Doggie Dunce Caps: Bad Behavior or Serious Medical Issue?

Doggie Dunce Caps: Bad Behavior or Serious Medical Issue?

Have you ever found freshly dug holes in your backyard? Or bits of your favorite chair strewn across your den? Are you the proud parent of a canine that greets your guests by repeatedly jumping on them? Does your furry friend beg at the table, bark incessantly or strategically deposit her poo next to the dining room table? Simply put, if your dog could star in a film entitled “Dogs Gone Wild”, then you share a common complaint among dog lovers worldwide: frustrating behavioral problems.

There is one thing that unites all behavioral problems - they are undesirable to the pet parent. Behavioral problems are the most common complaint received by veterinarians at annual exam time. Whatever the complaint - whether it’s barking, chewing, digging, chasing, biting or aggression - many dogs exhibit problem behaviors. If you’re wondering what could cause these ongoing stresses in your relationship with your canine, you’re not alone.

There are many possible reasons why a dog exhibits bad manners. The easiest and most common explanation is a lack of proper training. Much to the chagrin of some new pet parents, dogs are not born fully trained – it’s up to us to teach them the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Other contributing factors of bad behavior are loneliness and boredom, which is especially common in young dogs of active breeds. Destructive behaviors like hole digging and fence chewing are often physical expressions of cries for attention.

You might be surprised to learn that medical conditions can be at the root of bad behavior. For example, aggressive outbursts might be the result of a serious and painful hip, a broken toe nail or even an infected ear. If your dog has ever snapped at you while you were petting her back or neck, a bulging disc or a pinched nerve might be the culprit. These conditions are extremely painful, and dogs are predisposed to bite when experiencing this level of pain. In fact, aggression and biting are common indicators that your dog is in pain.

In this episode of Pet Talk, Dr. Sarah discusses common medical causes of unacceptable behaviors, what you can do about it, and the kind of training veterinarians recommend.

Comments (3) -

  • bob maddiex

    8/19/2010 3:32:39 PM |

    Bad Behavior

    Currently have three female dogs, the third one was a rescue Golden Ret and she has very aggressive behavior toward all dogs. She has been tested and is in good health. I have seen the behavior specialist from the Univ. of Minn., three different trainers and still the behavior has not changed? She is on Prozac and still attacks my Border Collie who has put her into the e-clinic numerous times. We had gone a year without any incidents but have had 4 during this summer which has caused them to be separated. My Border Collie and other Golden are in agility and with other dogs weekly and they do not show his behavior with other dogs. My pack is the worst combination of three females and something may have happen to this Golden before we adopted her at about 1 year old. On walks she goes after any other dog and sometimes turns that aggression on to her sisters on a walk.
    I have tried everything, she is great with people so she is our family member but I have gone to the emergency room (stitches) on three occasions getting bit breaking up the fights.
    Any suggestions on what to do to resolve these issues, where to go…

  • Jaclyn Phillips

    8/20/2010 6:33:21 AM |

    I have a 3 year old mixed lab breed, that will not sit still when someone comes to the door, no matter what I do!!  She has even made my older lab mix 6, do the same thing!!  HOw can I stop her, and not make her feel badly?  My oldest dog, 14 1/2 doesn't bother anyone!!

    THank you for your time.

    Jaclyn Phillips

  • Kara

    8/22/2010 3:37:30 AM |

    @ bob maddiex:

    It sounds like you have tried all the obvious things as far as behavior modification and making sure your female is healthy.  Sometimes, when we are faced with a seemingly impossible training situation - one of our last measures is to consult an animal communicator.  Yes, as with all things - some are much better than others.  My personal favorite is Dawn Hayman.  Her web site is  However, there are many more out there who are quite good as well.  It would likely give you great insight into at least the "why" of the problem.  And, odd as it may sound - the communicator may be able to reason with her.  I would recommend that if you go this route - please have a long list of questions handy as the session moves pretty quickly.  In fact, we generally only need a 30 minute session.  Most commuicators will allow you to include any of your animals within the same session as if you have any messages or questions for the others you may address those as well.  
    Some communicators may also identify health issues that vets previously hadn't been able to diagnose.  I had a chihuahua once that kept coughing like crazy.  We took her to the vets repeatedly - always trying something else and basically getting nowhere.  It was with the communicator's help - she determined all that was wrong - is that Crystal had a bad sinus infection.  When I relayed that to the vet, we then put her on an antibiotic for a much longer period of time.  She recovered, the cough disappeared and we had no more trouble from the issue.  
    So, I would highly recommend contacting Dawn, or another well known communicator to see what you might could learn.

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