum.
      Good luck!

  13. Avatar Linda says:

    My 2 year old maltese barks shrilly & annoyingly when anyone comes into my house — whether he knows them or not. Even a regular visitor whom he knows very well & he’ll wait by the door for her. He’ll jump onto the back of the couch to get closer to the visitor and bark in their face. He stops only when I pick him up. As long as I’m holding him, no matter what the circumstance, he stays quiet. My question is: a) WHY does he do this and b) how can I stop it. Yelling at him is useless, I know. Oh, and the barking is not aggressive…he’s wagging his tail the whole time!

    • Avatar Marko says:

      I think you are reinforcing this bad behaviour. “He only stops when I pick him up”. I would immediately stop picking up a barking dog as it’s very likely that the dog is barking in order to be picked up. bad behaviour should never be rewarded.

      When the dog is quiet THEN I’d pick the dog up.

      Maybe when someone comes in you should make the dog sit. If the dog is sitting and quiet, then pick up the dog. If you can’t get your dog to sit, then basic group obedience training is highly recommended.

      Good luck.

  14. Avatar Waisey says:

    Hi there, i have a 12 week old yorkshire terrier x jack russell that has both parents x breeds also….. he is generally very playful, confident, social etc, except he has a habit of climbing on my shoulders to sleep, or lying across my lower back if i sit up on my sofa…. or, he lies across my hands while i’m working on the laptop. now most times i’m ok with this as he is a very affectionate dog, but i’m worried if i let this behaviour continue i’ll end up with a very dominant ( or damn right annoying ) dog.

    he sleeps in the bed with me, which i dont mind at all, i love the company, and he’s a great sleeper, and guard dog for his age!!

    sometimes if i’m under a work deadline and he’s trying to sleep on my shoulders, i put a pillow next to me and put him down on that, and pet him.. then get back to what i’m doing, and keep repeating this until he stays there and settles….. am i confusing him by allowing then dis-allowing this behaviour???

    the creeping in behind my lower back is a new thing though?? i cant understand that one, can anyone shed any light?
    thanks a lot

    • Avatar Marko says:

      “.. am i confusing him by allowing then dis-allowing this behaviour???”

      Yes you are. Don’t encourage any behaviour that you don’t want the dog to exhibit…
      If you let the dog lie on you sometimes but then get annoyed with the dog at other times…how can the dog figure this out?

      As the dog jumps on your shoulders say NO! then put the dog down. Then praise the dog when he settles….that’s what I would try if I wanted to extinguish this behaviour.
      Good luck.

  15. Avatar Vk says:

    My outside dog keeps eating all our other animals food! He eats his but not all then goes after the cats and then the chickens, what can I do to get him to stop? I can’t tie him up cause then he can’t do his job of protecting the chickens…any suggestions? I’ve tried everything I can think of including putting it out of his reach but then he literally hurts himself trying to get to the others food!

  16. Avatar Janet says:

    Why does my chihuahua put his face into my sneaker when I take it off at night? He will roll around in that one shoe and then he is finished.

    • Avatar Marko says:

      Many dogs enjoy what humans would consider to be foul smells.
      Hope that may help, and feel free to post this question on our forum for a better back and forth.

  17. Avatar william murphy says:

    i hope you can help me,i have 3 male dogs the father pug mix 6years old the first son is 3 and the other is 2 recently they started attacking each other on site mostly, the father and the oldest son, recently the 2 brothers have been going at it the mother lives in the house as well but she does not get involved in the fighting. These dogs if left to it they draw blood on each other. We have no idea what started this and there is no question about it as soon as these dogs see each other the fight is on please help we love our dogs and do not want to see them hurt. thank you in advance for your help with this matter. William Murphy

    • Avatar Marko says:

      This is a complex one William – No way this can be explained in an effective way. You need an expert to observe the dogs and make a plan.
      I highly recommend getting a referral for an obedience trainer from your vet or someone you trust.
      Good luck

  18. Avatar stephanie says:

    I have a 4 year old shi-tzu named patches and I have had her since she was 6 weeks old. I have never had an issue out of her except recently I got injured and was off work for 3 months. Ever since i went back to work she’s been acting weird. Three night a week my husband works the overnight shift and two of those nights so do I so all three of our dogs are left alone all night. On the night we are both gone when my husband gets home first patches will be shaking and she will shake until I get home but on Mondays when he’s at work and I’m home alone she will shake until he gets home. It’s almost like she is scared until we are both there together. What can i do to help her she was never like this until I got hurt and on days we don’t work she’s fine

    • Avatar Marko says:

      There are calming diffusing sprays that can help this situation, and medication (prescribed by your vet) can also help.

      Sometimes leaving the radio on (on a talk radio station) can also help as the voices make the dog seem less lonely.

      For a better back and forth feel free to post this in our forum.
      Good luck!

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