Why Does My Dog Lick Constantly?

26 Jul 2017 | Filed in Dog Problems

Q: I have a question about dog anxiety. My Rottweiler, Bailey, licks compulsively. It seems like he just can’t relax. Is there something I can do to help him chill out?

I have been considering taking him to the vet, but don’t want him to have to take a sedative. Any suggestions?

A: I would definitely take your Rottweiler to the vet. First, you want to rule out licking because of allergies or injury.

ThinkstockIt may be an obsessive-compulsive behavior, and there have been drugs developed in the last few years that have helped dogs with OCD considerably.

Some repetitive behaviors are made worse because the dog uses them as attention-seeking behaviors. Some dogs find negative attention to be more rewarding than being ignored.

However, before we consider the licking to be attention-seeking behavior, you want to rule out the other reasons first.

Why Dogs Bite

27 Nov 2016 | Filed in Dog Problems

Every year in the United States, 800,000 dog bites are severe enough to need medical treatment; 17 are fatal. Fifty percent of all American children are bitten by a dog before the age of 13. Literally every dog has the potential to bite. Luckily for us, most don’t. Understanding what causes this phenomenon might help you to avoid becoming next year’s dog-bite statistic. The following are six common reasons why dogs bite.

ThinkstockDominance aggression

In cases of dogs who bite due to dominance aggression, members of the dog’s human family are most often the victims. Innocently attempt to move a dog off the bed to change the linens; push down on his rump to ensure compliance with a sit command; step over a dog who’s resting inconveniently in the doorway and the dog erupts in a “you’d better not do that” vocal warning, followed by a bite.

In each situation, the dog believes that he is in charge – that his humans have not earned the status to tell him what to do. Dominance aggression is most commonly – but not exclusively – seen in unneutered males and in confident breed types, such as rottweilers, chow chows, Lhasa apsos, English springer spaniels, Old English sheepdogs and Rhodesian ridgebacks, to name but a few. Obedience training as early as possible can abate a dog’s tendency toward dominance aggression, but dogs who are naturally and intractably dominant aggressive must be closely monitored and kept clear of situations known to trigger the negative behavior. Hollywood trainer Shelby Marlo, author of “Shelby Marlo’s New Art of Dog Training: Balancing Love and Discipline,” states, “Management is underrated. There is nothing wrong with knowing the dog’s limitations and living within those boundaries.”

Protection of valuables

The protectiveness some people seek when acquiring a dog can prove to be a liability. Some dogs believe the only way to protect their valuables is through an act of aggression. A dog’s list of valuables may include food, toys, territory (a house or a car) or even their human family members. Dogs have been known to “protect” one family member from another, driving crying children away from their mothers or chasing amorous husbands out of bedrooms.

The protection of territory is most often seen in males of guarding/herding breeds, such as German shepherds and rottweilers, while certain cocker spaniels and Labrador retrievers – females more often than males – put on ferocious displays over toys and chewies resulting in punishing bites to hands and faces.

Again, early training and/or lifelong management are the only solutions.

Fear aggression

The fear aggression response is most often directed toward strangers. Veterinarians learn early in their careers: when in doubt, muzzle. Like people, dogs are naturally fearful of unfamiliar and potentially threatening situations. A dog raised in a quiet adult household will be distraught by noisy, fast-moving youngsters. The dog may bark and lunge to drive them away and deliver a stinging nip to children who do not heed the warning.

There is no particular breed or gender predilection for fear aggression, but these biters commonly lack early socialization to a wide variety of people and experiences. ASPCA Vice President of Behavioral Medicine, Amy Marder, V.M.D., states that “with a dedicated owner and a responsive dog, fear aggression can be greatly improved.”

Maternal aggression

The first two to three weeks after a female dog gives birth, her puppies rely on her for all they need to survive: warmth, nutrition, stimulation to prompt elimination and protection. Even the most outgoing, well-trained dog may show signs of maternal aggression if she feels her newborns are at risk. No training is indicated here, rather an awareness of the new mother’s innate need for a safe space. By limiting visitors to the whelping box to one to two adult family members during those first couple of weeks, the new mother will stay relaxed and focused on the job at hand. There will be plenty of time for socialization once the pups’ eyes are open and they are toddling about under their own steam.

