Dog Behaviour & Health

See also Safety with Humans

Warning Signs and the Behavior of Chronic Pain and Dog Arthritis

If you notice any of the following warning signs in your dog, you may be able to detect the onset of dog arthritis and take steps of early intervention:

  • Reluctance to play, walks, climbs stairs or jump

  • Yelping or whimpering when touched

  • Lagging behind on walks

  • Limping

  • Difficulty rising from a resting position

  • Stiffness when rising from rest

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older dogs byron dog rescue

As with humans, pain has a major influence upon mood and the temperament in dogs and some animals will show this as aggression. Behavioral changes associated with pain in dogs include:

  • Avoidance behaviors

  • Changes in social behavior

  • Any new behavior that is self protective

  • Restlessness

  • Weakness

  • Dog responds slowly to verbal commands

  • Listlessness

  • Body stiffening and staring

  • Growling

  • Snapping

  • Biting

*If your dog displays any of these behavioral changes it is most likely in pain and will need to see a vet as soon as possible for some pain relief and advise.


Thunderstorms by Dr Joanne Righetti

Thunderstorms and fireworks are common triggers of anxiety in dogs. Typical behaviours seen in response to these noisy events include:

You can help your dog cope with thunderstorms by trying some of the following:

  • Hiding in sheltered dark spots like under the house or your bed

  • Trying to escape from the yard or pacing the fence

  • Howling or barking

  • Trembling, shaking

  • Seeking reassurance from owner

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  • Give your dog an appropriate hiding spot, preferably as far away from the sounds as possible

  • Leave your lights on and a radio in the background to make the flashes and bangs less noticeable for your dog

  • Get your dog used to other noises in his life by creating them around your house and garden or by playing cds of noises. There is one specifically created to help with noise phobias called “Sounds Scary”, available from vets. This should be started long before storm season for best results.

  • Do not reassure your dog too much. Act as if everything is normal instead of patting your dog and he will be reassured that he is safe.

  • If the problem is severe, then you may need to consider veterinary medication.

Seperation Anxiety

Home Alone

When a dog is left alone he is often comforted by certain things an owner can do to make his time alone less stressful. These include:

And Home Together

It is useful for owners to teach their dog to accept being alone. The following can help:

  • Scaling down the hellos and goodbyes. Leave quietly and with minimum fuss and be home for a couple of minutes before responding to the dog.

  • Changing owner’s routine so that the grab bag, switch off lights, grab keys routine is not a signal to the dog to start getting stressed. Vary the routine each time you go out and sometimes perform the routine when not actually going anywhere.

  • Giving the dog a “job” to do while you are out. This is usually best determined by the dog’s motivation for toys, food or other forms of stimulation. Most dogs will happily be occupied by a Treat ball, stuffed with tasty treats. To make these extra special, use only treats that are saved for this occasion. Then being alone becomes a positive event.

  • Take the toys away again when human is home. Again this saves the fun for when home alone.

  • Consider creating a “den-like” area for your dog. A quiet and dark area eg under a bed or table, can help a dog feel more secure. Simply restricting the area available can make many dogs feel more secure.

  • Leave a radio on, playing talk-back radio or classical music will settle many dogs.

  • Leave your dog with an object or place that smells of you. NB. Remember that many dogs, especially young ones, will chew so be careful with any precious belongings.

  • Have calming scents around your house. Lavender can calm dogs down so sprinkle some essential oils around. DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) is a synthesized version of a canine pheromone that helps keep dogs calm – a diffuser that is available from your vet.

  • Leave your dog when he is tired. Take him for a walk prior to leaving him alone. Also stimulate his brain by doing some obedience training. This may be as simple as teaching him to sit. Dogs also enjoy games with toys or playing hide-and-seek with their owners. All these exercises tire a dog’s body and brain and they are more likely to settle after their owner’s departure. Give the dog time to calm down before leaving.

  • While you are home, leave the dog for short periods alone. Gradually build up the periods of time. Start at 30secs if this is all the dog can cope with and gradually build up to 30mins or more.

  • Only respond to your dog when he/she is quiet. Responding to unwanted behaviour will only reinforce that particular behaviour. Ignore unwanted behaviour and reward the “good”.

  • Leave the dog with a “job” to do – a toy or some treats to find will keep him occupied for a short time (more time-consuming treats for longer times). This may need to be your dog’s favourite snack eg. cheese, as it needs to be very motivating. It should not be fed to the dog at any other time.

