If my dog is having behavior problems, are they capable of change?

Yes, we can definitely modify a dog's behavior, which is quite often dependent upon our behavior, and how we're managing the situation. So the most important thing with dog behavior is to know that it's absolutely critical as a puppy to get them into socializing opportunities as early as eight weeks of age. We spend a lot of time talking about dog behavior here at The Drake Center, and addressing issues starts really young. But yes, there is a lot we can do to help modify a dog's behavior issues at home.

Dr. Michele Drake
Drake Center For Veterinary Care

When should you start obedience training with your dog?

There's so much misinformation out there, but we really want a dog to be in some type of socializing class at age eight weeks. And dogs have a fear period between 8 weeks and 16 weeks. It's kind of critical for them to have super positive experiences during that time. And every dog's a little bit different. You have a really boisterous, forward Labrador or you may have a more timid, smaller dog, and they may need different situations. And so, we're really great at The Drake Center at making sure that you're headed in the right direction. And if you go to a great dog trainer, they're going to know where this dog should be, or how they should be handled in a particular class. But we want puppies in a socialization class, one preferably by somebody who is a good trainer, at eight weeks of age or soon after.

What are the most common behavior problems in dogs and how can they be addressed?

One of the most common, more serious issues we find is separation anxiety. And that's because dogs are pack animals and they're used to being with a pack and we are their pack. So, when we do things like work or school every day, we want to make sure we set up our dog for the best possible success for staying home for a good portion of the day. So, separation anxiety is very common and it's exhibited in things like barking, scratching, destroying your home, urinating, or defecating at home—many things we don't want to see.

Other really common, serious behavioral issues relate to inter-dog aggression, aggression with other people in the household, or potentially even outside of the household when people come to the house. So there is inter dog aggression, aggression with humans, separation anxiety, and fear behaviors—many opportunities for destructive behaviors. Fortunately, we can address many of these things. And the sooner we start to work on problems the better because dog behavior issues do not go away on their own, as dogs don't outgrow them. We have to modify and help with things in the household and with the pet in order for them to change.

Can behavior issues in my dog ever indicate that they are sick?

Oh, yeah. If a dog all of a sudden becomes super fearful, they may be in pain. If the behavior they have daily changes dramatically, it may very well be a medical situation. We always want to start with a good exam to make sure we don't have pain. Or if they hurt when somebody presses on their back, they may yelp, bark, or even bite. And that may be a very nice dog that just had a severe amount of pain. And that was their response to it.

So, an excellent place to start is always an annual exam, and certainly more often with puppies. We spend so much time here at The Drake Center talking about behavior and the best ways to get your dog on the right track.

What are some behavior problems that may be associated with a medical condition?

Mostly pain would be the most common, and also, certain endocrine disorders can show themselves behaviorally. So, without going into too much, if you see a behavioral change, bring your dog in here, and let's start with a great exam.

How can a veterinarian help address my dog's behavior problems?

Let's start with a physical exam. And we're going to spend a lot of time talking about their history. So, what's been going on at home, and who's involved in it? How big is your family? What's the setup for the dog? How do they spend their time? How much exercise are they getting? We include a great deal of discussion with the exam.

And when we meet your dog, we have a really good idea of their personality type and what their needs are. So, without a doubt, when I meet a puppy, I have so much information about that personality type and what they're going to need, and it’s also breed dependent too. So, if you get yourself a German Shorthair Pointer, you better plan to run four miles a day. That's a dog that's a great breed, but they need a ton of exercise. So, there are things like that, that when you come in, we're going to help you to, again, set up the patterns that will be the most successful for you and your dog.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 753-9393, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.

Dog Behavior - FAQs

Dr. Michele Drake
Drake Center For Veterinary Care

Why is addressing dog behavior problems early on so important?

Dog behavior issues do not go away on their own, so the sooner we address them, the quicker we can change that behavior. Or hopefully, it's not something that's become dominant with the dog. So again, in the case of any behavior changes or certainly as puppies are growing, have them come to the vet often so we can see what's going on and make sure that we're on the right track.

Are certain breeds predisposed to behavior problems?

Certain breeds have certain personality traits. So again, if you have a super high-energy dog, you should make sure you're planning to run or walk two to four miles a day with that breed. If you have a timid breed, you're going to want to set up the socialization that will make them feel secure. If you have a dog that can be aggressive, you need to ensure this dog has good socialization and very good confidence in you and your control of the situation so that they don't have to show fear aggression. So every breed has its own behavioral norms, and then within those breeds, we even have differences amongst them.

Can my dog's behavior problems resolve on their own?

No. Dog behavior problems do not resolve on their own. Come in as soon as you see anything going on, and let us help you figure out the next best step because some dogs can benefit from a basic obedience class. With other dogs, there may be some things that you're going to do at home that will change and be normal. And then, with other dogs, we're going to bring behavioralists in because we know it's something more serious that needs to be addressed so that we have a successful situation in the end.

When should I seek professional help for these dog behavior problems?

Well, start with an exam and a review of the case, and we're going to help direct you to the best next solution because we've been dealing with these things for a long time, and we have a lot of information. We all know dogs very well and are going to help you figure out the best solution.

What can I do to reduce my dog's chances of developing behavior problems?

The most important thing is to make sure that you start with an excellent socialization program as soon as possible. Most puppies are adopted or purchased around eight weeks. So you're going to want to begin a socialization class right away, but we're going to want to make sure that it's the right type of socialization for your dog. So a robust, wild Lab puppy versus maybe a timider, smaller breed may need a different kind of environment for socialization. So you want to make sure you're with the dog trainer that understands those differences and make sure that you're in the right spot.

Can getting my dog spayed or neutered help with their behavior problems?

Yeah, without a doubt, especially with male dogs. Their desire to get into trouble and go hunt things down and be a little more aggressive is natural before they're neutered. So we really like to get the dogs neutered, and certainly if you're seeing any behavioral issues as far as marking behavior or aggression, we want to see you sooner rather than later. With some of the larger breeds, we're waiting a little bit longer, but we still recommend neutering them because they are easier to train once they're neutered.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (760) 753-9393, you can email us, or you can reach out on social media. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can.