Redirected aggression

An attempt to break up a dog fight is the most common scenario for this category of biting. Two canine opponents are barking, posturing and biting at each other when all of a sudden hands reach in and grab at collars, tails and hind legs. The adrenaline-pumped dogs blindly whip around and land oral blows to body parts of the interrupters.

Fights are best broken up by loud noises or strong blasts of water when available. However, sometimes that is not enough. If you must lay hands on fighting dogs, stay as far away from the mouth as possible and move swiftly and decisively.

Pain-induced aggression

While pain-sensitive breeds like Chihuahuas are common perpetrators, any dog may bite if hurting, depending on the degree of pain. An otherwise gentle dog will bite a beloved owner’s hand trying to soothe, bandage or examine wounds. Like us, each dog has a unique pain threshold and tolerance. A sweet floppy-eared dog suffering from otitis externa may bite on getting his ears tousled; a dog with hip dysplasia may turn on a handler pressing down on his hips to enforce the sit command.

Of course, any dog can be provoked to bite by overly zealous physical disciplining.

Pestered beyond limits

There are dog biting incidents that don’t fit into the aforementioned categories. Perhaps a new category is required, called “Pestered Beyond Limits.” Bites in this category are often prompted by children (or adults) who simply don’t understand that even a dog has limits. Hug a sleeping dog, blow puffs of air in his face, put a rubber banded knee-sox on his nose to turn him into an “elephant dog,” ride him like a pony, stuff him inside a pillowcase just to see if he’ll fit, poke, prod, tickle him, and sooner or later, the dog will say “NO!” the only way he knows how – through a bite.

There are three keys to bite prevention: learn to understand canine behavior, take the time to socialize and train all dogs – the younger the better – and teach children to respect all dogs, starting with their furry buddies at home. With this accomplished, there is no telling how low bite statistics can go.

If you are approached by a menacing dog:

do not attempt to run

stay quiet, and remember to breathe

be still, with arms at sides or folded over chest with hands in fists

avoid eye contact

The Dog And The Meter Reader

In 1997, the safety division of Con Edison, New York City’s utility supplier, set a goal of a 20 percent reduction in worker accidents for 1998. By October, they were on target in every category except dog bites, having surpassed 1997′s 24 bites in the third quarter. Bernard Duffy, project specialist for Environmental Health and Safety, and The ASPCA worked together to create a mandatory half-hour program for all Con Edison customer field representatives. The program aimed at preventing utility worker/dog interactions and minimizing injury should an interaction take place.

Field worker Edwin Gomez credits this ASPCA Bite Prevention Workshop for saving him from a serious injury. Upon arriving at a customer’s home to read the electric meter, Edwin Gomez followed Con Edison’s company policy, and requested that the family dog be secured in another room. That done, Gomez went to work. Before he finished, however, the dog escaped from isolation, flew at Gomez and grabbed his arm.

Fortunately, Gomez remembered the advice he learned at the Bite Prevention Workshop: “If bitten, push into the dog’s mouth instead of pulling away.” And push he did, using his flashlight against his arm for added pressure. Sensing he was no longer in control of the bite, the dog let go and ran away, leaving Gomez shaken but with no more than a couple of small punctures in his sleeve and a sore arm from the tetanus shot he got “just in case.” At last count, dog bite incidents were reduced by more than 50 percent from last year.

How to Stop Dog Mouthing

25 Jul 2016 | Filed in Dog Problems

ThinkstockYou might think of mouthing as being a behavior exclusive to young puppies, but some overexcited mature dogs do it, too.

What is Mouthing?

“Mouthing is when a dog puts his teeth and mouth over a person’s skin while using little or no pressure from his jaw, says dog trainer and expert Mikkel Becker onVetstreet.com. “It’s not to be mistaken for aggressive biting, which is done out of fear or frustration.”

While mouthing may not be an aggressive behavior, it’s still frustrating and your dog could unintentionally hurt or scare someone, or the behavior could escalate into a bite.

Certified pet behaviorist and author Amy Shojai suggests using a two-pronged approach to curbing your dog’s mouthing behavior, starting with teaching “bite inhibition.”

