dog with ripped up paper

Understanding Dog Behaviour Problems


This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Gillian Hill BVSc (Hons)

Did you know that 1 in 20 of all veterinary visits are due to behaviour issues1? In our modern lives, our dogs are very much a part of our family, which means that we are very aware of their health and behaviour. Behaviour problems such as separation anxiety, barking, aggression and destructiveness can have an enormous impact on the quality of our dog's lives, as well as our wider family life. Because we rely on a dog's body language and behaviour to do the talking for them, getting to the bottom of the issue can take a little detective work. Enlisting the help of your veterinarian, veterinary behaviour specialist and/or positive-reinforcement dog trainer can assist in determining the root cause of the behaviour and ensure that the most appropriate management techniques and medications are applied.


Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Aggressive Dogs

Boredom in Dogs

Escaping Dogs

Further reading

Separation Anxiety in Dogs

pug with sad looking eyes

Did you know that one out of six dogs may suffer from separation anxiety? This type of anxiety occurs when your dog is separated from you for a period of time, and is largely influenced by how we interact with them. In the COVID era, with more of us spending much more time at home with our dogs, the constant attention and interaction they receive can lead to the development of separation anxiety on the occasions when they are left alone.

Signs of Separation Anxiety

Common signs of separation anxiety can include:

  • Barking, whining and vocalising
  • Trembling
  • Drooling
  • Not eating
  • Urinating or defaecating in inappropriate places
  • Digging and other destructive behaviour
  • Trying to escape

Top recommendations for separation anxiety

In addition to behavioural training, our vets recommend the following products to help alleviate separation anxiety:

Shop All Dog Separation Anxiety Aids

Aggressive Dogs

a dog baring teeth

Aggressive behaviour in dogs can have a large number of underlying causes. Often, behaviours originating from fear, frustration and pain can lead to aggression towards other dogs or humans if the dog determines that it is the only way out of the situation. This is why working towards understanding the underlying cause of the behaviour is so important. Because aggressive behaviour can have very serious consequences, it is best to work with your vet or positive-reinforcement dog trainer to determine the cause and most appropriate management of your dog's aggression. Some causes of aggression in dogs are discussed below.

Fear or Nervous Aggression in Dogs

Fear or nervous aggression stems from defensiveness, so this type of behaviour is generally worse when a dog's means of escape is threatened. This is often seen when a dog is restrained on the lead, or at the vet clinic! Fear aggression can also stem from a lack of socialisation with different types of environments, pets, humans and noises at a young age.

Resource Guarding in Dogs

Resource guarding occurs when a dog thinks that the resources it values highly are threatened. This behaviour is instinctual as those dogs who protect their resources in the wild are more likely to survive. Resource guarding is most commonly associated with food and bones, however it can also include toys, attention and sleeping areas. Treatment is aimed at reducing stress for the dog by removing the threat, making the resource less valuable to the dog and training them to associate the removal of their resource with a highly desirable alternative.

Territorial Aggression in Dogs

Territorial aggression occurs when the dog perceives the territory or area as its own and will act to defend it. Commonly associated behaviours include growling, barking, lunging, chasing, snapping and biting. Treatment is aimed at changing the dogs rank in relation to the area.

Dominant Aggression in Dogs

Dominant aggression is very similar to territorial aggression in that the dog perceives its rank to be higher than that of other humans or dogs. In evolutionary terms, this was important as in times of food shortage, the dog that put up a fight and won was the one whose genes were passed on. Like with territorial aggression, treatment is aimed towards changing the dogs perceived rank in comparison to other humans or animals.

Shop Dog Aggression Aids

Boredom in Dogs

dog looking bored

With our modern, busy lifestyles often leaving less time to interact with our dogs, its no wonder that our best mates get bored!

Boredom is often the underlying reason for a number of unwanted behaviours, including:

  • Barking
  • Destructive behaviour like digging and chewing
  • Constantly following you around when you are at home
  • Stereotypies (repetitive behaviours that have no purpose), like tail-chasing
  • Coprophagia (eating poo!)

Top recommendations for boredom-busting toys

Our vets recommend the following long-lasting and interactive toys to keep the boredom away!

Escaping Dogs

puppy looking through crack in door

Just like other behaviours, dogs escape for a number of reasons. Fear, such as storm and firework phobia, frustration, boredom, loneliness, anxiety and seeking a mate can all cause a dog to try to escape.

Understanding the reason behind your dogs desire to escape their home is crucial to keeping them safe and secure. Some ways you can reduce your dog's desire to escape include:

Ensure your fences are secure

It might seem obvious, but ensuring that your fences are suited to keeping your dog in is very important. For smaller breeds, ensure that any small gaps and holes are patched securely with large rocks or wire mesh. For larger breeds, fences at least six feet high are recommended.

Provide plenty of mental and physical stimulation

Try to ensure that you tire your dog out with plenty of exercise before any periods where they will be alone - read through our article to find out how much exercise your dog needs.

Offering them long lasting treats and interactive toys before you leave can help distract them from your departure and keep them entertained while you're away.

Add some calming sound

Turning on the radio or television, or playing some calming music can provide some background noise and alleviate loneliness.

Desex your dog

Desexed dogs are far less likely to escape to search for a mate. Our article - Everything You Need to Know About Desexing - details the other benefits of desexing!

Shop All Dog Escaping Aids

Further reading

cavoodle lying on floor with toys

Importance of healthy pet routines

Caring for your pet during isolation, quarantine or lockdown

What easing Covid restrictions means for pets

Your guide to using Adaptil

Common rescue dog behaviour problems

Shop All Dog Supplies Now


1Animal Medicines Australia (AMA) 2021, accessed 31 Januray 2022, Pets and the Pandemic - A social research snapshot of pets and people in the COVID-19 era,