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Why is my dog acting out?

Maria Mora is a freelance writer and single mom fueled by coffee, questionable time management skills, toaster oven waffles and the color orange. She lives in Florida with her two young sons. If you see her on Twitter, tell her to stop p...

Get the scoop on problem behavior

At one time or another, every dog engages in less than ideal behavior. Find out what an expert on dog behavior has to say about common problem behaviors seen in dogs.

Dog sitting in chewed up mess

When you know why your dog is acting out, you can work on correcting the behavior more efficiently. Victoria Wells is the senior manager of behavior and training at the ASPCA Adoption Center. We asked her why dogs sometimes misbehave.

Why is my dog barking at a high pitch?

While a high--pitched, yipping bark is definitely annoying, it isn't necessarily a bad behavior. “It could mean a distress signal, pain or it could mean that the dog is alerting to something, such as a noise or a person,” says Wells. Avoid yelling at your dog to make him stop barking. This may wind your dog up further. Redirect this behavior, such as encouraging your dog to go to a quiet place and if you know what is causing the dog to bark, try to avoid it if possible.

Why does my dog
growl?

Growling isn’t actually a bad behavior. If your dog is growling, she’s trying to communicate with you. “It’s usually a warning sign,” says Wells. “It’s conveying discomfort or competition." A growl may precede a bite and should be taken as the warning it is. If you find your dog growling excessively and you’re unable to identify the trigger, schedule an appointment with a qualified dog trainer to get guidance.

Why is my dog having accidents in the house?

Sometimes a perfectly house-trained dog has accidents. This can be an isolated incident or a pattern. “Some dogs are sensitive to environmental changes. If it’s raining and thundering, a dog might be sensitive. This is anxiety based,” says Wells. “A dog might be taking certain medications that cause them to urinate more frequently. Illness might make it harder to wait to go to the bathroom.” Age may cause dogs to have accidents. Because dogs thrive on schedule and habit, a change in your household routine may also prompt accidents in the house.

Why does my dog destroy my stuff?

Many new dog owners are shocked at the level of destruction a puppy or young dog can cause. Damage from scratching and chewing often occurs when the owner is away. “It could be anxiety based. Your dog is maybe displaying separation anxiety because you’ve left,” says Wells. The chewing is an outlet for anxiety. “It could be lack of exercise or boredom. They’re not provided with a stimulating object to entertain them, so they find something to do on their own.” Make sure your dog has plenty of appropriate chew toys available.

More on dogs

How to stop nuisance barking
The truth about sleeping with your dog
Beyond the dog park

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