Bite Inhibition

“Bite inhibition is a dog’s ability to control the force of nipping and mouthing,” according to Vetstreet.com. “A dog who hasn’t learned bite inhibition doesn’t recognize the sensitivity of human skin, so the dog nips and mouths too hard, even when playing.”

Puppies and young dogs typically learn bite inhibition during play with other dogs, according to author and dog expert Jennifer Bridell. When dogs play, they frequently use their mouths. If one dog bites too hard, the bite victim yelps and stops playing. This usually gives the biting dog pause. This is how dogs learn to control the force of their bites. Biting too hard means play time stops, and no one wants that to happen.

Amy Shojai recommends people use a similar approach when trying to teach their dog bite inhibition . The basic idea is to reward the desired behavior and redirect or ignore the unwanted behavior. This training will take patience and time, and the best results might come with working with a Certified Professional Dog Trainer or behaviorist.

Teaching Bite Inhibition

People can use strategies similar to puppy play to teach their dogs bite inhibition:

Allow your dog to mouth you during playtime.

Continue playtime until he bites hard.

When he bites hard, let out a puppy-style yelp, and then promptly stop “playing” by letting your hand go limp.

This should cause your dog to pause. When he does, praise him enthusiastically and resume play as normal.

Repeating this over and over should help him get the message. If it doesn’t, you can introduce brief time outs by stopping play all together and walking away after you yelp. After 20 seconds or so of calm behavior from your cutie, return to him and play with him again. This helps teach him that painful play is “bad,” and gentle play is “good.” Gentle play buys him more playtime, while painful play ends it. No fun there.

Continue this sequence. You should notice your dog’s bites progressively getting gentler and gentler – until they have little to no pressure.

After you’ve helped your dog learn to be gentle with his mouth, it’s time to teach him not to mouth people at all.

Teach Your Dog to Stop Mouthing

The experts at Vetstreet.com recommend the following techniques for getting your dog to stop mouthing you and other people:

Substitute a toy or chew bone when your dog mouths.

When you stroke your dog, offer him tasty treats from your other hand to discourage mouthing you as you pet him.

Encourage non-tactile games like tug-of-war instead of rough play , such as wrestling.

Help your dog learn to manage his impulses through activities such as “Leave it” and “Sit.”

If your dog likes to “ambush” your feet or ankles, stop moving as soon as he does this. Then, distract him with a toy. When he grabs the toy, continue moving.

Provide your dog with regular playtime sessions alongside other well-behaved canines. This can tire him out and make him less interested in strenuous play (and therefore mouthing behaviors) with you.

Rescue Dog Behavior Problems

26 Nov 2015 | Filed in Dog Problems

Bringing home a rescue dog changes that pup’s entire life in a profound way, but that also means a few changes in your life. Because of the horrible past experiences many rescue dogs go through, they sometimes bring along a few problematic behaviors and tendencies with them. But with enough time and training, you can correct even the worst behaviors.

Trust and Anxiety Issues

There are some cases where rescue dogs immediately warm up to their new owners, giving lots of kisses and love. But many pups who are rescued have moderate to severe trust and anxiety issues, and it’s no wonder. Some of these dogs have been tossed out in the cold, others dealt with long-term abuse and some lived in horrible conditions, surrounded by their own waste. They’ve been dealt a pretty bad hand in life, and they haven’t had a good reason to trust anyone or anything. They’re worried about how their new owners will treat them and what they will encounter. How they act depends largely on their past experiences. If a pup suffered abuse at the hand of a man, she may be more trusting of women and flee to her secure spot if a guy comes within five feet of her. And sometimes the dog may not trust anyone, shying away from all interaction.

Irrational Fears

A lot of times, rescue dogs haven’t experienced anything aside from neglect. The first time you brighten one’s life and bring her home, she’s seeing and hearing things that can be really scary at first. You would think every dog loves squeakers, or at least tolerates them, but dogs who’ve never had toys before may freak out when they hear that first squeak. On the flip side, there are certain stimuli that a rescue dog may have associated with negative experiences. A classic example is a newspaper. It’s harmless in your hand, but your new furry friend may have been smacked with newspapers before, so when you lift one up, she cowers.