  • Try crate training: the crate becomes that “security” blanket – the “den” where the dog feels safe. It must NEVER be used as punishment.

  • Look at your leadership role. Are you being an effective leader or is the dog ruling the household. Introduce commands, feed the dog after asking him to “sit”, decide where dog can sit/sleep and demand attention on your terms (not your dog’s) are all ways to gain the status of leadership. Dogs with effective leaders feels more secure and understand their role in the household.

  • Get consistency among all human members of the household and others who come into contact with your dog, in their treatment of the dog.

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Why Dogs Bark

It is important to understand that dogs bark for various reasons. They do not bark just to annoy you and your neighbours, nor do they bark for spite or revenge. Dogs don’t bark just because they can (though it might seem that way at times). Certain dog breeds bark more than others – some types of dogs were actually bred to be barkers. Then again, the Basenji does not bark at all (though the breed can vocalize in other ways). If you listen closely, you will eventually learn your dog’s different barks. Understanding the reason why your dog barks is the first step towards controlling the behaviour. In general, dogs will most commonly bark for the following reasons:

Prevent and Stop Excessive Barking

Once you determine the cause of your dog’s excessive barking, you can begin to control the behaviour. The best way to prevent excessive barking in the first place is to try and remove any potential sources of the behaviour. You also want to be certain not to inadvertently encourage the barking. Finally, give her better things to do besides barking.

  • Warning/Alert: It is natural for a dog to bark when someone is a the door or when strangers pass the house or car. Many will bark if they sense some type of threat, proclaiming “I’m here protecting this place so don’t mess with me.” The sound of this bark is usually sharp, loud and authoritative. Honing this instinct with training can help protect your home and family.

  • Anxiety: Anxious barking often seems to be an act of self-soothing for many dogs. It is often high-pitched and sometimes accompanied by whining. This type of barking is common for dogs with separation anxiety.

  • Playfulness/Excitement: This type of barking is especially common in puppies and young dogs. Many dogs will bark while playing with people or other dogs. Even the sound of the bark tends to sound upbeat and possibly musical. Some dogs will bark excitedly when they know they are about to go for a walk or car ride.

  • Attention-seeking: When you hear this bark, you will usually know just what it means. This bark says “Hey! Hey! Look! Here I am!” Other dogs may whine and bark together to get attention, almost like the tone of a whining child.

  • Boredom: The bark of a bored dog sounds like a dog that barks just to hear her own voice. Though it tends to be annoying, it is also kind of sad. Bored dogs often bark to release excess energy, and sometimes bark out of loneliness. They usually need an activity and perhaps even a companion.

  • Responding to Other Dogs: other dogs in the neighbourhood can set off a cacophony.

  • Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise so there is not as much pent-up energy to burn by barking.

  • Avoid leaving a lonely dog alone for long periods of time if possible.

  • Never comfort, pet, hug or feed your dog when she is barking for attention or out of anxiety – that would be rewarding the behaviour, thus encouraging it.

  • Shouting at your dog to stop barking does not help. It may actually cause her to bark even more.

  • Be careful with punishments like shock collars. They are painful and many dogs will learn to test them and eventually work around them.

  • Try to get her attention with a clap or whistle. Once she is quiet, redirect her attention to something productive and rewarding – like a toy or treat.

  • After getting your dog’s attention, practice basic commands, like sitstay and down in order to shift her focus.

  • DO NOT let your dog bark constantly outside, regardless of the reason. You can hardly train her to stop barking by yelling at her across the yard. Plus, it is one of the fastest ways to turn neighbours into enemies and send an invitation to your local rangers.

  • Train your dog to be quiet by positive reinforcement.

  • Consult your veterinarian and/or trainer if you continue to face barking issues despite your best efforts.

Local dog trainers

Barco – community dog training based in the north of Byron Shire. Email  Phone 0429 518 817 or 0447 975 201.

Barco is a voluntary not for profit organisation who run dog obedience classes to teach people how to be responsible dog owners. Training sessions are each Sunday morning starting at 9am at Brunswick Heads sports fields.  If you are fostering a Byron Dog Rescue dog the training is free for that dog.  For all other dog owners, once the $20 yearly registration fee is paid, the only other cost is only $5 each time you attend training.