Educational Articles

Dogs + Behavior

  • There are multiple reasons that a dog may exhibit aggression toward family members. The most common causes include conflict aggression, fear-based or defensive aggression, possessive aggression, food guarding aggression and redirected aggression. Fear-based, possessive and redirected aggressions are discussed in other handouts in this series.

  • For many dogs, jumping up on people is part of their greeting routine. Often, owners have tried to discourage this behavior using methods such as squeezing the front feet, stepping on the dog’s toes, or kneeing the dog in the chest.

  • Door charging and uncontrollable excitement when visitors arrive is extremely disconcerting and potentially dangerous. Without proper control of your dog he could charge out the door and into the street where he might get injured.

  • Most puppies and many adolescent dogs love to explore and chew, so it should be no surprise when they steal household objects. When you try to get these items back from your dog, a chase ensues because the game is fun, because the dog enjoys the attention and because the dog is reluctant to give up its new found “treasure”.

  • Dogs will be dogs. They’ll fetch, roll over, and beg. They’ll also chew, dig, and bark. Sometimes, they are cute, and sometimes, they are troublesome. Which canine behaviors are normal and which are problematic?

  • Dogs, especially puppies, are extremely playful and investigative. While play with people and other dogs is an important part of socialization and social development, exploration and object play are important ways for dogs to learn about their environment.

  • Digging behavior in dogs can have many motivations. Some breeds, such as the Northern breeds (Huskies, Malamutes) dig cooling holes and lie in them. On a very hot summer day any dog may dig a hole to cool off.

  • Getting a dog is a long-term commitment. Before choosing a pet, consider initial and recurring costs, home environment, size, temperament, and physical characteristics of the dog. Consider training, exercising, and grooming needs, along with your lifestyle.

  • Fears and phobias can develop from a single experience (one event learning) or from continued exposure to the fearful stimulus. Although some dogs react with a mild fear response of panting and pacing, others get extremely agitated and may panic and/or become destructive.

  • A growling dog can be frightening. But the dog may be growling because he is frightened of you. This begs the question: is the scary dog truly aggressive or just scared stiff?