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Filtered by tag ('dog behaviour')

Why does my dog bark at nothing?

 by yunus on 27 Feb 2018 |
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Dogs bark for all kinds of reasons—to let you know they need to go out, to greet you playfully, or to alert you when a stranger is at the door. In each of these instances, your pet is trying to tell you something, but what about when Fido barks for seemingly no reason? It turns out, your dog may be noticing something you’re not, so pay close attention next time he engages in this behavior.   Canine behaviorists categorize barking in many ways, including territorial barking, alarm barking, attention-seeking, greetings, social barking, frustration-induced barking, separation anxiety barking and to let others know they are sick or injured. With so many different meanings behind your pet’s vocalizations, it can be difficult to determine what’s causing his seemingly needless barking. Dogs have hearing much better than our own, so our pets often pick up on noises we miss. If your dog is barking without cause, check if there is something making noise outside—or even in your home—that Fido may have mistaken for an intruder. The same goes for what your dog sees. A passing squirrel, jogger or other dog may be a non-event for you, but your pet may want to alert you of the change or protect his territory.   If you’ve watched for answers and still can’t find a reason behind your dog’s barking, there is a chance he’s developed a compulsive behavior. These are simply exaggerated forms of canines’ normal behaviors and can arise from conflict, stress or frustration. Compulsive behaviors often get worse with time to the point that dogs start to perform them without triggers, so it’s important to seek a professional’s help if you think your dog’s barking compulsive. Start by calling your veterinarian, who can diagnose your pet. Look for clues such as repetitive motions that accompany barking to help identify a compulsive behavior.   If Fido’s barking is causing problems for your or your neighbors, there are some steps you can take to curb the volume and frequency of his voice. If your pet barks at passersby or the neighbor’s dog, set up a privacy fence that keeps them out of sight. Dogs that bark when their owners leave the home will feel safer with a comfortable spot to rest, such as a crate outfitted with soft bedding and a cover. You can also teach your dog the “quiet” command or ask him to do a trick that prevents him from barking, such as giving him a toy and telling him to lie down. Make sure your pet is getting enough exercise and don’t leave him alone for long periods of time, which can exacerbate barking due to pent up energy or separation anxiety.

This is why your dog isn’t listening to you

 by lucy on 13 Dec 2017 |
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When your dog ignores your commands, it isn’t just frustrating—it can be dangerous to his health. Not only does snubbing your instructions show a lack of respect for you as his pack leader, but your dog’s failure to follow commands can put him in danger of being hit by a car, eating something hazardous, or engaging with an aggressive animal. There are a few reasons Fido might not be paying attention that aren’t immediately obvious.   If you’re having trouble communicating with your pet, try removing excess energy from the equation. When a dog is riled up, he’s more easily distracted and less likely to pay attention to your commands. Exercising him daily helps relive pent up energy, and speaking in a calm, assertive tone can let your pet know you mean business. This is important as dogs are pack animals and are most likely to listen to their owners when they perceive them to be pack leaders. Frenzied or uncertain speaking conveys to your dog that you do not have the situation under control and he may try to take matters into his own hands. If you’re not sure what kind of energy your commands are giving off, ask a friend or family member to observe your interactions and offer feedback.   Of course, failure to follow commands could also mean your dog doesn’t understand what you’re saying. It takes hundreds or even thousands of repetitions to master a new skill, and Fido may need to re-up his training before he’s nailed a trick. To make sit, stay and come even clearer, incorporate a unique hand gesture with each command. Body language is one of the most important ways dogs communicate with each other and this could help clarify what you’re asking. Practice commands using the same verbal and physical cues each time, offering treats and praise as rewards.   Communicating requires attention, so note your dog’s emotional state if he’s having trouble listening. If fireworks are going off, your pet may be too scared to register what you’re saying. Likewise, if your dog is busy claiming his territory from a passing pup, he may not listen to your command. If fear, dominance or another emotion is keeping your dog from being an A+ listener, it’s important to address these underlying issues. A professional behaviorist can offer help if you’re struggling with this.   There’s often more than meets that eye when dogs fail to listen to their owners, so it’s important to take a step back and examine why your pet might not be listening. Whether he’s distracted or having trouble understanding the command, your pet likely wants to please you and just needs some help along the way.