It’s not uncommon to bring your little rescue girl home and hear a deep growl when you walk past her food bowl, struggle to keep her from lunging and sinking her teeth into another dog or otherwise witness aggression. Something usually triggers the aggressive episodes. If she grew up in a hoarding situation, she may have had to compete for food, which would explain possession aggression. If she was neglected, she may act aggressively out of fear. Even though you removed her from her awful situation, her aggressive tendencies still remain. She doesn’t know that another dog won’t steal her food or that she doesn’t need to fight for her life upon encountering another canine.

Bad Habits

Some rescue dogs may not have any trust issues, few irrational fears and not an ounce of aggression, but you can almost guarantee they’ll all have bad habits. The first few weeks, months or even years with your new rescue will probably result in you trying to break some of those nasty habits. She may jump on people, rip up the couch, destroy things when you leave, relieve herself on your floor and may act like she’s deaf when you try to stop her.

Fixing All the Issues

Remember that no matter what problems your rescue comes with, she can be trained and counterconditioned so that all those bad habits, aggressive tendencies, fears and trust issues will go by the wayside. Showing her lots of love and teaching her basic obedience with positive reinforcement will help her warm up to you and mold her into a better behaved canine. As for deep-seated fears, aggression and severe behavior problems, talk to a certified dog trainer, especially if she’s aggressive.

How to Tell If Your Pregnant Dog Is Having Problems Giving Birth?

25 Oct 2015 | Filed in Dog Problems

When your sweet pregnant dog goes into labor, it’s extremely important for you to be available to help her, should she need you to notify a veterinarian for any reason. Although many canine deliveries go smoothly and successfully, some complications can occasionally arise. The easier you can recognize a tough whelping experience, or “dystocia,” the better.


Your pregnant dog might be experiencing birthing difficulties if you notice any conspicuous genital discharge prior to any of the youngsters emerging. If her body is giving off a substance that is black, green or brown, contact a veterinarian immediately. Extended vaginal bleeding during birthing also points to a problem, so do the same in that situation, too.

Lack of Moving Forward

A lack of development and moving forward in labor also usually signifies a problem. If a mama-to-be has been trying hard to birth her puppies for around 40 minutes with no sign of any of them, there could be an issue. Excessively long amounts of time between puppies also often indicates a problem. If her previous newborn came out between two and three hours ago and she’s still making a serious effort to get the rest out, immediately contact your veterinarian.

Relaxation Time

If your dog decides to take a break between birthing her puppies, pay close attention to the amount of time she spends taking it easy. If you observe that she’s been relaxing for more than four hours, it’s time to get a helping hand and let your veterinarian know what’s going on. If it’s clear to you that your dog is suffering with discomfort in any way, don’t ignore it.

Unusual Signs

Any unusual physical signs also can denote whelping issues. If the pregnant doggie is breathing with her mouth hanging open, there could be a problem. Shivering is another key sign of a problem. Be alert to any and all indications of malaise.


Any female dog can undergo complications during pregnancy, whether younger or older, small breed or large breed. However, canines of certain breeds are often more susceptible to dystocia and its associated dilemmas. These breeds include shih tzus, Boston terriers and French bulldogs. Brachycephalic pooches such as these are particularly vulnerable. Brachycephalic dogs are those with somewhat wide and “flattened”-looking visages.

Do Lighter-Colored Dogs Have More Skin Problems Than Darker-Colored Dogs?

24 Sep 2015 | Filed in Dog Problems

Just as there are hundreds of shapes, sizes and breeds of dogs, there are many variations in the color of their coats. Coat color affects more than appearance. The degree of coloration of his coat could possibly have an impact on a dog’s likelihood of developing certain skin conditions.


Variations in coat color result from the amount of pigment a dog produces, which is determined by genetics. Dark-colored dogs produce more pigment than lighter dogs; white coat color results from a complete lack of pigment production. Even dogs of the same breed can have wide variations in their coat colors depending on their genetic make-up. Chocolate, black, and yellow Labradors, for instance, are often all born in the same litter.

