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Behavioral problems in dogs – symptoms, causes & treatment

Reading Behavioral problems in dogs – symptoms, causes & treatment 13 minutes Next Aggressive behavior in dogs

We assess behavioral problems not only based on actual behavior, but also consider endocrinological or somatic diseases. We refer to all behaviors that deviate from the “norm” as behavioral disorders such as uncontrolled urination, ducking away, not wanting to be touched, defensive reactions such as barking or snapping, etc.

What behavioral problems are there?

Dogs can show a variety of behavioral problems that can be caused by different causes. Here are some of the most common behavioral problems in dogs:

  1. Aggression:

    • Aggression towards people
    • Aggression towards other dogs or animals
    • Food aggression
    • Resource defense (e.g. toys, bed, food bowl)
  2. Fear and uncertainty:

    • Separation anxiety (fear when the owner leaves the house)
    • Fear of noise (e.g. fear of thunderstorms, fireworks)
    • Social fears (fear of other dogs or people)
  3. Leash aggression:

    • Aggressive behavior on a leash towards other dogs or people
  4. Uncleanliness:

    • Uncleanliness in the house, especially marking territory
  5. Obsessive compulsive disorder:

    • Excessive licking or scratching
    • Tail chasing
    • Shadow hunting
  6. Declarative behavior:

    • Howling or barking for no apparent reason
  7. Destructive behavior:

    • Destruction of objects in the house, furniture or walls
  8. Excessive barking:

    • Constant and excessive barking, often in response to external stimuli
  9. Herd behavior:

    • Chasing vehicles, bicycles or people
  10. Dominance behavior:

    • Dominant behavior towards other dogs or people
  11. Hyperactivity:

    • Excessive activity, difficulty relaxing
  12. Feeding problems:

    • Gobbling the food or refusing to feed
  13. Aggressive game :

    • Aggressive behavior while playing with other dogs or people

It is important to note that behavioral problems in dogs often arise from a variety of causes, including genetics, environmental factors, traumatic experiences, lack of socialization, or improper training. If your dog exhibits behavioral problems, it is advisable to seek professional help from an animal behaviorist or veterinarian to identify the causes and find appropriate solutions to improve your dog's behavior.

Behavioral changes after heat

Heat in female dogs is a hormonal condition that typically occurs every six to twelve months. During this time, some female dogs may show behavioral changes that are due to the hormonal changes. However, it is important to note that not all female dogs exhibit the same behavioral changes, and the intensity and nature of the changes may vary from dog to dog.

During heat, female dogs release pheromones that can attract male dogs. This can lead to male dogs showing increased interest in the female dog in heat, and there may be increased visits from male dogs in the area.

Some dogs may be more irritable or moody during heat. They may be more sensitive to touch or other dogs. Additionally, activity may decrease during heat, while others may be more hyperactive. Some female dogs may attempt to escape during heat to avoid male dogs or due to increased activity.

It is important to emphasize that not all female dogs exhibit these behavioral changes, and the effects of heat can vary from dog to dog. Some dogs go through heat almost unnoticed, while others may show more severe behavioral changes.

Owners of female dogs should pay particular attention to her behavior during heat and ensure she is adequately protected to prevent unwanted pregnancies. If behavioral changes during heat are more severe or problematic, it is advisable to discuss this with a veterinarian or an animal behaviorist to take appropriate measures to manage the behavioral changes.

Behavioral changes after operations

Behavioral changes may occur after surgery in dogs. These changes can vary from dog to dog and often depend on the type of surgery, the dog's personality and the recovery time. Here are some common behavioral changes that can occur in dogs after surgery:

  1. Drowsiness and disorientation : Many dogs are sleepy and disoriented after anesthesia and surgery. This is a normal reaction to anesthesia and can last a few hours or even days.

  2. Pain behavior : If the dog is in pain after surgery, he may show signs of pain behavior, such as whining, panting, or avoiding certain movements.

  3. Decreased activity : During the recovery period, the dog may be less active than usual. This may be because he is in pain or still feels weak.

  4. Altered food intake : Some dogs may temporarily lose their appetite after surgery. This may be due to the effects of anesthesia or due to pain.