Why Some Dogs Don't Bark

 by lucy on 07 Jul 2017 |
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A silent pet may sound like an apartment dweller’s dream, but in a reality, when dogs don’t bark, it can be a major cause for concern. Before rushing Fido to the vet, however, bear in mind that some dogs are naturally quieter than others or have been conditioned not to bark by a previous owner.   If your dog suddenly falls silent, the first thing you should do is determine whether it’s because he’s not trying to speak, or if he’s making an effort to bark, but cannot. If the latter is true, chances are there is a medical problem and you should seek your veterinarian’s help. While barking too much can cause a dog to lose his voice, more serious medical conditions such as respiratory infections, metabolic disorders, tumors or growths, or lesions in the throat can also cause your dog to lose his voice.   Once you’ve established your pet’s silence is not due to a medical problem, you can relax. Not all dogs are equally vocal and certain breeds, such as bulldogs and greyhounds, are less apt to vocalize their concerns. Some dogs may prefer to whimper, whine or bay over barking. If you’ve recently adopted a shelter dog, his silence may be a symptom of the “honeymoon effect,” during which a new pet holds back his bad behaviors while he adjusts to a new home. Or, your dog’s previous owner may trained have him not to bark using a bark collar or, in worse case scenarios, physical abuse. If this is the case, some patience and gentle bond building can eventually help your dog to find his voice. Some shelter dogs, however, have been debarked, meaning a medical procedure was used to remove their vocal cords and permanently lower the volume of their voices.   Though silence is often a non-issue, problems can arise if your dog refuses to bark when he needs to go outside or be let back in. Fortunately, there are other ways for Fido to let you know he needs help. Many pet owners have had success hanging a wind chime or jingle bells by the door at dog height, allowing their pets to page them without using their voice. If your dog scratches at the door, hang the bells over the spot where he scratches. Take him to the door on a leash, help him ring the bells while using a verbal command, and reward him with a treat before going outside. With some practice, your dog should learn to ring you for assistance without ever needing to raise his voice.

Why does my dog kick the ground with his hind legs?

 by lucy on 09 Nov 2016 |
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Many dog owners are puzzled when their canine companions tear at the ground with their hind feet after eliminating. Often, they assume the behavior is similar to a cat’s— that their pooch is attempting to “cover up” his mess. This couldn’t be farther from the truth, though. As the act of eliminating itself is one of your dog’s ways of marking his territory, so is the foot shuffle that follows. Foot scraping is a relic of dogs’ past, when their wild ancestors needed to mark off vast swaths of territory. Compared to humans’ 5 million scent glands, dogs have a whopping 125 to 300 million— meaning their sense of smell is magnitudes higher than our own. Dogs have glands in their feet that secrete pheromones—chemical signals that help animals communicate with each other— and a few backward scratches in the dirt releases those chemicals into the area and the noses of other hounds. This likely came in handy when our canines’ relatives needed to mark and protect territories too large to for them to patrol on a daily basis. Feces loses its scent once it dries out, after all, but the scent from dog’s feet lasts longer. This not only may have helped our canines’ ancestors protect valuable hunting grounds, but also guard fertile pack mates.   Dogs’ foot scratching almost always follows defecating or urinating, and this makes sense when we consider our pets’ behavior surrounding the ritual: Every owner has patiently waited as his dogs picks the perfect spot to perform his duty, after all. Eliminating is just one way your dog leaves his scent behind, and hind-leg scraping is Fido’s way of doubling down on his territorial cues. Because this is about marking his property, rather than asserting dominance, dogs of both genders and with a variety of temperaments are known to engage in foot scuffing.   Hind-leg scraping is a normal, non-destructive behavior, so there’s no need to try to change your dog’s habit. In fact, the only cause for concern should be if your pet normally scuffs his feet and suddenly stops. A shift in behavior can signal something is hampering your pet’s mobility and can lead to more serious problems down the road. If, however, your canine companion continues business as normal, your only concern should be waiting for him to stop his back-foot shuffle before picking up after him— lest you get dirt or something much worse kicked up in your face.

