Abnormal Puppy Behavior – What Are The Signs?

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When we talk about abnormal puppy behavior, we mean any type of unwanted behavior that causes harm to another living creature. This could range from mild annoyance to severe injury. It might even involve death if not treated immediately.

Abnormal puppy behavior can include behaviors such as:

  • displaying no interest in exploring a new environment
  • showing excessive fear
  • excessive barking
  • constant yawning
  • hiding when frightened and showing no signs of recovery
  • urinating indoors once housebroken
  • loss of appetite
  • hysterical behavior when left alone

In addition, excessive fear can turn into aggressive behavior which can manifest into growling, snapping, lip curling, lunging, or biting.  The dog may also show aggression towards other dogs, people, objects, furniture, or the floor.

abnormal puppy behavior

 


Introduction

Dogs are wonderfully diverse creatures. Their wide ranges of personalities make it so that no two dogs are ever the same.

Much of what makes a dog’s unique character and charm is influenced by everything from their experience with their littermates, owner and training style, breed, environmental factors, and more.

However, there are some things about every dog that cannot be changed. These characteristics are called “inherent traits” because they exist within each individual animal regardless of how much influence an outside factor has on them.

While normal puppy behavior is always appropriate for its age, sex, size, temperament, and personality, certain conditions like anxiety, stress, illness, pain, and trauma can cause changes in this natural pattern.

In these cases, the resulting behavioral issues must be addressed before the underlying problem gets worse.

Irregular, troubling behaviors, while sometimes manageable, can make for an altogether tumultuous coexistence between puppies and their forever families.

According to a major retailer, Orvis, nearly 3.9 million adult dogs are surrendered to shelters each year. Of those turned over, many are given to local humane societies and municipal animal control units by owners citing irreconcilable behavioral problems.

Unfortunately, in many states, aberrant, unsolvable problems that are deemed to pose a risk to the safety of other pets or human handlers can and does typically result in euthanasia.

There is a silver lining, though.

Puppies are malleable and impressionable. They learn quickly, especially during the first few months of life.

If you have a young pup who exhibits undesirable behavior or behaviors, don’t give up hope! There’s still time to help your pet overcome his challenges.

The good news is that most behavior issues can be resolved through proper care and attention.

If dog owners learn to understand and address an early life warning sign related to behavioral problems, many tragic statistics like the one previously noted can easily be avoided.

The following will review some easily detectable warning signs attributed to growing behavioral issues, what an owner should strive to encourage as normal behavior, and finally some tried-and-true treatments that are sure to leave tails wagging and smiles wide.


Seven Warning Signs Your Puppy Has a Behavioral Problem

You might be wondering at this point: “How do I know if my adorable, 10-week-old pupper is already headed down the wrong path?” You’re right to ask. There’s no help for your tiny tike if you can’t read the writing on the wall, no matter how faint the ink.

That’s why we have compiled a useful list of things for which you should be on the lookout.

 

Reclusiveness

Dogs are pack creatures, plain and simple. They require community in order for them to thrive.

This doesn’t mean they have to want to greet every pet in your neighborhood while on an afternoon stroll, but it does mean they should at least be indifferent about a curious second snoot.

If your puppy is consistently in a state of distress around other animals or people, or if they regularly isolate themselves instead of enjoying the company of their forever family, their aversive behavior might require further examination.

A lack of socialization could also indicate a more serious issue such as separation anxiety, aggression toward humans or another breed, or even fearfulness due to previous trauma.

In any case, if your little guy has been acting out because he feels left out, there may be something else going on.

black lab puppy lying in grass looking sad

Excessive Barking/Whining

Barking and whining are two very different sounds. The former is usually associated with playfulness, excitement, or just being happy; the latter often indicates discomfort or pain.

It’s important not to confuse these two distinct vocalizations. A bark from a playful pup means nothing unless it comes paired with appropriate body language and context.

On the flip side, a loud, persistent whine coming from a distressed pup needs immediate intervention. It’s best to ignore whines until your furry friend shows clear evidence of physical pain or emotional upset.

Aggression Toward People & Other Animals

A puppy that lunges, snarls, snaps, or bites is a puppy that is already in the danger zone.

