Behavioral problems in dogs

Author: Dr. Alin Baron – Pet Stuff Veterinary Hospital

When the owner of a dog notices changes in their dog’s behavior, it is important for them to consult a specialist, as they can address a significant portion of the issues presented by the dog.

During a consultation, the specialist plays the role of finding an optimal solution for both the dog and the owner to correct destructive, dangerous, or disturbing behavior. At the same time, you will be informed about the needs of the dog and how you can meet these needs to achieve a high level of well-being for both the dog and the owner.

It is crucial to mention that certain behavior problems can be dangerous for both the animal (chewing on wooden or textile materials) and the owners and their close ones (aggression).

What is a behavioral problem?

“The term behavioral problem refers to any pattern (repetition) of a pet’s behavior that can cause harm to the individual or others, or proves dangerous or disturbing to the owner. Some may be normal actions manifested by a certain species or breed, others may be abnormal behaviors, and in some cases, they may be abnormal behaviors with internal origin, secondary to a medical condition”
Rosana Álvarez Bueno- Low stress handling in the veterinary clinic

Source: personal arhive

What are the most common behavioral problems in dogs?

Aggression – represents a dangerous behavior that can lead to harm to the dog, the owner, or people and animals around. Some common examples include aggression towards the owner or other family members, towards other dogs, possessive aggression (resource guarding, toys, food, etc.), territorial aggression, and pain-induced aggression.

Separation anxiety – this behavior occurs when the dog fails to calm down and find a state of comfort when the owners are not around. According to the BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioral Medicine, 20-40% of cases of behavioral problems that come to the attention of veterinarians are diagnosed with separation anxiety. This problem can often have a primary origin, such as hyper-attachment or dysfunctional attachment.

Separation anxiety poses problems because it is accompanied by disturbing behaviors such as chewing on furniture, obsessive barking, and urinating or defecating in the house.

It is important to note that this behavioral disorder can be prevented by intervening in the first months of life. With the help of a veterinarian specialized in behavior and a dog trainer, the dog can learn to spend time alone relaxed, avoiding complications of this condition.

The prevention procedure usually involves creating a safe and comfortable place for the dog to functionally eliminate stress alone.

Abnormal repetitive behaviors – can be described as repetitive actions where it can be suspected that the animal has no control over the start and/or end of the action. In the case of this behavior, it is necessary to consider that there may be several causative factors other than behavioral ones (such as neuropathies), reinforcing the need for evaluation by a veterinarian to identify and treat the problem. Within these conditions, we can identify problems such as obsessive barking, spinning around the tail, and excessive grooming (which can lead to dermatitis).

Summarizing the above information, we formulate the following question.

When is it necessary to go to a veterinarian specialized in behavior?

  1. When we observe unexplained changes in behavior;
  2. If there is behavior that is difficult to ignore and affects the daily well-being of the dog or the owner;
  3. When the owner-dog relationship is tested by various everyday factors;
  4. If you have a dog of a few months, the veterinarian can help and guide you in time, preventing many unwanted behaviors (separation syndrome, urinating in the house, etc.), and you can also be directed to a suitable dog trainer;
  5. When bringing a new animal home, the veterinarian can provide you with the necessary information and procedures for their socialization;
  6. When observing signs of stress, in this case, the veterinarian can help you identify and remove the stressor or get the dog used to it until it no longer bothers them;
  7. When you want to familiarize the dog with the veterinary clinic or hospital.

Bibliographical sources

  • BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Behavioral Medicine
  • Low-Stress Handling in the Veterinary Clinic,ROSANA ALVAREZ BUENO, GERMAN QUINTANA DIEZ
  • MSDvetmanual behavioral-problems-of-dogs