Teaching Your Dog Table Manners

 by yunus on 02 Nov 2016 |
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No one wants a dog that jumps on guests or begs during a dinner party, or that growls at other pets during his own meals. Teaching our canine companions mealtime manners is important, then, both during our meals and their own.   Dogs are scavengers by nature, so vying for food comes easily to them. Having a pet that begs, whines or whimpers while you’re eating is exasperating, however, and can be embarrassing when you have guests over for dinner. Fortunately, teaching Fido to respect your space during mealtime is simple with some consistent training. Start by having him go to his sleeping area or a favourite spot, and then give your dog a command such as “go to your spot” with a treat. Soon, he’ll start associating the command with that space and a tasty reward. Once you’ve mastered this step, you can add the “stay” command, starting from just a few feet away from his spot and slowly working your way backwards. Over time, you will be able to give the command and leave the room entirely, freeing you to enjoy your meal without a barrage of begging. If your dog does approach the table after you’ve told him to “stay,” lead him back to his spot as many times as necessary to get him to stay put. After dinner, be sure to reward your pet for staying in place with plenty of praise and a treat.   Mealtime manners aren’t limited to your own spreads, however, and should also be part of your dog’s own dining routine. Growling at another dog, or you, is unacceptable and you need to teach your pet to respect those around him during dinner. The solution is simple: If your dog misbehaves by growling, fighting or guarding his food, simply remove his dish. Rather than letting Fido go hungry, however, replace his bowl with your hand. Hand feeding doesn’t just strengthen your dog’s understanding that his food comes from you, but also reinforces the idea of mealtime as a positive experience. After a few rounds of hand feeding, trying giving your pet his food dish back. If he’s still acting out, take the dish away again and try hand feeding him for a longer period before giving the bowl back. If, however, your pet’s bad behaviour has vanished, you can reinforce mealtime as a positive experience by slipping him an extra treat in his food bowl.   Remember, establishing a routine is key to teaching your dog mealtime manners. Serve his food at the same time each day so he learns to distinguish his dinnertime from your own. Never give in to begging, as this will only reinforce bad behaviour. Do reward good behaviour, though, with plenty of treats and praise.

How to help your dog’s separation anxiety

 by lucy on 19 Oct 2016 |
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If you’ve ever come home to find furniture overturned, blankets chewed and claw marks on the door, chances are you’re dealing with a dog with separation anxiety. This condition doesn’t just cause problems for your pet, but can also lead to frustration and anger for you as his owner. Fortunately, a host of techniques can help alleviate your dog’s separation woes.   Dogs rely heavily on their packs for protection and hunting in the wild, so it should come as no surprise that our canine companions hate being left alone. Separation anxiety is a panic response in which a dog shows symptoms such as destructive behavior, house soiling and unremitting barking or crying when left alone. Not all bad behavior is related to isolation, however, and owners should carefully observe their dog’s symptoms before treating him for separation anxiety. Separation-related behaviors often center on escape efforts, such as clawing or gnawing on doorframes, windowsills and trim, for example. Elimination problems related to separation anxiety will only occur while you’re away from home. If Fido is having problems soiling the carpet while you are in the house, too, he is likely experiencing a housetraining issue rather than separation anxiety. Likewise, if his destructive habits take their toll throughout your home, and not just around escape routes, he may be acting out for another reason than separation anxiety.   If you’re sure your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, there are a number ways to help relieve his stress. Make sure he gets plenty of exercise before you leave the home to help burn off energy he would otherwise spend feeling anxious and engaging in destructive behavior. Before you leave, give your dog a Kong or rawhide bone to distract him. Try switching up pieces of your exit routine — pick up your keys and then sit down on the couch to watch television, for example— and keep comings and goings as calm as possible so your dog doesn’t see them as a major event. You can also leave a piece of recently worn clothing that smells like you or try using a Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) diffuser to calm Fido down. If you are often out for long stretches, consider enrolling your pet in a doggie daycare or finding a pet sitter to help minimize the time he spends home alone.   Crating your dog will not help in cases of separation anxiety, and may even result in injuries as he tries to escape. Likewise, getting a second pet may not help if your dog feels anxious when separated from you, specifically, rather than simply worrying about being left alone. If you try several solutions and are still struggling with an anxious pet, a behavioral specialist can help address your dog’s separation stress. Remember, punishment is never an effective treatment for separation-related behaviors and will only make matters worse.