  5. Increased sleeping : Dogs tend to sleep more after surgery to recover.

  6. Changes in toileting : Urine and feces may be affected after surgery. Some dogs may have difficulty moving or getting up to do their business.

  7. Fear and Uncertainty : Some dogs may feel anxious or unsafe, especially when they are in an unfamiliar environment, such as the veterinary clinic.

  8. Aggressive behavior : In some cases, dogs may exhibit unusual aggressive behavior after surgery, especially if they feel pain or discomfort. This should be taken seriously and discussed with the vet.

Individual symptoms in detail

Lack of motivation and increased fatigue

Lack of motivation in dogs is manifested by a noticeable decrease in motivation, activity and interaction. The dog may seem disinterested and lethargic, and it may be difficult to motivate him to do activities he normally enjoys.

Fatigue in dogs is manifested by increased sleepiness and exhaustion. The dog may sleep more than usual and show little interest in activities or games.

restlessness and aggression

Restlessness in dogs is manifested by excessive activity, restlessness, and difficulty calming down or relaxing. A restless dog may constantly run around, whine, bark, or act fidgety.

Aggression in dogs manifests itself through hostile or threatening behavior toward people, other animals, or even objects. Aggressive actions may include biting, growling, baring teeth, or attacking.

Changes in appetite

A change in appetite in dogs refers to any significant change in the dog's eating habits. This can be increased or decreased feed intake. The change may occur suddenly or occur gradually over a long period of time. It's important to keep an eye on your dog's appetite and notice any changes, as they may indicate health problems or stress.

What causes could this have?

Metabolic diseases such as thyroid dysfunction

The thyroid is an important organ in the endocrine system that produces hormones that regulate metabolism and other body functions. Thyroid dysfunction in dogs occurs when the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism) or produces excessive amounts of hormones (hyperthyroidism).

Symptoms of hypothyroidism (low thyroid function):
  • Weight gain despite decreased appetite
  • Slower behavior and reduced activity
  • Loss of fur or dry, brittle fur
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Muscle weakness
  • constipation
  • Skin problems such as dandruff and skin infections
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid):
  • Weight loss despite increased appetite
  • Increased activity and restlessness
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Heart problems, such as heart palpitations
  • Changes in skin and fur, such as dandruff


Infections in dogs can be caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites. Here are some common infections in dogs:

  1. Parvovirus infection (parvo): Parvovirus is highly contagious and causes severe gastrointestinal symptoms, including severe vomiting and diarrhea. It often affects puppies and can be fatal if not treated on time.

  2. Canine distemper: Distemper is a viral infection that can cause respiratory problems, eye discharge, fever and neurological symptoms. It can be fatal, especially in puppies.

  3. Rabies: Rabies is a deadly viral infection that affects the central nervous system and can cause aggressive behavior, foaming at the mouth, and paralysis. Vaccination against rabies is mandatory in many countries.

  4. Leptospirosis: This bacterial infection can be spread from dogs to humans and causes symptoms such as fever, vomiting and kidney problems. Vaccination is available and often recommended.

  5. Parasitic Infections: Dogs can develop various parasitic infections, including worm infections (e.g., hookworms, tapeworms) that affect the intestines or other organs.

  6. Skin Infections: Bacterial or fungal skin infections are common in dogs and can cause itching, hair loss, and skin lesions.

Upset stomach

Signs of an upset stomach in dogs can vary, but typical symptoms include:

  1. Vomiting: A common sign of stomach upset is repeated vomiting. The dog may vomit to clear the stomach of indigestible or irritating substances.

  2. Diarrhea: Loose or watery stools are another common symptom. The dog may also defecate more.

  3. Loss of appetite: A dog with an upset stomach may temporarily lose appetite or eat less than usual.

  4. Stomach Pain: Some dogs may show signs of stomach pain, such as refusing to be touched or whining.

Causes of Upset Stomach: Upset stomach can be triggered by several factors, including:

  1. Feeding problems: A sudden change in diet, spoiled or contaminated food can cause stomach upset.

  2. Food intolerance or allergies: Some dogs may be sensitive to certain foods and develop allergic reactions or stomach problems.

