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If, after reading through the common behavior problems and situations below, you have additional questions about your pet’s behavior, please call to speak to an MD SPCA behavior expert at 410-235-8826, ext. 151 or email trainer@mdspca.org. Our behavior experts are available to pet owners to help work with them on animal behavior problems. Correcting behavior issues improves the relationship between owners and animals to ensure the animal stays in that loving home.

Behavior Library

Housetraining

Dogs are naturally clean animals: given a choice, they will urinate and defecate away from their sleeping and eating areas. However, it is not obvious to dogs that carpets and floors are inappropriate elimination sites. They must by systematically taught to discriminate indoors vs. outdoors and to exclusively use the latter. The key to housetraining is getting a history of rewarded trials in the desired area.

Separation Anxiety

Dogs bond strongly to humans. They can learn to be alone for moderate periods but it doesn’t come naturally. It’s not surprising, then, that about one in five dogs show symptoms of separation anxiety when alone: uncontrollable urinating or defecating; destruction of furniture, walls, windows or flooring; self-injury while attempting to escape kennels; vomiting and drooling; or long periods of barking and crying.

Confinement and Crate Training

Owners are often unsure whether they need to crate train their puppies or newly-adopted dogs or whether to simply confine them in a dog-proofed area during the early weeks or months following adoption. Crate training helps with the following:

  • Housetraining: prompts the dog to hold bladder and bowels when unsupervised
  • Chew-training: prevents the dog from chewing furniture, walls and anything else except the chew toys he is crated with so good habits automatically form
  • Settling down: patterns dog to be inactive when alone
  • Preparation for possible close confinement: dogs that are used to crates are less likely to be stressed when caged during a hospital stay or travel

Don’t Touch My Food!

If your dog has been labeled as having a bad habit that animal behaviorists call Food/Resource Guarding, please know that it’s not an alarming issue, but it does need careful management. The program is simple—teach your dog that people approaching the food bowl is a good thing!

Dog Holiday Tips

Life changes are hard for all of us: moving to new cities, gaining new employment, adding new family members, attending new schools, etc. Dogs, too, experience stress when they are subjected to change. Keep this in mind when you are considering adding a new dog to your family or fostering a dog for a shelter or rescue group. Your new furry friend needs all the help he can get to gradually acclimate to his new home.

Having a Crate Time: Crate Training

At some point, you’ll have to be apart from your best friend, but as a dog-owner, it’s your responsibility to keep your pup safe even when you aren’t there to supervise his every decision.  For some dogs, free roam of the house is safe.  Most days you’ll come home to some extra fur on the couch, and your bedsheets will be ruffled, but other than that, little damage is done.  But for many dogs, some extra boundaries are needed to keep them (and your belongings) safe...

Household Destruction

Shredded couches, frayed rugs, and scarred coffee tables.  They’re in the nightmares of every cat owner, but they don’t have to be.  Don’t get me wrong – your cat needs to scratch things.  It’s a stress relief for them, and the stretching action can even prevent arthritis as they age; however there are ways to allow – even encourage – the benefits of scratching without sacrificing your home...

Kong Stuffing

We humans tend to be chronically over-stimulated—we crave down time. It’s understandably difficult for us to empathize with our dogs, who have the opposite problem. One of the most pervasive and serious welfare issues for dogs is under-stimulation. Dog brains evolved to handle the juggling act of 1) hunting and scavenging for a living and 2) dealing with the social complexities of running into other dogs while hunting and scavenging. A lot of domestic life, safe and secure as it is, flies in the face of this genetic legacy; most dogs have little opportunity to exercise their hunting and scavenging propensities or are punished if they try. They also endure lives of relative solitude from both their human families and from the company of other dogs.

Top Ten Dog Behavior Myths

#1: Dogs are naturally pack animals with a clear social order.

This one falls apart immediately upon scrutiny, because all the evidence suggests that free-ranging dogs (pariahs, feral and semi-feral populations) don’t form packs. Dogs actually form loose, amorphous, transitory associations with other dogs.

Managing Your Puppy’s Behavior

Puppies come with a set of pre-installed behaviors: urinating and defecating when they feel the urge, chewing anything that fits in their mouths, whining and crying if they find themselves alone, eating any food they encounter (not to mention many NON-food items!), greeting by excitedly jumping up, and play-biting all living things. These are all normal behaviors for any puppy or untrained adult dog. Notice that there is little on this list that humans approve of.