Does your dog enjoy barking at things out the window? How about stopping every three feet on walks to smell things? Or perhaps they love digging huge holes in your backyard? What if we told you that these are all completely normal canine behaviors? That’s right, barking, digging, humping… all completely normal behaviors for dogs.
Barking - There’s only one breed of dog that doesn’t bark, which means your dog most likely has that ability. And they’re probably going to use it. Barking serves multiple functions for a dog - it can be a warning, attention-seeking, play barking, frustration-based, or even out of boredom. While barking can be loud and annoying, your dog is performing a completely normal canine behavior. Luckily, consistent, positive training can help with barking.
Chewing - Destructive chewing is an understandably frustrating behavior… but it’s also completely normal. Dog’s aren’t automatically born with the knowledge of what makes an appropriate chew toy, so it’s up to their owners to teach them what items are appropriate, and which are off limits. This behavior can become abnormal if it is related to separation anxiety (dogs who become so agitated when their owners leave that they chew and destroy items around the house, or even windows or doors). It is also abnormal if your dog chews and then ingests non-edible objects (which can cause intestinal blockages).
Humping - This one can be embarrassing, especially if your dog decides they want to hump your dinner guest’s leg, or all of the dogs at the dog park. This can be normal, especially for intact (un-neutered or un-spayed) dogs. It can also be a form of play, especially in undersocialized dogs. Sometimes it can also be a response to stress or excitement. While neutering often helps reduce this behavior in intact animals, some dogs will always have a tendency to mount other dogs (or people). Luckily, this can be managed with training and behavior modification.
Digging - Do you have a dog who digs? Some dogs find digging tons of fun, and will gleefully dig through your flowerbeds if given the chance. While annoying, especially if you really enjoy your garden, this one is mostly harmless, unless your dog is digging its way out from under your fence. Giving them an alternate place to dig (like a sandbox or designated dirt area) can be very enriching for your dog!
Food Guarding - Food can be a valuable resource for a dog, so it’s no wonder that some dogs react when other animals or people get near them during mealtime. Oftentimes this can be easily dealt with with simple management. Other times, like if there are small children in the house, training may be needed to teach the dog that humans approaching their food isn’t cause for concern.
Aggression - Aggression? Normal? Absolutely. Dog’s aren’t aggressive just for the sake of being aggressive - there is almost always something driving that behavior. Often, it is based in fear, and the dog is reacting to an external stimulus (such as receiving a vaccine at the vet). Understanding what is happening to cause that behavior can help us determine how to deal with this behavior. Dogs can behavior in an aggressive manner for any number of reasons - they can be fearful, in pain, territorial, defensive, protective, or even predatory (like a dog chasing down a rabbit). Training and behavior modification can go a long way in dealing with aggression. This behavior becomes abnormal when there are no stimuli driving the behavior (or when there is seemingly no reason for it). Cases of aggression are often referred to a Veterinary Behaviorist for management.