Dog behaviours explained

dog - sad - vet voice

Even though we know more about dogs now than at any other point in history, there is still so much going on behind those eyes that we don’t quite understand.

Sometimes dogs display behaviours that we find annoying or frustrating, however there is often an important evolutionary aspect to the behaviour which helps us understand what is really going on. Below we cover three important dog behaviours to help you gain a better understanding of why your dog is showing that behaviour.

Why does my dog bark?

Although dogs use plenty of non-verbal communication or body language when communicating, they also use their voice in various ways. There are different kinds of barks which mean different things, and barking is a normal part of being a dog. However sometimes barking can be excessive and can indicate an underlying problem such as separation anxiety. If you are worried about your dog’s barking, always see your veterinarian rather than reaching for behaviour modifying collars or other ‘barking suppression’ devices. These devices use punishment to control excessive barking; this does not take into account why the behaviour is occurring and therefore does not address the root of the problem. These collars and devices can cause pain and fear, and cause short and long-term stress. It’s important to find out why your dog is barking in the first place, so speak to your veterinarian.

Why is my dog digging?

Whether used to bury a delicious bone or to simply enjoy the feeling of sand flying between their feet, digging is another normal dog activity. Digging can become a problem, however, if dogs are using the behaviour to try and escape their yard, or they are digging up your garden.

Again, consult a veterinarian first to find out why your dog might be digging, particularly if they are digging to escape their yard. Your dog might be anxious, frustrated or bored and behaviour modification techniques and distractions might be enough to stop your dog digging up the backyard.

Why does my dog sniff everything?

Does your dog seem to sniff absolutely everything when you take them for a walk? A short stroll that would take you 10 minutes can take a dog at least half an hour if they stop to sniff everything.

Rather than drag them on, take a break and let them sniff. Dogs have a much better sense of smell than we do, and often learn the most about their environment via smell rather than vision.

It’s important to let dogs explore the world via their nose, and it’s why you will see them stop at the same ‘messaging posts’ every day on your walk as they learn about all the dogs that came before them.

When to contact a veterinary behaviourist

Although sniffing, barking and digging are all normal dog behaviours, if you are finding any of your dog’s behaviours are becoming a problem for you, reach out for help sooner rather than later.

All veterinarians can help you with your dog’s behavior and it is important to understand that dogs can have mental health problems which may need treating with medications just as with human mental illness. There are veterinary specialists in animal behaviour (similar to a psychiatrist) and also veterinarians who have undertaken additional training in behaviour. These vets will be able to assist with particularly tricky cases or those which require behaviour modifying drugs as well as behavioural interventions. Remember no problem is too big or too small.