Addressing common behavior issues in dogs

Does your dog display an odd behavior that you’re not sure how to fix? This Q&A with a professional trainer might shed some light on your situation!

If you rescued your dog, he probably has one or two behavior issues that you just can’t explain. Take a look at the following “odd” behaviors and some recommended solutions.

Q. I have two dogs. One is a lab/pit mix. They have always slept with me, but lately when I move he growls and he has snapped a few times. He is seven years old. When I kick him out of the bedroom he just sits and cries at the door. How can I get him to stop and what has made him start this behavior? –Kelleen

A. Hi Kelleen, I would strongly recommend seeing a professional to take a full history on your dogs. It’s really hard to say what factors could be contributing to his behavior since it can be a multitude of things that are happening in your household, as well as possibly age and medical issues. If this is a brand new behavior and it’s based on movement I would suspect it might be medical, but again it’s impossible to say without taking a full behavioral history. You can visit to find someone near you and I’d also recommend a vet check up, as well.

Q. I have a 12.5 year-old Yorkie mix. She used to be crated at night but she now sleeps in bed with us and this has been going on for a few years. Our problem is she wakes us up most nights sometimes at 1am or 3am to be let out and she does go to the bathroom. If we ignore her she will go to the bathroom in the foyer. Some nights she wakes us up three times in one night. We have tried to put her in her old crate but she will pound on the latch and bark nonstop. This is a tough problem. Any ideas? –Allison

A. Hi Allison, if she is waking up that often during the night, I would suspect she may have a medical issue such as a urinary tract infection. An adult dog, regardless of size, should be able to sleep through the night without needing to eliminate. My first recommendation would be to have her checked out by your veterinarian first.

Q. How do u help a dog not get anxious, or whine and bark at a particular dog? He is okay around most any kind of dog except one, which comes into the office daily. Even when they meet outside he behaves the same. –Nadine

A. Hi Nadine, if your dog is indicating that a particular dog is making him uncomfortable, I would look for the reasons why this is happening – is the dog using body language that is making your dog uncomfortable, or does he have a particular size or breed or look that is different from dogs that your dog is okay with? One of the things you should do first is to manage all encounters so your dog doesn’t have to feel like he has to interact with the other dog if he doesn’t want to, which can alleviate the anxiety he is feeling. Then work on pairing the other dog with something really rewarding, such as a really good food treat, or a favorite toy or really whatever your dog enjoys the most. You would do this at a distance from the other dog that your dog is comfortable with. There is an excellent booklet you can buy that describes this process in much more detail called Cautious Canine by Patricia McConnell – you can find it online at or

Q. My little Yorkie has a bad habit of peeing on the living room carpet, so now I keep her in the kitchen at night. I put paper on the floor and she uses it every night without fail (for 5 months now). I took the carpets out of the living room and just have hardwood now. What should be my next steps? -Joann

A. Hi Joann, I’m assuming from your post that your pup is five months old? That’s still young for a puppy, so it’s not abnormal for one to not be fully housetrained yet, especially a small dog. I would highly recommend moving away from using the paper to train; it’s not the most effective way to housetrain a dog. Crate training is the option I most often recommend, and you have to couple that with 100% supervision if the dog isn’t in the crate. The problem with the paper training is that while the dog learns they can go on the paper, they don’t really learn where they can’t go and that they’ll be rewarded if they go where they are expected to. I would review the handouts and free webinar and then start using a crate to train her.

Q. Our rescued flat-coated retriever is still timid after three years. She had a very abusive start in her life. We hug and kiss, but she seems fearful if we walk toward her.

A. Hi Janet, dogs that got a bad start in life can suffer emotionally from the effects for years after due to poor socialization, etc. I would highly recommend a book called Help for Your Fearful Dog by Nicole Wilde ( You can also work with a professional trainer who can walk you through the steps you’ll need to take to help boost her confidence.