Problem Dogs

Your Complete Guide to Dog Care and Dog Training.

Problem Dogs

Causes of Abnormal Behavior
The Chronic Barker or Howler
The Biting Dog
How to Meet a Strange Dog
The Car Chaser
The Tramp Dog
The “Piddler” or Wetting Dog
The Sexually Frustrated Dog
Rehabilitating Problem Dogs

Since our domestic animals are usually confined or restrained, they are susceptible to abnormal behavior. And the dog is no exception. We’ve taken the dog and forced him to live under all kinds of unnatural conditions. Many of these conditions lead to abnormal behavior or neuroses. You have learned in the early sections the importance of environment in the early development of the puppy. Environment is also a vital factor in the mature dog’s behavior.

While it may not have been difficult for you to provide the puppy with the proper socialization and environment, you may find when he’s grown older that the situation and environment have changed. You now notice that your dog is developing certain unfavorable tendencies. He is showing signs of abnormal behavior and will, unless curbed, develop into a problem dog.


Let us delve lightly into the background of abnormal behavior. It may be functional or organic. A dog that is confined all day to a small apartment and seeks release from his stored-up energy by chewing the rugs or furniture is showing signs of functional abnormal behavior. When a rabid dog runs through the streets, snapping at people and animals in his path, he is suffering from a disease that affects his behavior. This would be organic abnormal behavior. In many cases, the trend of functional abnormal behavior can be altered. Functional abnormal behavior can also be prevented. But the outcome of organic abnormal behavior depends on the prognosis of the disease. In the case of rabies, there is no cure and the abnormal behavior ends with the death of the dog.

Dr. J. P. Scott, who has been responsible for shedding considerable light on the abnormal behavior of dogs, points out that there are four factors that produce abnormal behavior in the dog. These are over excitement, lack of escape, lack of adaptation, and genetic susceptibility. All four of these factors must be present at one time. The presence of one or two will not produce prolonged or harmful effects.


Any situation or stimulus that tends to overexcite the dog will contribute toward abnormal behavior. For example, the ringing of a doorbell or telephone may overexcite the dog.

Lack of escape

When the dog cannot escape from the situation or stimulus that is causing his overexcitement, he takes another step toward abnormal behavior. Let us go back to the dog in the apartment who hears the doorbell or telephone ringing. Since he is confined, he cannot escape from the sound of the bells. Lacking a means of escape, the dog may bark, scratch at the door or howl.

Lack of adaptation

If the doorbell and telephone rang continuously, the dog would more than likely adapt to them. But these are sporadic stimuli and the dog cannot or will not adapt to them. In some situations, the dog has no opportunity to adapt. In others, the opportunity may be present, and the dog fails to adapt and resorts to abnormal behavior.

Genetic susceptibility

You will remember that dogs are sensitive to sounds and touch. Some of them are oversensitive and may be said to have a genetic susceptibility. This susceptibility is usually related to a metabolic disturbance in the dog’s nervous system. This is the one factor contributing to abnormal behavior that cannot be controlled. You can do something about the other three.

It should be pointed out here that we are not trying to make a “dog psychologist” out of you, if there is such a profession. Rather, our intention is to acquaint you with the causes of abnormal behavior and what—if anything—can be done about it. Diagnosing the exact cause of your dog’s abnormal behavior may often be beyond your abilities. But by knowing what contributes toward abnormal behavior and some of its examples, you can take steps to prevent it. Or you can at least see to it that your dog is not placed in a situation or environment that will ultimately lead to abnormal behavior.

Fortunately, you can do quite a bit about most cases of abnormal behavior. You have control of the dog’s environment and may often be in the position of rearranging it if it is contributing to your dog’s abnormal behavior. In many cases, you can provide a means of escape from the stimuli that are causing overexcitement. For instance, if the telephone overexcites the dog, you can tone down the bell or change over to a signal light while you are away from home. In general, you can work toward decreasing or eliminating over-excitement, providing a means of escape and offering substitutes, whenever possible.

Now, let us examine some of the types of abnormal behavior that may occur under city, suburban and country conditions.

Your Complete Guide to Dog Care and Dog Training.