There are several reasons dogs exhibit aggressive behaviors towards others. Some breeds tend to act aggressively simply by nature. Others develop bad habits when raised without adequate training. Still, others become aggressive after experiencing abuse or neglect during their formative years.

While the resulting damage from a nip or a backyard brawl with another dog might be minimal, the devastation only grows as their muscles, jaws, and bite force increase with size and age. As such, aggression should never be tolerated or allowed to slip by unaddressed.

It can sometimes be difficult to assess these abnormal behaviors at a breeder or shelter. The truth is, dogs will act differently depending on their past experiences, sense of comfort, and environmental influencers.

Even if your puppy acts like an angel at your first meet-and-greet, don’t let your guard down.

A change in routine or lifestyle can easily trigger any unwanted behavior in an instant. The more observant and vigilant you remain, the better chance you will have of reconciling the relationship in your home.

Regardless of the cause, aggressive behavior is never acceptable. If your puppy exhibits unwanted aggression toward either people or pets, it’s imperative to go to your veterinary clinic or seek professional assistance from a behaviorist.

black and tan Chihuahua snarling at a man's hands

Fearful Behavior

The most common reason for fearful behavior among puppies is exposure to unfamiliar environments. This includes new places, noises, smells, sights, and other stimuli.

Puppies who experience this type of stress typically show signs of excessive pacing, avoidance, hiding, trembling, shaking, crying, whimpering, and barking. These symptoms are normal reactions to fear but need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

In addition to avoiding stressful circumstances, it’s also essential to provide consistent socialization opportunities throughout his life. Puppies learn about themselves through interactions with humans, animals, and objects around them. They gain confidence and self-assurance through positive reinforcement.

Anxiety

Anxiety for dogs comes in many forms; however, the most common signs of distress include excessive panting or yawning, obsessive licking, or hiding.  Anxiety may manifest itself in different ways based upon breed, environment, and individual temperament. For example, some breeds seem to thrive under high levels of stimulation while others suffer greatly from too much excitement. In general, anxiety tends to worsen over time due to lack of exercise, boredom, and frustration.

If you notice your puppy exhibiting one or more of these signs, it’s important to address them right away. While there isn’t always a cure for anxiety, early detection helps prevent problems from escalating into full-blown fears.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of the most common reasons why dogs develop abnormal behavior.

So, what exactly does separation anxiety look like? Well, it looks like your dog is terrified of being left alone. This could manifest itself in different ways depending on the individual case. Some dogs simply refuse to leave their owners’ side while others start barking uncontrollably until someone comes back. Still, others try to escape through windows, doors, etc., which only makes matters worse.

Their instinctual desire to stay close to their pet owner makes them feel safe and secure.

Now, anxiety doesn’t always lead to aggression, and more often than not, it’s treatable. But owners would do well to take note of their dog’s anxiety and find ways to mitigate its impact and intensity as quickly as possible.

Fear Aggression

This is another form of abnormal behavior that can occur when an animal experiences extreme fear. It usually occurs after repeated exposure to something scary such as loud sounds, sudden movements, bright lights, or even certain scents. The result is a vicious cycle where the animal becomes increasingly afraid and reacts by attacking whatever caused him/her to become frightened.

It’s important to remember that fear aggression is completely avoidable if proper precautions are taken during training sessions. A calm demeanor will help reduce any negative effects associated with fear aggression.

The best way to break this pattern is to expose your pet to new things gradually so he/she has no reason to be scared. You should never force your dog to confront anything frightening because doing so will likely cause her/him to experience stress and anxiety. Instead, use treats to reward good behaviors and praise whenever your pup behaves calmly.


Normal Puppy Behavior

Puppies are brand new to the world. Everything they see and smell is probably a brand new, exciting experience. Normal puppies will greet these encounters with the same optimistic curiosity you would expect from a human child.

In general, a puppy will likely be shy at first (but not always). Although after a few days or weeks in their new home, they should open up and become the playful, inquisitive furballs we all hope for them to be.

Likewise, unfamiliar experiences shouldn’t vex or otherwise intimidate them. There will of course be times when your puppy is spooked or alarmed. Don’t panic if they bark at the mailman. As long as their defensiveness is explainable and fleeting, all is well.

