Introduction to Behavioral Problems

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<–Introduction to Dog Health
Introduction to Aggression–>

If you have read through this introduction from the beginning and have done research about your dog’s breed, you should now have the necessary background to start making sense as to why your dog may be having some of the behavior problems you want to resolve.  Below, you will find a reference chart for the most common behavioral problems.  It will be organized into 6 broad categories to help you find what you are looking for: drive, anxiety, habitation, disobedience, fear, and aggression.

Drive will represent any behavioral problems that you think may be related to a dog’s unfulfilled working/prey drive instinct.

Search in the Anxiety section for any behaviors that you suspect are due to anxiety.

Habitation includes housebreaking and all undesirable behaviors that a dog may exhibit in his habitat, when unsupervised.

Disobedience will include all unruly behaviors involving humans, ranging from bad manners to not obeying commands.

Fear will be all fear-related problems.

Lastly, there is a section that lists common problems relating to aggression.

Many of the behavioral problems will be listed in more than one category, because either the problem may be related to more than one category, or it may commonly be associated with another category.  Therefore, it should be easier to find your problems.

Since aggression is the most severe of all the behavioral problems, it is good to read a brief summary on the most common aggression problems whether you are experiencing a “problem” or not at this time.

Aggression is a normal and expected part of dog behavior.  In fact,  we exploit this drive to our advantage with many hunting and working dogs.  It is considered an aggression problem when, ultimately, the aggression is causing a problem for the particular situation the dog is in.  It is important to be able to classify exactly what type of aggression problem you are having, if a problem arises, and to understand the aggressive instinct of dogs in general when owning and training one.

There really is no exact standard, in the dog behavior and training community, as to the exact definitions of the terms below.  Hence, there is often confusion among those seeking assistance and arguments among different “experts”.  For the sake of keeping uniformity in this style and getting consistent help, below are the most common forms of aggression, that people will need to understand.  You can click on any one for more in-depth information and also find them in the complete chart:

Fear Aggression – Inappropriate aggression that is initiated by the dog and directed at seemingly irrational threats.  It generally has an, “I am going to get you before you get me” reasoning behind it.

Fear Biter – A dog that has a relatively low inhibition to bite when he cannot avoid contact with something that he is afraid of. These bites will be defensive in nature and generally devoid of growls or other warnings before the bite.

Dominance Aggression – Any aggression that is triggered by control conflicts in the relationship and “first right” to an un-possessed limited resource.

Resource Guarding – Defensive in nature, this is any aggression that is used to defend a limited resource, which is already under a dog’s possession.

Territorial Aggression – This is aggression with the intent of driving off a competitor from a perceived “territory”.

Alert Barking – Not to be confused with territorial aggression, this is barking to alert others to the approach of a potential threat.

Predatory Aggression – This is aggression that is triggered from the dog’s instinct to hunt and kill. It can sometimes be focused on inappropriate targets such as other pets, domesticated animals, and even children.

Barrier Frustration – Aggression that manifests itself due to the frustration of not being able to engage with something when restrained by a leash or blocked by a barrier. The frustration itself may be the sole cause of the aggression, which will subside when there is no longer restraint or it may exasperate other types of aggression such as fear, dominance, and territorial aggression. In these cases there will still be aggression present if the restraint or barrier is removed.

Skipping Steps in the Aggression Cycle – Ideally a dog will show a lot of restraint when acting defensively. In many situations, a dog may accomplish what is needed by just a stare. If not, it will escalate to a growl, before moving on to a snarl, snap at the air, a “hit” where the dog hits a competitor with his teeth but does not injure, followed by increasing levels of bites that will cause injury before an all out fight or attack.  In particular,  we typically see appropriate restraint and minimal amount of aggression to resolve conflict during resource guarding and normal dominance-related conflicts.  When there is obviously much more aggression than would be necessary for a situation, we would say the dog is “skipping steps in the aggression cycle”.

Below are more dog behavioral problems for you to research.  If there is a problem not listed that you want to request more info on, be sure to bring it to our attention.  This will be a long term project.

DriveAnxietyHabitationDisobedienceFearAggression
Chewing and destroying thingsChewing and destroying thingsChewing and destroying thingsChewing and destroying thingsfear biterfear biter
biting and mouthing handspeeing and pooping in housepeeing and pooping in housebiting and mouthing handsfear aggressionfear aggression
biting ankles and clothingsubmissive urinationsubmissive urinationbiting ankles and clothingsubmissive urinationdominance aggression
barking when left alonelifting leg or marking in the housedog not coming when calledshy or fearful of dogspredatory aggression
barrier frustrationpeeing or pooping on beds and furnituredog not obeying commandsshy or fearful of peoplepain elicited aggression
eating out of the garbagehumpingfear of loud noisesbarrier frustration
grabbing things off counterfearful of slippery floorsplay aggression
cant keep off furniture and bedsfearful of certain surfacesresource guarding
fearful of thunderstormsfood aggression
fearful of gunfireprotective aggression
skittishmisdirected aggression
territorial aggression
handler aggression
skipping steps in the aggression cycle
alert barking

Click here to learn more about Aggression.

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