Solutions for 5 Dog Behavior Issues

Posted - September 21, 2022

By Arden Moore – The Pet Health and Safety Coach™

If only our dogs could get by on their cute looks. But if they don’t learn good doggy manners and have consistent training, some dogs grow up to be more challenging than cute. More fearful than fun. More bossy than benign. That’s why I wrote the original The Dog Behavior Answer Book way back in 2006. But I realized so much has changed in the dog world since then. That was the motivation behind me writing the 2nd edition of this book that contains nearly 80 percent new content and is being released this month. 

In celebration, Pet King Brands, the makers of ZYMOX® and Oratene® Brushless Oral Care encouraged me to share some excerpts of my book in this blog post on the five common dog behavior issues.  

Okay to Growl in Play?

When I play fetch with my 2-year-old golden retriever, she sometimes lets out a little grrr sound. She sports a silly look, puts her butt high in the air and stretches her front paws out in front. Even though she is growling, is she being playful or challenging me?

It is key to your safety that you read your dog’s total body posture message. A growl is a vital communication tool for dogs. There are happy growls and warning “back off” growls. From the body postures you describe, your dog is delivering a happy growl because she is excited to be playing with you. She is showing you the “play bow” position (front legs splayed out, head lowered, rear end elevated). In this case, her “growls” are her way of declaring, “I love playing fetch with you.” However, if she were emitting a deep, long, low grrrr sound with her hips pulled back, that is not a friendly signal. This type of growl is a warning sound and unheeded, may be followed by a bite. Some dogs also growl when they are afraid. Their ears are flattened and pinned back, and their tails are tucked. 

Loves to Lick

My dog is constantly licking my face, my hands, even my toes! How can I tone down her greetings?

When it comes to licking people, the motivation may be merely a bit of leftover gravy on our chin that draws a dog’s attention. But the main reason some dogs shower their owners with kisses is what Aretha Franklin sang about: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Many dogs regard their people as leaders of their pack who deserve admiration. Take it as a canine compliment.  Your best options are to teach your dog the Kiss and Stop commands. Conduct mini-training sessions. Allow her to lick your hand once and say, Good kiss and give a small treat. Repeat a few times. Now, you’re ready to teach her the Stop cue. When she moves toward licking you, put your hand in front of her face like a traffic cop halting cars and say, Stop. If she doesn’t lick, dole out a treat and praise her. Also teach your dog a more acceptable greeting than a face bath. Teach her to shake paws or perform a trick, such as sitting up, when you come in the front door. In time, she will learn that the big payoffs – your affection and a tasty treat –occur when she has licked her licking habit. 

Doing the Dead Fish Dance

Whenever my dog discovers a rotting fish on the beach, he takes great delight in flopping down and rolling all over it. Why on earth does he do this?

One reason why dogs roll in foul-smelling material is to provide an olfactory disguise to improve their hunting opportunities. What better way to catch a rabbit, say, than to smell like one, even a dead one, rather than like a dog? This canine camouflage technique also may be employed to hide their doggy scents from other predators. On walks, be on the lookout for such “stink bombs” such as rotting fish and distract him from it by calling him back to you and rewarding him with a treat. Also reinforce the Leave it cue so that you stand a greater chance of stopping him before he can roll in the smelly find. 

Case of Canine Envy

I have a whippet mix, Greta, and a border collie rescue named Lex. Whenever I give Greta any special attention, Lex appears out of nowhere and starts to paw my arm or even let out a slight growl at Greta. How can I give Greta some one-on-one time without Lex butting in?

You won’t find envy in the canine dictionary, but the phrase, mine, mine, mine certainly exist. Lex’s behavior is triggered more by resource guarding than by jealousy. My newest dog, Emma, is all of 9 pounds. She would give a short, low growl any time one of our other pets wanted to cuddle with me on the couch. As soon as she growled, I placed my index finger on the bridge of her nose – the location of the canine calming signal. If she growled a second time, I would place her on the floor. She quickly learned that growling at her four-legged siblings cost her a precious spot on the couch. She now cuddles contentedly with the other pets on the couch. You can teach Lex to Go to your spot whenever he approaches you when you are engaged in one-on-one time with Greta. And, make sure you show Lex the same amount of attention and teach Greta to learn to wait quietly for attention from you. 

Buried Treasures

Why does my dog seem so interested in burying his toys and bones in the backyard or dig them up and bring the muddy mess back inside our house?

Your dog is just following that ancestral call to hide his food. His ancestors did not know where their next meal would come from, so after a kill, they would bury any uneaten food to hide it from scavengers. The dirt also helped keep their food fresher longer by protecting it from sunlight. Keep in mind that modern dogs tend to bury extras, not essentials. Patrol your house and pick up any spare dog bones or toys. Limit his access to one bone and one toy at a time. Vary the type of these items to keep him interested. By limiting the quantity and providing variety, you may lessen his motivation to take these treasures out to the backyard. Also, make his favorite digging spots less attractive by covering them with chicken wire or bricks or other objects that are not paw friendly. Show your dog a less-destructive indoor option: show him how he can bury his favorite item under a blanket instead. 

Arden MooreTo learn more about Arden Moore, click here.