Strange dog behavior? It might be a physical problem

I received two calls this week that that reminded me about the importance of making sure a dog is physically healthy before I recommend training strategies. One call was in regards to a 3-year old dog that recently started whining uncontrollably whenever his person was out of the room or out of the home. He also had a few housetraining regressions and his guardian found a few accidents when he got home.

 

dog_strangeSince it has been more than a year since he was taken to the vet, I recommended that he gets a full vet checkup to rule out physical issues including a urinary tract infection. My instinct tells me that this potential client will call me back telling me that the anxiety is still present. I think that the dog in question might have separation anxiety and also boredom due to my client's extended work schedule.

 

Another call was from a client that hired me after discussing her dog's health history and initially ruling out obvious health issues. Her dog recently started showing signs of aggression towards guests in the home as well as on walks on leash. He is a 3-year-old Pitbull mix and he used to be comfortable with everyone. The first nipping incident was a few months ago and there have been a couple more nips and growling at guests since then.

 

I think that these incidents are due to anxiety and reactivity that has increased over time until it showed up as aggression. The dog did not seriously injure anyone and showed signs of anxiety before each incident. He is also reactive to the doorbell and one incident happened during a dinner party after ten people arrived, each ringing the bell and getting the dog worked up each time.

 

A dog's vet history is always discussed whenever there is a sudden change in behavior, including aggression. One reason that a dog might become aggressive is if he has had an injury, skin infection, hip discomfort, arthritis, or other physical pain including dental issues. For instance, if a dog has hip dysplasia and has pain when someone pets him, he might growl or bite someone if they come over to pet him because he doesn't want to be hurt again.



Â

 

Another common issue if if a dog has a serious trauma such as getting hit by a car. When that dog is moved after the incident to get treatment, there are bound to be episodes of pain due to the handling and the injury. Later, that dog will remember the pattern of handling and pain and might tell someone to back off by growling or biting instead of risk getting hurt again.

 

When Do I Recommend to Call the Vet?

 

Possible Urinary Tract Infection
If an older dog that was previously housetrained starts to have accidents in the house it might mean the dog has a urinary tract infection. It might also mean separation anxiety or stress due to a move or change in someone's work schedule.

 

Signs of a urinary tract infection include:

  • Frequent urination when you are home and out of the house (if the accidents only happen when you are out of the house, it might be separation anxiety)
  • Your dog tries to urinate and no urine comes out
  • Blood in the urine
  • Foul smelling urine
  • Tender lower abdomen
  • Fever
  • Lethargy

 

Possible Injury, Arthritis or Other Physical Issue
Dogs can show aggression or changes in behavior from many different physical issues. I have seen barking issues, aggression, depression or dogs that "just don't seem right" and are unfairly labeled as stubborn or willful during training. Recent events that might lead to a change in behavior include:

  • Allergy or other skin condition
  • Injury related to car accident or dog fight
  • Older dog showing signs of arthritis or hip dysplasia
  • Dental issues including an impacted tooth or infection

Latest Blog Posts

Let's talk about corrections in dog training

While working with a private client recently, we ran into another local Chicago trainer. It was interesting, because we were both teaching our clients the exact same lesson, using different...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2010-12-20 19:37:38
  • Hits 10899

Teach emergency stop

On Friday I met a client for the first session and met his wonderful 1.5 year old Labrador Retriever named Riley. Our session ended after some fantastic leash work, placement cues and some work on...

  • jeff-millman
  • 2010-12-21 03:50:21
  • Hits 8074

Do not ask an aggressive dog to sit

I work with dog-dog aggression a lot. I get lots of practice in the congested city of Chicago, and I use techniques that work. As with any training topic, there are many competing strategies out...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2010-12-28 21:32:17
  • Hits 49563

Don't repeat cues and other dog training tips

Just some quick thoughts to make your life as a dog trainer much easier. After training thousands of dogs, it still amazes me how the little suggestions can make the biggest difference.
  • Jeff Millman
  • 2010-12-30 19:22:30
  • Hits 27639

Dog training myths

There are so many dog training myths perpetuated by old school techniques, bad trainers, or trainers that do not give their clients the benefit of the doubt and "dumb down" everything into simple...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2010-12-29 19:37:00
  • Hits 10520

Tips to train your dog to come

I realized that I never taught my dogs what "Come on guys let's go for a walk" meant. That was many years ago, and since then I have taught them that, but it reminded me of the importance of...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2010-12-30 21:35:06
  • Hits 10248

Find time for dog training in your busy schedule

Everyone is busy. My wife and I have a wonderful new baby boy and it is challenging to find time to work with my dogs, satisfy all of my client's expectations and have time to breathe. I am sure you...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2010-12-31 22:14:00
  • Hits 15000

Summer dog training tips

As we approach summer, it is important to think about keeping your pooch safe. I live in Chicago where I have some unique things to worry about (such as dogs getting stolen out of cars), but...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-04-06 12:19:00
  • Hits 26700

Choke chains can increase dog aggression

I got a sad call from a new client recently. She said her dog was showing signs of dog-dog aggression and, from the advice of someone in the dog park, she hired a trainer that uses choke chains. She...

  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-01-01 18:49:00
  • Hits 13906

What to do if your dog growls at you

It is so important to gently handle your dog throughout his or her life. I received a typical call a while ago from a client that is afraid because her dog growls when she puts on his harness.
  • Jeff Millman
  • 2011-01-02 23:07:00
  • Hits 61615