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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 [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

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.

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. 

New Dog on the Block: Adding a New Dog to Your Family

So you’ve decided to add to your family. You’ve talked about any extra financial burden, and how you’ll stretch your time, and you know there’s enough love in your heart for another dog. Of course, you didn’t clear this with your current pup, but she loves other dogs... doesn’t she? Maybe, but remember that meeting someone out at a park and going for a walk is very different than having them move into your bedroom.

Cat vs. Cat: Adding a New Cat to Your Family

Cats have a reputation for being anti-social loners, but is that really deserved?  The fact is that they not only need time with their human families, but they are perfectly capable of – sometimes even crave – having buddies of their own species.  The trick is giving them time to adjust to anything that wasn’t their choice.  A major key in this is making sure each cat has adequate access to their important resources.  

Of course the easiest way to ensure your cats can tolerate each other is to give them plenty of space in the beginning...

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

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.

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...

Night Crawlers: Night-time Activity

It’s always frustrating when the sweet, sleepy snuggle bug cat we love during the day turns into a whirling dervish at night, but the fact is, it’s feline nature.  Cats are nocturnal, which means their bodies tell them to wake up and get to work just as we start to wind down ourselves.  It can make for a difficult roommate situation, and at two in the morning you might be less-likely to remember the affectionate purrs, the playful games of chance, the enthusiastic “biscuit making” or the loving head-bumps quite as fondly as you would at high noon.  With just a little manipulation, you can get your cat adjusted to your routine, and you’ll both reap the benefits of a healthy relationship and a good night’s sleep...

Caring for Convalescing Dogs

After certain medical procedures, your vet will recommend your dog stays on crate rest and/or reduced exercise to allow them to heal. In many cases, your dog will feel (and act) ready to get back in the swing of things well before it is safe to do so. The following tips will help keep your dog’s brain busy—and therefore tire them out—until they are vet-approved for regular exercise. Don’t forget that convalescing dogs might need much more sleep than before—even 16 or 18 hours.