  3. Eating Foreign Objects: Dogs tend to swallow things they cannot digest, such as toy parts, rocks, or plastic.

  4. Infections: Bacterial or viral infections of the gastrointestinal tract can cause stomach upset.

  5. Medication: Taking certain medications can irritate the dog's stomach and cause stomach upset.

Nutritional deficiency symptoms (nutrient deficiencies)

A balanced diet is crucial for dogs' health. A deficiency in certain nutrients can lead to various health problems. Here are some common nutrient deficiencies in dogs:

  1. Protein Deficiency: A lack of protein can lead to muscle loss, poor coat quality, delayed growth in puppies, weakened immune systems and reduced resistance to disease.

  2. Vitamin A deficiency: This can lead to skin problems, hair loss, poor vision and a weakened immune system.

  3. Vitamin D deficiency: A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to bone problems such as rickets, in which the bones are not properly mineralized.

  4. Vitamin E deficiency: This can lead to muscle weakness, coordination problems and neurological disorders.

  5. Vitamin K deficiency: A deficiency of vitamin K can lead to bleeding disorders.

  6. Vitamin B deficiency: Various B vitamins are important for metabolism and nerve function. A deficiency can lead to neurological problems, skin lesions and anemia.

  7. Mineral deficiencies (e.g. calcium, phosphorus, magnesium): These minerals are important for bone health. An imbalance can lead to bone problems and dental problems.

  8. Iron deficiency: This can lead to anemia, in which the dog does not have enough red blood cells.

  9. Fat deficiency: A lack of essential fatty acids can lead to skin problems, dry skin and dull fur.

  10. Taurine deficiency: This mainly affects cats, but some dog breeds can also be affected by taurine deficiency. It can lead to heart problems.

It is important to emphasize that dogs may have different nutritional requirements depending on their breed, age and health status. Therefore, it is advisable to discuss your dog's diet with your veterinarian and ensure that it contains all the necessary nutrients.

Treatment of the causes

Treating behavioral problems in dogs typically requires a comprehensive approach aimed at identifying and treating the causes of the behavior. Here are some steps to consider:

  1. Balanced diet: A balanced diet that contains all essential nutrients is crucial to supporting the dog's physical & mental health. This diet ensures optimal functioning of the brain and nervous system, which in turn positively influences behavior.

    Serotonin-promoting ingredients in the diet help increase serotonin levels in the brain, which is important in stabilizing dogs' mood and behavior. Balanced serotonin levels can help reduce stress and anxiety, resulting in a calmer and happier dog overall.

  2. Veterinary Examination: The first step in treating behavioral problems should always be a thorough veterinary examination. Physical illness or pain can trigger behavioral changes. It is important to ensure that there are no somatic or endocrinological problems that could affect the dog's behavior.

  3. Behavioral Assessment: A professional behavior therapist or animal behavior consultant can conduct a comprehensive assessment of your dog's behavior. This can help determine the exact causes of the abnormalities and develop a tailored treatment strategy.

  4. Behavior Modification: Based on the assessment, the behavior therapist can create behavior modification plans. This may include using positive reinforcement, desensitization, counterconditioning, and other techniques to change undesirable behaviors.

  5. Environmental Adjustments: Changes in the dog's environment can help reduce problem behaviors. This may include the use of barriers, toys, exercise, and other adaptations to promote the dog's well-being.

  6. Medication: In some cases, medication may be necessary to stabilize or support the dog's behavior. This may be necessary for anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or severe behavioral problems. However, the use of medication should always be done under veterinary supervision.

  7. Upbringing and Training: Solid upbringing and regular training can help increase the dog's confidence and reduce problematic behavior. Positive training promotes good communication between dog and owner.

  8. Patience and Consistency: Treating behavioral problems often requires patience and consistency on the part of the owner. It may take some time for behavioral changes to become noticeable and it is important to support the dog throughout the process.

  9. Professional help: If you are having difficulty managing your dog's behavioral problems on your own, do not hesitate to seek professional help from a certified animal behavior consultant or therapist.

Treating behavioral problems in dogs can be challenging, but with the right approach and support, many dogs can demonstrate positive behavioral changes and live happier lives.

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