What does tail wagging really mean?

 by yunus on 29 Sep 2016 |
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It’s common knowledge that a wagging tail is a sign of a happy, friendly dog, but many pet owners don’t know that this everyday behaviour can also signal fear, insecurity or even aggression in our canine companions. Watching a dog’s body language, then, is crucial to understanding whether a wag is an invitation to play or a sign to stay away.   Dogs originally evolved their tails for balance. The appendage not only helped our canines’ ancestors navigate sharp turns at high speeds, but also helped them walk across narrow structures, climb and jump. Over time, however, this practical appendage evolved into a means of communication. Like any language, tail wagging has its own vocabulary that helps other dogs understand the intent behind the motion, and owners can better understand their pets by reading these signs.   To decipher what a wag means, note the position of your dog’s tail as well as its specific movements. Generally, a tail held high or straight up is a sign of being alert or even aggressive; a mid-set tail signals a calm or neutral pet; and a lower wag indicates your dog is feeling worried or anxious. Watching the motions accompanied by these positions is important, too, in understanding exactly what your dog is trying to say. A slight, rapid wag is often reserved for friendly greetings, while a wide, sweeping wag is your dog’s way of showing he is pleased and does not pose a threaten or challenge to you. A slower, lower wag often indicates Fido is feeling insecure, while tiny, rapid tail movements in a high position can mean your dog is issuing an active threat.   Other tail actions can communicate other emotions, too. When a dog holds his tail horizontal to the ground, he is often curious about his surroundings. When he tucks it between his legs, he is either displaying submission or showing he is scared. Dogs also wag their tails to help spread their unique scents from glands located under the appendage, so more dominant dogs tend to carry their tails higher to release more scent.   Like any means of communication, tail wagging is a social behavior and is largely learned from other dogs. Puppies don’t start wagging their tails until they’re old enough to communicate with their littermates and mothers, and you’d be hard-pressed to catch a dog wagging his tail when no other creatures are around. Dogs don’t limit their tail talk to other dogs, however, and will use it to communicate with humans and even other pets. Knowing the difference between a cheerful wag and fearful flag, then, is key to understanding what your dog is trying to say. When in doubt, watch for other body signals such as stiffened muscles or ears pinned back to know when your pet is telling you to walk away.

Why does my dog turn circles before lying down?

 by yunus on 14 Sep 2016 |
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Whether it’s on the couch or in their own beds, dogs often turn a dizzying array of circles before finally settling down to sleep. While this seems an unnecessary ritual to their human counterparts, our canine companions are simply following a set of behaviors that their ancestors used to create a safe, comfortable spot to sleep.   Experts agree that Fido’s pre-sleep rituals most likely stem from his wild ancestors. Before they were domesticated, dogs had to sleep outdoors on various surfaces and in varied conditions. Walking circles in a spot helped them stamp down tall grass, creating a softer, more level surface for sleeping. Circling also helped dogs expose stones or twigs before settling down on top of them, and likely served as a means for scoping the area out for snakes and other hidden dangers. If turning circles before bed is functional, though, it also served a social role for wild dogs. As pack animals, our canines’ ancestors generally traveled together and bedded down beside each other, too. This helped protect the pack from harm and stay warm on cold nights. Some even theorize that the flattened sleeping areas acted as visible signs to other dogs that the territory had already been claimed.   In addition to circling, many dogs also “dig” at their bedding before curling up. Another relic of wild dogs’ behavior, this helped canines stay comfortable in a variety of climates. In hot weather, sleeping in a hole helped them control their body temperatures with the cool soil, for example. In cold weather, a hole provided a means of retaining body heat. A dugout den also provided a more concealed, secure place to lie down, and digging helped make the ground into a more comfortable spot to sleep.   While “nesting” is a normal canine behavior, repeatedly circling without seeming to settle down can be a sign that your dog is experiencing pain or discomfort. Arthritis can cause this, as can certain neurological problems, so if you notice your pet cannot seem to sit still, take him to the vet to rule out any pain and figure out what is causing his restless behavior. Similarly, digging at his dog bed is perfectly normal for Fido, but if his scratching carries over to your prizes rugs, you may need to provide alternative surfaces for sleeping. Try placing a blanket over your dog’s favorite spots; teaching him to use his dog bed only for sleep; or keeping your dog in rooms where he cannot damage the floor. Because pregnant dogs are especially prone to creating a maternal nest, provide them with clean rags, newspapers or other soft materials in an appropriate spot early in their pregnancy to encourage them to do their digging where it won’t cause damage.