Further, puppies should be playful. They are, as any dog owner will tell you, hairy bundles of boundless energy.

If you and your pup aren’t exhausted at the end of each day, then you’re either incredibly fortunate or Fido needs more time to romp and bound around town. No puppy should prefer to hole away in their crate or bed when the whole wide world is out there for them to explore.

Lastly, your puppy should be vocal. Finding their voice is a huge part of growing up for a dog, and once they do, they’ll use it all the time. Pee break? They’ll let you know. Hungry? You’ll hear about it. Dissatisfaction? You won’t find a louder prima donna.

If your nugget is doing at least most of these things, then odds are you and they are on the right track to a wonderful life together.

Any less than most, and you will want to keep an eye on their temperament over a period of time as they grow, along with any of the previously discussed warning signs.


How to Treat Abnormal Behavior

The word “treat” might be a little harsh in this context. A better term might be “behavior modification” or “redirect”. Either way, the end goal is the same: to eliminate your puppy’s undesirable antics before they become too insurmountable.

Many behaviors can be treated successfully. It just depends on what kind of problem you have.

Address Issues Early

The best advice one can give to an owner struggling with abnormal puppy behavior is to address it early and often. The sooner you’re able to identify and correct bad manners, the more responsive your dog is likely to be.

 Pet wellness brands like Hills agree that most dogs won’t settle into their true personalities until about 12-18 months, which gives you and your dog plenty of time to work out the kinks before the challenge becomes much greater.

Positive Reinforcement

Another thing to keep in mind is that, while negative reinforcement might appear to make sense when addressing dangerous behaviors like growling or snarling, that sort of response is likely only to worsen your dog’s temperament.

Instead, try rewarding your puppy when they don’t portray the undesired behavior. 

In addition, using positive reinforcement helps reinforce good habits. If you consistently praise your pet whenever they sit still, stay calm, or behave politely, those sorts of qualities will eventually become second nature.

For example, if your fur baby is prone to nipping at the heels of guests, keep a treat pouch handy when newcomers arrive and give one to Fido when they let your friends and family pass unscathed.

This type of positive reinforcement works wonders because it doesn’t rely on punishment; instead, it relies on praise and rewards. This makes it far easier to implement over time.

Aromatherapy

And lastly, there is some science behind aromatherapy and its effect on dogs. According to Dr. Karen Becker, author of Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, essential oils may actually change how our pets perceive us.

Essential oils contain volatile compounds called terpenes, which act as mood enhancers. When used topically, these oils can alter the brain chemistry of animals by stimulating certain receptors. In other words, they create a calming environment around them.

While much information about the effectiveness of pheromone collars and diffusers is still up for debate, it’s for certain they won’t harm your dog (barring undetected allergies). So you might also consider adding these great smelling options to your arsenal, just to covers your bases.

Rule Out Health Problems or Medical Conditions

Sometimes your puppy’s abnormal behavior can be attributed to a medical issue.  If a puppy isn’t feeling well his bad behavior could be attributed to an undiagnosed medical problem, so always be sure to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any health problems.

Free Resources

There are also tons of free resources out there to help you and your dog manage a healthy, happy relationship. The Doggo Talko blog is certainly one of those tools in your toolbelt, as are the endless libraries of YouTube videos and articles from owners just like you.

Your local veterinary clinic, too, is likely to have many resources handy to help you and your pup on the path to curbing its abnormal behaviors.


Some Closing Thoughts

In the end, raising a puppy is hard enough without abnormal behaviors in the mix.

But if you find yourself with a hard-to-handle dog, don’t despair. Use the information on our site as a starting point from which to learn more and grow together with your canine companion.

Don’t let feelings of defeat rule your decision-making.

Stay positive, stay consistent, and work hard. If you do, the mischievous puppy of today will be the loyal, obedient fur baby you dream of tomorrow. Like everything else, it just takes time and patience.

What Are Normal Puppy Behaviors?

Some normal puppy behaviors include pooping and peeing whenever they feel the need to go; chewing everything; barking if they are alone; putting everything in their mouth; whining and crying. These are typical behaviors that as they get older and are trained will slowly dissipate.

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