Ask the Trainer: I Don’t Understand My Dog’s Sudden Behavior Change

A reader contacted us after experiencing a sudden and unexplained behavior change in her previously well-behaved five year old dog. Trainer Steve Reid offers advice that will help ANY dog parent faced with an unwelcome behavior change.

Behavior Change

“Hi there,

So I’m wracking my brain to try and understand the cause instead of treating the symptom of my dog’s behavior. I’ve had Bo for about 4 years now (he’s approx. 5 and a half now). When I first rescued him, he had bad separation anxiety (chewing furniture, ripping at doors, climbing out of windows, breaking out of crates), which we resolved over time, and he was acting really well for a long period of time. Over the summer I had a change in work where he had to be left for longer periods of time (he used to come to work with me). All throughout he was wonderful.

Recently, for the last month and a half, he has started to act up again – eating the bathroom garbage, sleeping on my roommate’s bed, getting into my roommate’s vitamins and getting into the bread box. We remove items so that he doesn’t get into them, but that’s treating the symptom, and I want to better treat the cause. I’ve bought him a kong-like chew toy that I put treats in to give him when I leave for work. I walk him 1hr to 1hr and a half a day.

I’m 8 months pregnant currently, I don’t know if it’s him reacting to that change. Like I said he was great during the summer when I was working more/longer, but sometime after visiting my parents on Thanksgiving he’s been really acting up. We have visited them many times, with no issues afterwards.

Any suggestions would be great.” – Violet

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Hi Violet,

This is a very interesting question. I want to start off my commending you on choosing to adopt and for the amazing progress you have already made with your dog! I would venture to say that the change in behavior could have something to do with your pregnancy. Sometimes in a situation like this, it’s difficult to precisely pinpoint the root cause of the issue.

What I tell owners to do when faced with a dynamic situation similar to this, is to go back to basics. When in doubt, revert back to the fundamentals, as they never fail.

Relieving your dog’s pent up energy is an essential component to preventing unwanted behaviors. A mentally and physically satisfied dog will be much happier and less mischievous. In conjunction with giving your dog productive outlets for their mental and physical energy, you must ensure you are providing ample structure in the home. This is why I recommend Guidelines for Dog Owners to every client I help.

Proper crate training and utilization of a crate for when your dog is left home alone is a great idea for many owners. A crate helps keep your dog safe and prevents destructive behaviors when you are not around. Use this article and video to help you get started with Crate Training. The last thing I would do is make sure your dog is reliable with the 5 Obedience Commands to Make Your Life Easier. Not only should this help with the issues you are facing now, but it will be very beneficial for when you have your baby.

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When it comes to a situation like this, there is no one single answer. Rather, we need to take a more holistic approach to address the most important facets that create the best behavior change.

Dog Trainer Steve Reid of S.R. Dog Training, provides at-home dog training in Putnam NY.  To learn more: Also “Like” me on Facebook:

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