Why does my dog jump and how can I stop him?

 by yunus on 09 Aug 2016 |
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It may be cute in a puppy, but when your full-grown dog jumps up to greet you, it can be a nuisance and dangerous for children and elderly friends. Because dogs jump up to say “hello,” it can be difficult to break them of the habit. With some consistent training, however, you can teach your pet a more polite way to welcome you and your guests.   When puppies greet an older dog, they often lick the adult’s muzzle as an appeasement gesture. In the same way, your canine companion tries to meet you nose-to-nose, jumping on his hind legs to do so. To break your dog of his highflying habit, it is important to show him that you will only greet pets that have all four feet on the ground. If your dog jumps, don’t acknowledge him by pushing him off, but instead look over his head and turn away if necessary. As soon as your dog’s front paws are planted, reward him verbally and with affection or a treat, withdrawing your attention immediately if he hops on his hind legs again.   It is also important to replace your dog’s jumping with another behavior, which you can do by practicing the “sit and stay” greeting. Practice this type of training on your own, or with a friend by having your friend hold your dog on a loose leash and asking him to sit. You can then walk towards the two from about a dozen feet away, stopping and returning to the starting point each time your dog hops up. This will eventually help your pet form a connection between a seated greeting and a reward— your attention. If your dog gets too excited to meet a person while seated, you can try replacing jumping with holding or playing with his favorite toy instead. Remember, if he jumps up during training, remain calm and never shout or knee your dog or cause him any other pain when he hops up on humans.   Once you’ve experimented with replacing jumping with another behavior, try greeting real guests. Crate your dog, put him on a leash, or otherwise keep him calm when company comes over until he has mastered a composed “hello.” With some time and practice, your canine companion should master the art of welcoming humans without hopping up. If, however, you are struggling with training your dog shows signs of aggression, such as growling or bearing his teeth, seek help from a certified trainer. Most importantly, remember you can’t teach your dog a behavior some of the time, so be consistent about ignoring your dog when he jumps up and reinforce acceptable behavior immediately. 

Why dogs love chewing your prized possessions

 by yunus on 06 Jul 2016 |
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A dog may be man’s best friend, but it doesn’t always feel that way when you come home to find he’s destroyed your favorite pair of shoes or gnawed the arm of the sofa. There are several explanations for Fido’s fixation on chewing, however, ranging from separation anxiety to boredom, and identifying the underlying cause can help lead to a solution.   Dogs are most likely to chew your prized possessions as puppies, when they lose their baby teeth and turn to teething to alleviate pain as their adult teeth grow in. The good news for owners of gnaw-happy puppies is that most will outgrow this phase. Chewing comes naturally to dogs, however, and some will continue chomping away at your Italian loafers well into adulthood. Often, unwanted chewing is the product of pent-up energy that your pet needs to expel. You can prevent this boredom-relate behavior by making sure you give your pet plenty of exercise, playtime and mental stimulation. If, however, you’re sure your dog is getting enough exercise, you should pay attention to when he’s munching away at your personal possessions to determine the underlying cause. If Fido’s chewing mostly takes place while you’re away from home, it may be a sign of separation anxiety. If, on the other hand, his chewing starts suddenly, it could be a symptom of nutritional deficiencies or other gastrointestinal problems and you should seek veterinary help. Other causes could be hunger, attention-seeking or even fear.   If your puppy is chewing up the household, remember this is a phase that will likely pass and in the meantime, puppy-proof your home by moving objects you don’t want chewed out of reach. You should also take this time to establish yourself as the alpha in the relationship so you can better control unwanted behaviors as your dog grows. Remember, even after his puppy years, your dog’s natural instinct is to chew, so establishing a pack order will help lay boundaries for what is and isn’t okay to eat. If your adult dog has made a habit of snacking on your favorite slippers, focus on redirecting him to his own toys. These should be things like a Kong filled with food or rawhide bone, which won’t easily be confused with your own socks and shoes. Correct bad behavior immediately — by giving your dog a treat in return for dropping your work file, for example — because even a few minutes after the fact, he won’t remember what he did. You can also discourage chewing by “claiming” the object your dog is gnawing, using body language and assertion to show your dog that the object belongs to you. If all else fails, invest in bad-tasting sprays to deter chowing. With some effort and consistency, you should see your dog’s chewing behaviors redirected to his own toys. If you’re struggling, however, you can consider seeking professional help to rewire Fido’s fixation on mastication.
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