Coat Color and Skin Health

Your dog can be affected by a variety of skin diseases, such as infections, immune-mediated processes and skin allergies. Although no evidence says dogs with lighter coat colors are more prone to any of these types of skin diseases when compared with dogs with darker coats, in one category color variation becomes important. A difference exists in the risk of developing skin cancer between light- and dark-coated dogs. Dogs with lighter coat colors experience more sun damage to their skin and therefore are at higher risk of developing skin cancers that result from sun exposure. In an interesting twist, dogs with dark coats are more at risk of developing melanoma, which is a tumor that arises from the cells that produce pigmentation.

Sun-Induced Skin Cancer

The three most common types of skin cancer in dogs that can develop from sun exposure include hemangiomas, hemangiosarcomas and squamous cell carcinomas. These tumors are most commonly diagnosed in dogs with light or white coats in areas where sun exposure is greatest. The most common locations are on the belly and inner thighs in dogs who like to “sunbathe” on their backs, and on the face around the nose and eyes. These tumors may appear as raised lumps or masses on the skin, as flat areas of discoloration, or similar to a blood blister. The behavior of these tumors can vary from benign to malignant. Have any suspicious lesions checked by your veterinarian.

Treatment and Prevention

Although your particular dog’s coat color may not make him more susceptible to certain skin conditions, have your veterinarian examine any abnormal areas of the coat, itchiness or other problems your dog may have related to his skin. If your dog is diagnosed with a suspected skin tumor, your veterinarian will make recommendations about treatment. If your dog develops a sun-related tumor or you have a furry friend with a light coat, your veterinarian may recommend preventative measures such as dog-friendly sunscreen, protective clothing or minimizing your pup’s time outside during times when sun exposure is highest.

Dogs Who Have Trouble Getting Up After Lying Down

26 Aug 2015 | Filed in Dog Problems

Dogs are very good at coping with pain and mobility problems. This is why it’s often hard to detect problems until they become severe. They shift their weight or alter their gait to make walking less painful, and of course they can’t tell us they’re in pain. So difficulty getting up after a period of stillness is often the first sign that your dog has a problem. By figuring out the cause and putting together a treatment plan, you can help your dog cope with whatever problem is causing him to struggle.

Common Medical Causes

Lameness caused by injury or disease, hip dysplasia and arthritis are common causes of mobility issues in dogs, and if present would likely cause difficulty in getting up. Old age is another cause. A combination of joint wear and muscle weakness can make standing after prolonged immobility painful or difficult.

Other Medical Causes

Lyme disease, which is caused by a tick bite, can cause limb lameness. Obesity, especially in older dogs, can make it difficult to get up after lying down too. Panosteitis (bone inflammation), bone cancer and nerve inflammation can also make getting up difficult.

Other Causes

Injury to the paw, paw pads or legs can cause your dog to struggle when getting up. If your dog’s symptoms are sudden, it is probable that he has an injury rather than a joint or age-related mobility problem. Broken nails, lacerations to the paw pads and ligament injuries will make it difficult for your dog to get up.

Determining the Cause

Look at other symptoms and changes in behavior. For example, an elderly dog who is reluctant to play, less active in general, has gained weight and struggles to get up after lying down is likely to have arthritis. An otherwise active dog who suddenly has difficulty getting up after lying down may have an injury. Examine the paws and legs. If your dog has been urinating more than normal, Lyme disease may be the cause. It’s helpful to give your veterinarian as much information as possible, so be vigilant if you notice your dog struggling to get up.

Ways You Can Help

Gentle massage can help relieve joint pain in dogs. Always consult a professional for advice before giving a massage. For dogs with arthritis, carrying too much weight compounds the problem. Prevent your dog from gaining weight and help him shed some fat if he’s already overweight by monitoring his portion size and reducing it if necessary. Your vet will be able to advise further on weight management. Certain foods also help with mobility problems. Cod liver oil contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids for joint relief. You can also help reduce joint stiffness and pain by making sure your dog’s sleeping area is warm and dry. Keep a close eye on your dog and physically support him when he tries to get up after lying down.


A young, otherwise healthy dog with hip dysplasia may be a suitable candidate for a hip replacement. Your vet will determine his suitability by examining his hips with X-rays. For arthritic dogs, an anti-inflammatory drug treatment plan can help.

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