Understanding dog behavior


Dogs are considered the most genuinely happy creatures on earth. Their entire day is filled with you whether you are there or not. They are waiting for you, sleeping on your bed, watching for you out the window, wondering where you are while they are patiently waiting for you in their crate.

Once you come home it’s all about you. Your attention, your love, your food, your commands, and of course, your time. For an animal that revolves his whole life around you, it can be confusing why he does some of the things he does. If he loves you so much, why is he destroying your shoes? If you are the light in his life, why is he ignoring you when you come home?

Dogs have a very unique way of expressing themselves. Most people believe that dogs have and show genuine emotion such as love and fear and even anger. We understand that when they sit at the door and bark they are telling us they need to go outside. We understand that when we have a leash in our hand and they get a little goofy that they are excited about the upcoming walk. Understanding their more subtle or destructive cues takes a little insight into your dog’s world.

Returning Home Behavior

Some dogs get so excited that you are home after a weekend away they completely get beside themselves with joy. They follow you around and may even be uncharacteristically clingy as you wander about the house. Others get so excited when you first walk in the door, and then leave you in complete peace for several hours. People usually say that he is angry with you for leaving in the first place.

Most experts say their behavior is more about security than anything. You are your dog’s entire world and when for some reason you disappear for a long period of time, and there is a sudden change in his routine, his security is thrown a bit. He is very happy to see you but he also needs a little reassurance that everything is getting back to normal. Some dogs do this by following you around the house until they are sure, and others do this from a more observatory stance. Either way your canine family member is just looking for reassurance and his typical routine to return.

The Canine Garbage Disposal

He knows better and he knows that you know he knows better. However, every chance he gets you see him scampering off with something that you just absolutely don’t want him to chew. He eats your best shoes while you’re in the shower, the corner of the bedspread while you’re getting dressed, and the phone cord while you were talking on it. And you haven’t even made it to breakfast yet. As much as you love him you are contemplating the moral issues of drop kicking him right out the door. You’ve tried everything that you can think of and yet he is still eating everything in sight. He is beyond the age where teething causes chewing but yet he still can’t seem to find his own toys to consume.

There are two key factors in a garbage disposal dog. The first and easiest to solve is a health problem relating to his teeth and gums. If his mouth is bothering him, he is going to chew on everything he can. Start with a vet visit to rule out any periodontal issues.

The more likely culprit of his unflattering behavior is stress and anxiety. Yes, your happy go lucky guy can suffer from stress. Has there been a change in the household such as a new baby, dramatically increased arguing or is someone who is supposed to be there suddenly gone?

For starter, confine him when you can’t watch him, although preferably with you. A puppy gate here can go a long way in simple things like keeping an eye on him while you are showering and watching his every move while you are getting dressed. Often the hurried morning is a higher anxiety period for your dog.

Then begin to address the problem. Make sure there’s an appropriate toy available to him at all times and make a big deal about it when he eats the right things. A sharp reprimand and a quick and immediate discipline is in order when you catch him at the wrong chew toys. You don’t want to stress him more by smacking him, although a rolled up newspaper banged on a hard surface is a quick attention getter. Never strike him with it. He will make it his mission to eat it if you do in an effort to eliminate an already stressful period.

Try to identify the stressor and relax him around the problem. If you can get him comfortable enough around the new baby to lie down even when the baby is crying, you have made strides. If there is tension in the house try to tone down the arguing, or take it to an alternative room. If your dog can be comfortably confined to an outdoor yard, that is the best option, but don’t get so wrapped up in your arguing that you leave him out there for extensive periods of time. Whatever the stressor is that is causing the chewing, try to get him comfortable and relaxed around it. This may take some time, but relieving his anxiety will also reduce the tension in your life as well.


You know him as your sweet and loveable friend. Your friends and neighbors know him as the terror on your doorstep who wants to eat them. Aggression is not a nice quality in your dog. Aggression comes from the desire to protect, and anything perceived as a threat is going to be treated like one. For some dogs this means anyone and anything that doesn’t belong. He is only trying to defend his home and his human family, but aggression is a serious behavioral problem that needs to be nipped in the bud.

Check your own behavior. How are you reacting to him when he is growling and carrying on at the neighbor as she walks by your house? Make sure the words “good boy” are the last thing your dog hears. “Be a good boy,” or “That’s not a good boy,” are not deterrents. Neither is “Shh.”

Mild mannered people tend to have more aggressive dogs because their tones are not consistent with command. If your dog doesn’t believe you enough to listen to you, he certainly isn’t going to believe you can take care of yourself. I can’t tell you how many times our pups have been accosted on the street with an owner telling their dog that it’s ok. It’s not okay. The words you are looking for are firm and sharp and sound like “Sit” and “No.” One word firm commands are much more effective than reasoning. Aggression is a serious offense and it must be treated as one. We have one dog who got a little out of control. When sitting wasn’t getting him under control on his nightly walk we actually went to making him lie down. Right there on the street or sidewalk we commanded our German Shepard to lie down to get his attention and then added a “Quiet” command to get our point across. His aggression quieted down in a week.

Some dogs do better if they can at least see what’s going on even if they can’t be a part of the process. Aggressive dogs are really protective dogs. The delivery man might not want your growling, snarling beloved pet to join you on the porch, but he might do better if he has a place he can be directed to sit and watch provided he stays quiet. Constantly sequestering him does nothing to solve the problem.

The Overbearing Overgrown Puppy

He is happy to see you. You are his toy and his best friend and he will pummel you over in an attempt to play with you. He has run over the children and covered the cat with his doggie saliva. You love him, but wow does his energy get annoying sometimes. It’s hard to talk to someone one the phone when he’s jumping on you and wrapping his big paws around you and forget leaving the house looking presentable.

He is the puppy who never grew up. His body got big, but he seems intellectually stuck at four months old. Most of the time this behavior is a matter of dominance. When a dog views you as his alpha leader, he gives you respect. When you are his peer, you are his play mate. Alpha leaders are by nature a food related dominance. Of course other factors play into it as well, but to a dog food is leadership. If you are not already the dog’s food source, consider taking on that responsibility.

Establish yourself as a leader. This isn’t all that hard to do and you don’t even have to stop playing with him in order to do it. Start by giving him random commands, especially around feeding time. With his food in your hand tell him to sit. With the food in the bowl and the bowl on the floor tell him to wait, and then make sure he follows through. When he has looked to you for permission, allow him to commence eating.

Slowly add random commands throughout the day and rebuke rough playing immediately. If he wants to play, he has to sit and wait for things rather than tackle you. You can just as easily give him commands with playtime as you can any other time. A few commands before you throw the ball is usually enough to get the right message across as you are establishing dominance.

Interpreting Your Dog

Understanding your dog’s behavior isn’t quite as mystifying as it seems. He really is doing his best to tell you. Watching his communication with other people and animals in the household can really open your eyes to how he expresses himself.

A dog wags his tail to express happiness, yawns when he is content, and growls when he is threatened. With over one hundred facial expressions, he is constantly telling you something. The more you get to know your dog the more you will learn what he is telling you.

Owning a dog is a wonderfully joyous experience. They bring so much into our world which is why so many people have them. They look to us to tend to their needs. We owe it to them to give them at least our very best shot at keeping them safe, healthy, and happy.
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