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Everything to know about dog behaviour problems: the pet parent guide!

Two australian shepherd sat on a wall advice © Shutterstock

Communicating with your dog can be difficult sometimes. If you want to build a good relationship with your pet, learn about important dog behaviour changes.

By Daniel Mar

Dog owners should know that a dog's behaviour tell you plenty about his mood. Even though it is impossible to speak the language of dogs, you do need to know how to interpret dog behaviour changes. Behind most dog behaviours, there are specific explanations. Once you know how to pick up his cues, you'll be able to help him.

Which are the common dog behaviour problems?


You have probably witnessed that a puppy can nip at you as he learns how to interact with you. This usually happens while playing, since young dogs communicate with their mouths when they interact. But your pup can nip or bite you at other times as well. It's important to stop this behaviour as soon as possible. Dogs can bite out of anxiety, fear, playfulness, excitement or aggression. You need to identify which is the cause before dealing with the problem.


Dogs sweat through the pads on their feet but most of their body heat is expelled through their mouth when they pant. In other words, it's their primary means of regulating body temperature. So this is a normal behaviour to see after a run or excited play or during a warm day. However, if a dog is panting all the time or at times when he should be calm and it is not warm, then it can point to other concerns. For example, dogs also pant to cope with pain or when they are scared or stressed.


Circling excessively is not normal.  Dogs who can't stop walking in circles may be affected by a health issue. At first, when your pet is in puppyhood, it is normal and sometimes fun to watch him chase his tail. Eventually, this should stop. If your pup can't shake this urge and you cannot interrupt it, there could be an underlying problem. Ear infections can cause circling. Older dogs may suffer from the idiopathic vestibular syndrome.


Digging is an instinctual behaviour. It is particularly strong in terrier breeds. Centuries ago, dogs used to dig to hide food. Also, they dug to make a den in the cool earth which served as relief from the heat. However, there are times when a dog can’t stop the urge to dig for whatever reason. This is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

Eating poop

Dogs eat faeces for many reasons. Sometimes they try to mimic their mother when she cleans them. Fear and stress can cause your dog to eat faeces. Furthermore, your dog could just be curious. On rare occasions, vets agree that eating poop can also be an instinctive solution to a nutritional deficiency. You should talk to your vet if you see this behaviour.

Jumping up

Though it may seem like playful behaviour, jumping up may be inconvenient and sometimes dangerous if a large dog jumps on an elderly person or a child. You need to train your dog to avoid doing this or to control this behaviour, for example by teaching him to jump only on your request.


Surely, you have watched your dog drag himself across the floor. At first, it may seem funny, but this means there's something irritating in your dog's anal area. Most times it means that your dog's anal sacs are full and need to be emptied. However, the problem can sometimes be more serious. For example, allergies can cause an itchy rear. Other times you can blame worms or an infection.

Separation related problems

Dogs like company. That’s not a surprise! That is why one of the most concerning dog behaviour changes are separation related problems. As a pet parent, you need to know that it's natural for your dog to feel a bit uncomfortable when he is separated from his social group (meaning you or his family). This can be prevented by habituating your puppy to staying alone.


Most times you might think your dog needs some sleep. But dogs are not like humans! A dog yawn doesn't always mean he's tired. Yawning could be a sign of fear or stress. If your dog appears to yawn often, for example in a new situation or a crowded place, you need to be careful because your dog may be uneasy. For some reason, he is not comfortable with the idea of being around that individual.

Once you understand these dog behaviour problems, you will be in a better place to help your dog. Remember that these signs are indications that something is not right! It is your job to figure out what.