Different dogs have different personalities and habits. It’s what makes them so lovable and interesting! But if your pet shows unusual behavior that you haven’t previously seen, you just can’t afford to ignore it, especially if the behavior is destructive or harmful. Abnormal dog behavior such as excessive vocalization, compulsion, and aggressive behavior are typically triggered by fear, phobias, anxiety, or stress. In some cases, the unusual behavior may be caused by a disease or illness. So, what are the most common abnormal dog behavior and what should you do about them?
1. Excessive barking or howling
Canines communicate through barking and howling. Dogs vocalize when excited or seeking attention, or if they sense danger or a threat. But if your pet seems to be barking, howling, or whining more than usual, this may be a sign that he’s bored or anxious. To address such abnormal behavior in a dog:
Ø Apply behavior training. This would require time, patience, and consistency.
Ø Introduce a command for quieting down and reward your dog with treats every time he stops barking.
Ø Don’t punish bad behavior. Never shout at your dog when he barks.
2. Biting and chewing
Biting and chewing are common dog behavior. Dogs may bite due to fear, defensiveness, or when they’re in pain. However, if biting becomes excessive so as to become destructive and even hazardous to the household and other people, it’s time to take some action.
Ø Find out what sort of situations your dog is most likely to exhibit abnormal biting behavior. If such situations arise, remove him from these situations immediately.
Ø Give your dog ample opportunities to play, exercise, and socialize.
Ø Introduce the “leave it” command in behavior training. Reward your dog with treats every time he obeys the command.
It’s kind of amusing seeing a dog digging in the yard--that is, until he starts to ruin your prized garden. If you observe abnormal digging behavior in your pet dog, the reason may be boredom, fear, or anxiety. Some dogs also dig to create a nest for cooling off, or to hide toys or a bone.
Ø Find out the reason behind the digging and eliminate the source.
Ø Your dog may be digging to use up excess energy. Give him more exercise and play time.
Ø Allocate an area where it’s okay for him to dig. Train him to dig in the specific area only.
4. Uncontrolled elimination
If your dog has been potty trained and is suddenly unable to control when and where he urinates or defecates, it’s naturally a cause for worry. It could get frustrating if your dog poops or urinates at the most inappropriate times and places. It’s best to take him to the vet to rule out any medical conditions such as bladder, kidney, or urinary tract problems. If you just welcomed the dog or puppy in your new home, the sooner you give him toilet training, the better.
Ø Take your dog or puppy out to relieve himself following a consistent schedule.
Ø Take your dog to the same spot to poop and urinate right after meals. Offer praise and rewards when he able to relieve himself at the correct spot.
Ø Clean up any mess inside the house thoroughly. You don’t want your dog picking up the scent and using the same spot again.
Ø Give your dog some extra attention especially if there’s been an event at home that may have disrupted your pet’s routine (i.e. new baby, moved to a new location, etc.)
5. Separation anxiety
Getting separated from their owners is one of the most common abnormal dog behavior causes. You could tell your pet is suffering from separation anxiety if he engages in compulsive behavior like chewing, scratching, and barking; or clingy behavior, like trying to get near you all the time or trying to follow you when you try to leave. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, you can try some behavior modification training.
Ø Each time you leave, avoid making a fuss. Just leave calmly and tell your dog you’ll be back. Keep it up until he learns that being left alone is only temporary.
Ø Upon arrival, ignore him the first few minutes. Wait for him to calm down before you pet him and give him attention.
Ø Leave clothing items with your scent in it.
Ø Provide engaging toys to keep him stimulated while you’re gone.
Ø Spend quality time together! Take him out for a walk and play with him regularly.
Aggression is troubling abnormal behavior in dogs. As a pet owner, you should be able to tell by your dog’s body language whether he’s just being playful or has become aggressive. Growling, barking, raised fur, showing teeth, and biting are definite signs of aggression. Well-behaved dogs may suddenly become aggressive if they’re fearful or feeling pain. Sudden personality change in canines are almost often medically related.
Ø Limit your dog’s exposure to people and other animals.
Ø If your dog is showing aggressive behavior, consult your vet to determine whether it’s related to a health problem that needs to be addressed.
Ø You may also seek help from a professional dog trainer. Aggressive tendencies may come from a traumatic history, especially in rescued or adopted dogs.
7. Eating inedible objects
If you ever see your dog eating grass or any object he’s not supposed to be eating, it could be because he’s just bored or simply prefers the flavor. If the habit persists, however, it could be a sign of a deeper health problem. Also referred to as pica, eating objects other than food may be caused by stress, anxiety, starvation, hormonal imbalance, nutritional deficiency, or diseases like diabetes.
Ø Have your dog checked by a vet to see if he needs medical treatment for an underlying health problem.
Ø If pica is triggered by anxiety or boredom, have your dog engage in stimulating activities by taking him out for exercise and playing with him.
Ø Prevent digestive problems, choking, or poisoning by removing inedible objects that your dog likes to eat.
Ø Supervise outdoor time or try crating or muzzling your dog when you have to leave him for a few hours.
8. Abnormal sexual behavior
Abnormal sexual behavior in dogs include humping or thrusting at anything and everything, even if the dog has been spayed and neutered. It’s generally harmless and even funny at times, but if the behavior starts to seem excessive or if your dog exhibits aggression if you try to stop him from humping, then there might be a bigger problem.
Ø Distract your dog with stimulating activities and toys.
Ø Give him plenty of exercise. It’s possible that your dog may be humping or thrusting excessively simply because he has nothing else to do.
Ø You may consider neutering your dog. Consult your vet to see if this is the best course of action.
9. Begging or stealing
Begging for food, or even stealing food, could be considered abnormal dog behavior, particularly if you’ve been feeding your pet the recommended amount of food at a regular schedule. It might be hard to refuse when your dog is begging for a share of your dinner but in the long run, it’s best for you and your dog if you don’t encourage this habit.
Ø Never give your dog food when he begs at the dinner table. If you give in even once, you’re sending a message that it’s okay to beg.
Ø Whenever you sit down to eat, tell your dog to scoot elsewhere and not linger where you’re having your meal.
Ø Isolate him in a separate room if necessary. Your dog will eventually be trained not to ask for food outside his own meal times.
Ø You may consider giving him treats but only once you’ve finished eating.
10. Excessive licking
Excessive licking or over-grooming is abnormal dog behavior that may be triggered by anxiety or stress. If your dog can’t stop licking himself, it’s also possible that he’s feeling pain or discomfort from a wound or infection that he’s merely trying to relieve. Dogs with arthritis or allergies may also lick themselves more often. Dogs that seem to lick every object in sight may be doing so because they’re feeling nauseous or having a digestive problem.
Ø Take your dog to the vet, especially if the licking comes with other unusual behavior and troubling symptoms.
Ø If he’s been given a clean bill of health, try distracting your dog every time he starts with the obsessive licking.
Ø If the vet tells you that the licking is due to stress, determine the stressors and remove them from the environment.
Ø Apply apple cider vinegar onto your dog’s coat to discourage licking. Consult your vet before you try this.
As a dog owner, you know your dog best. You should be able to tell if your dog is just being his normal self or is acting quite unusual. Find out the cause for the unusual behavior. The best course of action in most cases would be to seek help from a vet, as most abnormal dog behavior may be linked to health problems. If your pet turns out to be healthy and the problem is psychological or behavioral, perhaps you just need to give your dog a little more attention. Offer him distractions, give him plenty of exercise, and if you can, invest time in behavioral training to improve his quality of life.