Go To Main Menu

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 [email protected]. 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

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. 

School Daze: Finding a Trainer

You want to do the right thing and take your pup to school, but there are so many classes out there; which one do you pick?  How can you tell when you’ve selected the right teacher, or if your dog trainer is even qualified?  While technically someone who has earned the title of “Animal Behaviorist” has an advanced degree in animal behavior, it’s a sad truth that the dog training industry isn’t currently regulated at all...

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.

Shy Dogs

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.

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...

When Medicating Your Dog

Giving a dog medication can be unpleasant, for both you and your dog. Some dogs—the “I’ll eat anything, anytime” types—are easy to medicate by hiding a pill in a soft treat, as long as they’re not feeling queasy. But this doesn’t work for all dogs, especially dogs who are off their food. And some treatments are non-oral—ear drops, eye drops, and injections, for example. If you can’t hide your dog’s medication in food, please give him a heads up that it is coming. Here's how, and why.

Aggression in Dogs

Aggression is normal, adaptive behavior in virtually all animal species and domestic dogs are no exception. Animals have a variety of aggressive behaviors in their repertoires, to defend themselves from perceived threat as well as to compete for resources such as food, mates and territory. Also, as predators, dogs may chase and bite in the context of hunting for food. Selective breeding—domestication—has toned down or stylized aggressive and predatory behavior in most domestic dog breeds. Behaviors like watchdog barking, herding, pointing, compulsive fighting and retrieving are all modified forms of either aggression or predation. Most aggressive encounters are ritualized. Growling, snarling, snapping and biting without maiming force are all examples of ritualized aggression. Ritualization allows contests to be decided without the use of (more “expensive”) fatal or maiming force to either participant. We humans would like no aggression, even of the most ritualized sort, directed at us. To achieve this “no arguing” standard requires pro-active prevention programs for all 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.