Dog Behavior: Understanding What Your Dog Is Trying To Tell You

Do you ever get the feeling that your dog is trying to tell you something? If you’re regularly met with those pleading eyes, or if you’re just interested in learning more about dog behavior and how you can use it to better understand what your dog is trying to tell you, WINPRO Pet has created this article just for you. 

Dog behavior doesn’t have to be confusing, complicated, or out of reach for the average dog owner. Here are some of the most common behaviors or “quirks” that dogs show, what may be causing them, and what you can do to help.

A Quick Caveat

Before digging into the real meat of dog behaviors, it’s important to address an important fact. First and foremost, if your dog is exhibiting new or different behaviors (especially if they are concerning), you should always start by taking your dog to the vet. 

Certain problem behaviors, like biting or being destructive around the house, can be caused by physical issues. Cognitive decline associated with age, discomfort, urinary tract infections, and parasites can all be silent on the outside, but create behavioral issues from the inside. Ruling out any physical causes is essential before treating behavioral concerns. We can’t stress this enough. 

Aggression

Let’s start with one of the more concerning dog behaviors, especially if it is new or seems to come out of nowhere. Aggression comes in various forms and can have many different triggers, which is why it is one of the more difficult dog behaviors to figure out. 

For instance, aggression in one dog can look “textbook,” like snarling, growling, or even biting. In other dogs, a tail that is held straight up along with raised hackles is all that you can see, with no verbal cues. Knowing your dog and what is normal for them makes a big difference. Even stillness can be a “tell” in some dogs.

Aggression can be a result of a lot of different things, too. There is territorial aggression, resource guarding (especially food), protective aggression, fear aggression, and pain-related aggression. It can also be triggered by social phobias, predatory instinct, or the hormones associated with not spaying or neutering your pet. 

In general, aggression should always be managed by both your veterinarian and a professional animal behavior expert due to the risk of injury to not only your dog but yourself and the people around when it happens. 

Digging

If you’ve ever had your yard torn up by a dog who just loves to dig holes, you already know the struggle. To truly understand this dog behavior, and save your backyard, it’s important to look at the whys behind the digging and how you can help stop it.

Unfortunately, for some dogs, it comes down to simple genetics. Certain types of dogs, like members of the terrier and hound groups, were bred for their ability to literally dig out prey.

If you have one of these dogs, they may be digging out small animals like gophers or moles! Or it may be a result of their genes, and the digging is just normal, instinctual behavior (which can be difficult to stop). 

Certain breeds, like huskies, are prone to digging in an attempt to cool down, as well. Even when it’s not hot out, that can be a difficult behavior to curb.

Digging can also be an attempt to escape or to relieve stress. In these cases, you’ll want to make sure that your backyard is as safe as possible to avoid your dog actually getting out and getting hurt. 

Then, see if you can identify the source of stress and redirect that energy elsewhere… like a dedicated toy, longer walks, or a supplement that can help to manage their mental health (like WINPRO Calming chews).

Chewing

Chewing is another problematic dog behavior, especially if the target of that chewing is your shoes or your home itself! In fact, chewing is one of the most common problems dog owners deal with (next to aggression).

It often starts in puppyhood as a way of helping their teeth hurt less as their permanent teeth start to grow in. If that behavior isn’t curbed, it can turn into one that is all about the chewing and not about physical discomfort. However, you should always have any dental issues ruled out by your veterinarian. And, even though they may be cute, never encourage your puppy to chew. What may be adorable in a puppy is far more dangerous as an adult dog.

If you’ve ruled out physical issues and you’re dealing with an adult dog (and not a teething puppy), you’ll likely need to redirect the anxiety or frustration that is driving the chewing. 

If you catch them chewing on something inappropriate, calmly and gently switch that object out with an appropriate toy. Try to avoid yelling, as this can cause other issues. Praise your dog when they chew on things they should, and redirect them when they don’t.

Chewing is also associated with separation anxiety, for much of the same reason. Keeping your dog out of areas where he or she isn’t able to do any damage (both to themselves and your things), and making sure that they have appropriate things to chew on can help. In some cases, you may also have to work to actually limit the time they spend alone.

Household Accidents

For dogs, just like children, potty training comes with a learning curve. It’s perfectly normal for puppies to have accidents while they’re being trained, and they should never be punished for them (positive reinforcement only). However, if that behavior has extended into adulthood, it’s time to take a closer look at it.

Physical things like urinary tract infections, food sensitivities, or GI issues can cause dogs to literally not be able to hold it… leading to accidents in the house. Age can also be a factor, as older dogs have a much harder time going hours between being able to go outside than younger dogs do.

In fact, in the vast majority of cases, this problem can be curbed by taking your dog out more, ruling out medical issues, and being a little bit more flexible. It’s rare that accidents are related strictly to behavioral issues.

Begging

And finally, one of the more “annoying” dog behaviors out there… begging. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to begging, it’s usually the human who needs to be trained more than the dog! Dogs learn very quickly how to “work” us, and they’ve seemingly perfected those puppy dog eyes through centuries of domestication. Likely, if your dog is having issues with begging you for food, you’ve probably accidentally trained them that it works.

Here comes the hard part. If your dog is begging, you have to either remove them from the room during dinner time or learn to ignore them. No more sneaking them a crumb under the table… your dog should only get treats as a real treat or a reward for good behavior. When you give them food when they beg, you’re teaching them that it is a reward and they will continue to do it until they learn it will no longer pay off.

In Summary

Here at WINPRO Pet, we believe that every dog deserves to be loved and understood

Although we may speak different languages, when you approach understanding your dog with an open heart and mind, you may be surprised by how much more you can learn about them. This only results in a closer relationship, and a stronger dog/owner bond. And, after all, isn’t that what we all want?

 

Sources:

Behavior Problems in Older Dogs | ASPCA

Why Do Dogs Dig? | AKC 

Bacterial Urinary Tract Infections - Pharmacology | Merck