Understanding and appreciating the behaviour of dogs underlies everything we do at Dogs Trust. As every dog lover knows, each dog is a unique individual, with their own quirks, delights and challenges! Behaviours develop through a combination of multiple elements including breed, individual personality, medical issues and prior experiences. So understanding why an individual dog develops a problem behaviour can be like a detective mystery - identifying all the different elements which tell his or her story. 

In our re-homing centres we are committed to caring for and rehabilitating dogs which have behaviour problems. In Dogs Trust Dog School our mission is to work with owners to prevent problems developing in the first place!

Understanding your dog

Does 'dominance' have relevance in modern dog behaviour?

The idea that dog behaviour is motivated by 'dominance' has been around for a long time. However, research over the past 20 years suggests that this is not a good way of explaining the behaviour of our dogs. Appreciating how the science has changed and what this means practically is important because the misplaced idea that dogs are trying to achieve status influences how people choose to train and interact with their dogs, and can have a massive impact on welfare. Read on to discover how our understanding of dog behaviour has changed.

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Communication between dogs

When our dogs meet another of their own species, how does each know what the other is thinking? Why do some dogs bark and lunge when they meet other dogs, or try to run away? Why might our dogs want to play with some dogs and not others?

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How do our dogs see us?

When we look at our dog’s eyes gazing in our direction, we might wonder what they are thinking about us. Why do they listen to us sometimes, and not others? Why might they want to cuddle up to us when we are feeling sad, or want to play with us and share our homes?

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Understanding what your dog is telling you

Many of us talk to our dogs, but did you know they do ‘talk’ back to us? Not with words, of course, but their faces and bodies are always showing signals about how they feel and what they would like. Learning what your dog is telling you means you can be a better companion, understand their behaviour better, react as soon as you see a change and have more control when things get challenging

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Behavioural problems

Noise Fears

From the annual ordeal of Fireworks Night to the weekly terror of your vacuum cleaner, frights can come in many forms. Signs of anxiety to look out for in your dog include trembling, barking, and going to the toilet. Dogs often try and seek safety in a hiding place, or cling to their owner for reassurance. Loud noises are a common concern for dog owners – almost half have seen their dog in distress after hearing them. Dogs can become so panicked that they run across roads or get themselves into other hazardous situations. So for your dog’s wellbeing and safety, you should start helping them get used to loud noises from a young age. Check the articles below for some advice about preventing and dealing with fear of loud noises.

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Aggression in dogs is often misunderstood. It’s difficult not to take it personally if your dog growls at you. And it’s upsetting if he or she barks at another dog. In the past, it was thought that dogs became aggressive because they were trying to be ‘dominant’ or achieve social status. But we now know that aggression has nothing to do with status. In fact, in almost every case of aggression the behaviour starts through fear. Just like us, dogs have three options to deal with a scary social situation: indicate that they want to avoid conflict (showing behaviours known as ‘appeasement signals’), avoid contact by withdrawing or hiding, or get the other guy to move away with aggressive signals. Dogs learn which strategy ‘ works’ to avoid the threat, and will be more likely to do the same the next time they are in the same situation.

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Help, my dog has a behaviour problem!

A behaviour problem is really any behaviour shown by a dog that people find a problem! And because people vary in how much they tolerate different behaviours in their dogs, ‘problems’ can range from jumping up to serious aggression. Read on to find out where to go to get help!

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Puppy development & behaviour

Chew-barker? Understanding your puppy's desire to chew

Many pups explore their environment using their mouth and teeth, just as we would our eyes and hands. Chewing is a natural way for dogs to experience the world around them. In your puppy’s eyes, the world is their chew toy! Unfortunately, this includes electrical cables and your favourite furniture. But don’t punish your pup, this desire to chew is an instinct that’s built into dogs. The urge is particularly strong between the ages of 3-7 months, when your puppy will be teething. As much as you want your puppy to enjoy themselves, it’s important to keep them safe from potential choking hazards, toxic chemicals and electricals. And by intervening early, you can help your puppy build better life-long chewing habits.

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Ouch! Helping your puppy play nicely

Just as we use our hands to explore and interact, puppies use their mouths. This can feel a lot like biting because it hurts, but it is not intended to be an aggressive act, so ‘mouthing’ is a more accurate description. When puppies play with one another, they often use their teeth. But it’s important to teach your pup that the rules are different when interacting with their human friends. This is particularly important if you have babies or small children in your home. Its really important to not shout at or punish your puppy, as they may either get scared or associate mouthing you with getting your attention. Read further to pick up some tips for remaining calm, and teaching your puppy that there are better ways of playing with you!

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Jumping up: encouraging your puppy to keep four paws on the floor!

Puppies jump up because they are so excited to see you, they can hardly contain themselves! They are trying to get closer to your face to get your attention – and very often it works! This behaviour may be sweet when your dog is just a puppy, but as they get bigger it can become more alarming than adorable. So if you’d like to manage your dog’s jumping habit, it’s best to react consistently from day one.

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