Why Do Some Dogs Become Neurotic?

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
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Why do some dogs become neurotic? In other words, why do some dogs develop anxiety and avoidance behaviors?

Do you have a dog that engages in repeating patterns of behavior that have no apparent function, such as: hyper vigilance / territoriality, excessive licking, chewing, obsessive / compulsive behaviors, barking, rubbing on things, digging, pacing, irritability, banging against things, marking, excessive fear or aggression, separation anxiety, or some other strange behavior?

This is what a dog behaviorist is for. What we do is puzzle out why your dog is feeling stressed and come up with a solution.

I worked with three such situations yesterday. The first was with a student who has 3 dogs: a male Pug, female Bullmastiff, and a female pit bull mix. Twice in the past year, for apparently no reason, the two female dogs have gotten into a serious, bloody dog fight. The second situation was a Shiba Inu mix with separation anxiety, trapping itself in rooms, closing the door, and then scratching the door up if the owner leaves the house for work. The third was for a married couple with a 17 month old boy, a male Husky and a male Australian Shepherd mix. The Husky is growling at the child, and then hiding in another room in his crate when the child is awake and moving about the house. The Husky has already nipped the child on the finger. This is a dangerous situation.

Many dog owners will attempt to just deal with the symptoms of the problem. In the first instance, the owners tried yelling at the dogs, hitting them, spraying a hose on the dogs, and eventually separating them in the home by baby gates. In the third instance, the owners tuned into a TV show hosted by a celebrity dog trainer and tried to dominate the dog when it growled. Neither “solution” worked.

In the second circumstance, the owner didn’t know what to do, so he called me for help. That was the right thing to do.

In all of these types of circumstances, the dogs were in an impossible situation. Dogs start doing extreme behaviors to cope with, and to defend themselves from, the stresses they are encountering, and in how they are being managed by their owners.

So, I set out a different management plan for each dog. I had to change how the dogs were being managed, trained, handled, supervised and so forth. That is the only humane way to stop these behaviors.

I feel bad for a lot of dogs and dog owners in these circumstances. Their dogs are in trouble, sometimes to the point that the dogs are put to death. All sorts of amateurish solutions are attempted, even by so-called professional dog trainers. Lots of stupid, do it yourself, advice is available in books and on the internet. For example, for dogs that are digging in the yard, you’ll hear ideas such as burying feces in the holes, or filling them with large rocks, or that the dog is “hunting” for rodents (in places of the yard where there aren’t even rodent holes or tunnels) so you need to put out traps, and so forth. Of course, none of these ideas work. Or the dog is overly territorial, to the point that the dog is dangerous for anyone entering the home or yard. So, the owners watch TV dog shows, and start rolling their dogs on their sides or backs, and pinning them there, “shh”-ing their dogs when they growl, and so forth. Of course, none of that cures the problems, and if these dogs do bite someone, the dogs are put to death.

If you are getting those kinds of solutions from your trainer, then you know your trainer doesn’t know what they are doing. And you should fire them and find someone better.

Dogs become neurotic because we mismanage them. Change how you manage the dog, and you can change these extreme, crazy behaviors. A good dog behaviorist can show you how.

Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.