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Dog Behavioral Questions

Why does my dog lick me?

Dogs lick for a lot of reasons. Licking is a submissive social signal, first of all, allowing dogs to show deference to dominant “pack members.” Puppies lick to solicit solid food from their mothers when they’re weaned, so a young dog may lick to request its dinner. Some dogs lick as a substitute for puppy mouthing behavior. They’ve been trained not to put their teeth on people, so they lick to occupy their mouths. Licking may be a sign of affection, your dog’s way of showing you that he’s enjoying spending time cuddled on the couch with you. Or, he may just like the taste of your soap!

Though it’s usually harmless, licking can be a problem if carried to an extreme. Sometimes dogs can lick compulsively or as a response to stress or boredom. Obsessive dogs that lick themselves non-stop can lick their fur off and even injure their skin. This is a behavioral problem that may require veterinary intervention. If you’re worried that your dog’s licking is unusual, consult your veterinarian.

Why does my dog scoot his rear end on the ground?

This is not an uncommon problem. It probably means that your dog has full or infected anal glands. These glands help dogs to mark their territory through scent. They usually empty themselves every time a dog defecates. They can become clogged, however, and unable to empty, and sometimes infection can develop. When this happens, your dog feels a constant, itchy pressure. It can be very uncomfortable.

To get your dog relief, make an appointment with your veterinarian. She can empty (or “express”) the glands, a messy and extremely smelly job, but one that will make your pooch feel much better. If the glands are infected, she can clean them and prescribe an antibiotic. If your dog has a chronic, recurring problem with infected anal glands, they can be surgically removed. For more information, talk to your veterinarian.

My dog is very aggressive – what can I do?

Aggressive dogs can cause serious injury and even death. In addition to the tragedy sometimes caused by canine attacks, owners can be subject to civil and criminal liability for their pet’s behavior. If your dog shows signs of aggression such as growling, snarling or snapping, call your veterinarian immediately for a behavior evaluation and counseling to help you train your dog.

Most behavior problems can be successfully treated with a strict training regimen. In addition to your veterinarian’s advice, follow these tips to reduce aggression in your dog:

  • Socialize your dog so she feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Don’t put your dog in situations where she may feel threatened or teased.
  • Obey leash laws – don’t let your dog roam free.
  • Train your dog to obey basic commands such as “stay,” “sit” and “come.”

How do I stop my dog from pulling on the leash ?

It is pretty common for dogs to yank on their leashes when they’re walked–they’re out in the big, exciting world, after all, and they want to see and smell everything they can. It can become quite a problem, though, particularly if you’re walking a dog that weighs almost as much as you do. It can be hard on your dog, too–she’s putting a lot of pressure on her neck and her trachea (windpipe) by pulling against her collar.

A Gentle Leader may be the simplest solution to this problem. Gentle Leaders hook onto a leash just like collars, but instead of wrapping around the dog’s neck, they attach with one nylon strap above her muzzle and one behind her ears. They look something like muzzles, but they don’t keep dogs’ mouths from opening unless the person holding the leash applies pressure.

When your dog is wearing a Gentle Leader and tugs against her leash, the force turns her head back toward you. Tugging harder will only make her turn her head more sharply; she’ll learn pretty quickly that it won’t get her anywhere. You can find Gentle Leaders at almost any pet store.

Another option that works well with smaller dogs is taking away all the positive reinforcement they get from pulling on the leash. Your dog is tugging on the leash because she wants to go faster, so whenever she tugs, you can stop in your tracks and refuse to move. When she calms down and stops pulling, you can start walking again. If you’re patient and do this consistently, your dog can learn that the only way she’s going to get to walk around and sniff all the wonderful things she wants to sniff is by walking calmly and politely beside you.

How do I keep my dog from rolling in stinky things?

First, you should congratulate yourself on having a very normal, well-adjusted pooch. For some reason, things like dead animals, manure, and garbage are magnets to dogs, and there is nothing in the world they’d rather smell like. Some people theorize that dogs’ instinct tells them that the terrible smells will cover up their scent and make it easier for them to sneak up on prey.

Maybe so, or maybe they just like to smell awful! Regardless of why they do it, the best way for you to stop your doggy from diving into the garbage pile is never giving him the chance.

Keep him fenced in your yard, pick up any manure in the area, and keep the garbage in trash cans that won’t pop open if he knocks them over. Keep him on a leash when you go on walks, and keep a sharp eye out for any smelly things that may strike his fancy.

Working on the “come” command may help as well. Practice it over and over again in your yard, and give her a reward every time she comes. Repeat it until she comes consistently, so that the next time you see her start rolling, you can call her back. And, of course, you should invest in some very good doggie shampoo. Just in case.

How do I crate train my dog?

Crate training is a great way to help your dog feel comfortable and secure while you are away and will protect your house from damage caused by anxious pups. When you are gone dogs can either sleep or get in trouble. If you limit their options by providing a site where all they can do is sleep, you will save your house and protect your pet from harm.

Here are some ideas to help your dog make the adjustment to their crate:

  • Get a crate of adequate size (large enough to allow your dog to stand and move comfortably) to accommodate your dog.
  • Place a towel in the bottom of the crate to keep him warm.
  • Give your dog appropriate toys (chew toys, kong, etc) to play with in the crate.
  • Always feed your dog in his crate.
  • At first, just get him used to going in the crate without closing the door or leaving him.
  • Start by leaving him alone in the crate with the door closed for a few minutes and gradually build up to leaving him for several hours at a time.
  • Don’t make a big deal of coming home. Don’t rush to let your dog out of the crate or he will look forward to the event too much. Let him out of the crate only after he has been quiet and calm for a few minutes.

For more information about crate training, ask your veterinarian about AAHA’s Crate Training behavior pamphlet.


Information courtesy of The American Animal Hospital Association