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The Maryland SPCA Adoption Center will be CLOSED today, Monday, August 19, 2019.

The shelter will reopen tomorrow, Tuesday, August 20 for regular business hours.

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

Potty Time: Housebreaking

When we think about bringing a new dog into our home, we think of a lot of things – snuggles and belly rubs, long adventuresome hikes, silly tricks that amaze our friends…  Somehow in that idyllic daydream, we always seem to forget about bathroom habits.  Face it, almost any new dog that comes into your home will have to be re-trained to eliminate in the appropriate way, as she learns to adjust to your family’s schedule, and learns to tell you how she needs to go outside...

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.

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. 

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

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...

Why Train with Food?

  1. Most dogs love food. This makes it an excellent training reward.
  2. Food is easy to carry and very convenient.
  3. There is a huge variety. This makes it easy to adjust the value of the reward based on level of difficulty. Coming when called mid–squirrel chase needs a higher reward—steak or chicken—than sitting on cue in the living room.
  4. Food makes dogs happy. Using food to train results in dogs who happily anticipate the next training session.
  5. Food can be used to change a dog’s emotional response from fear to joy using a technique called counter-conditioning.

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.

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