Category : Training & Behavior

How Do Calming Dog and Cat Pheromones Work?

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on May 25, 2018, by Jennifer Coates, DVM

Chemical communication through pheromones was probably the first form of communication to evolve in animals, says Dr. Valarie Tynes, DVM, President of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and a Veterinary Services Specialist with Ceva Animal Health in Lenexa, Kansas. “Pheromones have evolved over thousands of years to enable animals to communicate within their species and between species,” Dr. Tynes says.

Using synthetic calming pheromones for cats and dogs can help comfort an animal by sending reassuring messages. “In any situation creating anxiety, pheromones can help to reduce the stress felt by pets,” explains Dr. Tynes. “These situations can include things like changes in the home, learning new things, or discomfort or conflict with other pets in the home.”

What Exactly Are Calming Pheromones for Cats and Dogs?

Pheromones are odorless and colorless chemical signals that are species-specific, according to Dr. Tynes. This means products created for use with cats will not work on dogs and vice versa. “Each type of pheromone sends a specific comforting message to the pet, such as ‘you are safe here’ or ‘you belong here,’” Dr. Tynes says.

Calming dog and cat pheromones come in a number of formats, including plug-in diffusers, collars, sprays and wet wipes. Adaptil diffusers for dogs and Feliway diffusers for cats are well-known options. When you plug the diffuser into the wall, it warms up the solution and allows it to disperse and permeate the room with calming cat or dog pheromones.

“Feliway Multicat and Adaptil for dogs replicate appeasing pheromones produced by nursing females which create a sense of belonging to newborn puppies and kittens,” Dr. Tynes explains. “Marking pheromones such as those found in Feliway Classic … duplicate those left by the animal and others of that species in the wild to send a message the location is safe.”

Both the Feliway Classic spray and diffuser contain a synthetic copy of one of the feline facial pheromones. “Cats leave behind facial pheromones when they rub their heads against objects in their environment,” explains rehabilitation specialist Dr. Trisha East, DVM.

What Can Dog and Cat Pheromones Really Do?

There are many things about our modern lifestyle that conflict with our pets’ natural and instinctive needs. In those situations, Dr. Tynes says that dog and cat pheromones can help to provide a sense of safety and well-being.  

Any pet in a state of fear or anxiety is not in a state where it can learn or where it is likely to make behavioral choices that are desirable to humans, says Dr. Tynes. “When in a relaxed, emotionally balanced state, animals are better able to learn to perform acceptable behaviors and are more able to make choices to perform those behaviors that humans may prefer.”

Using Pheromones for Dogs vs. Pheromones for Cats

Dogs and cats can benefit from the use of calming pheromones in different ways. For example, calming pheromones can help dogs who have a difficult time with loud noises, especially in the case of thunderstorms and fireworks, where noises come together with flashes and bursts of lights that are frightening to dogs. “Some dogs also are often confused and upset by being left at home for long periods while their family is at school and work, causing separation anxiety or separation distress,” Dr. Tynes explains. “Pheromones help the dog feel safe and can prevent unwanted behaviors like whining, crying, pacing and being destructive when the pet is alone in the house.”

In cats, calming pheromones are also useful for making them feel safe and secure, either when alone or in the presence of other cats. “Conflict between cats is very concerning because once friction has escalated, those relationships are not easily repaired,” Dr. Tynes says. “Using Feliway [Multicat] when adopting an additional cat may help the relationship begin well.”

Dog and Cat Pheromones Aren’t a Magical Solution

While calming pheromones may help with many issues in both dogs and cats, they don’t work for every potential issue or behavioral problem your pet might be experiencing. For example, pheromones will not treat underlying medical issues, says Dr. Tynes.  

Dr. East agrees and adds that dog and cat pheromones may not work well in moderate to severe cases of anxiety. “They can be used in conjunction with a behavioral modification plan and other medical treatments your veterinarian recommends,” Dr. East says. “It is important to always discuss behavioral concerns with your pet’s veterinarian, who in some cases, may refer you to a veterinary behaviorist.” More powerful anti-anxiety medications for cats are available by prescription.

How to Use Calming Pheromones

Calming pheromones for cats and dogs come in different formats. Plug-in diffusers are great for use in the home, but if you want similar benefits when you’re traveling with your pet, you will need to use collars, sprays or wipes. Collars come in sizes for puppies and adult dogs, and Dr. Tynes says that they should be changed each month.

Dr. Tynes recommends calming pheromone wipes or sprays when transporting your pets, going on trips to the vet or when you’re on vacation. For cats, “Apply the spray to a blanket, bandana or even your own clothing about 10 minutes before you introduce the cat to the carrier or in the car,” Dr. Tynes says. “After administration, the pheromone will be present for approximately four hours.”

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

Because cat and dog pheromones do not require absorption into the bloodstream nor metabolism by the animal to have an effect, they are very safe for animals of any age, regardless of state of health, and are safe to use with any other medication that an animal may be receiving, says Dr. Tynes. However, dog and cat pheromones should not be seen as the magic solution for behavior problems. “Pheromones don’t ‘fail to work,’ but they may simply be insufficient alone to completely resolve a problem,” Dr. Tynes says.

“An appropriate behavior modification program including positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior and desensitization along with counter-conditioning to help the pet get over its fears or anxiety regarding certain situations will also be necessary,” Dr. Tynes adds.  

By: Diana Bocco

Featured Image: brandodamando/

How To Train a Dog With Positive Reinforcement

What Is Positive Reinforcement?

You may have heard the term “positive reinforcement” and possibly some descriptions of what it means. The term actually has two meanings: It is a process that helps dogs (actually, all pets) learn new skills, and is also used to identify a group of trainers who use positive reinforcement as their main method of training.

Compared with other methods, positive reinforcement strengthens behavior, builds trusting relationships between pet parents and their animal companions, and protects the behavioral health of pets. 

Simply put, reinforcement is a process that strengthens a behavior. There are two categories of reinforcement: positive and negative.

Positive Reinforcement vs. Negative Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement

The “positive” in positive reinforcement doesn’t mean “good.” It means “added.” Reinforcement means to make something stronger. When using this method to train a pup, you add something immediately after the behavior that will strengthen that behavior throughout the dog’s training. The thing we add is typically something the dog likes or wants, like a treat or a belly rub. If the behavior doesn’t happen consistently over a period of time, positive reinforcement has not been achieved.

An example would be teaching your dog to potty outdoors instead of on your new hardwood floors. When your dog begins to eliminate, wait quietly until they finish. Once they do, deliver a few delicious treats and verbal praise. This will create a desire for them to do their business outside and collect their prize. This should now happen more because it is being positively reinforced.

If you are training your dog and the desired behavior is not happening more often when asked, then you are not successfully using positive reinforcement. “Positive reinforcement doesn’t work” is a statement that isn’t actually true. It is more accurate to say that “positive reinforcement has not occurred,” which means there is something wrong with the execution. 

The dog also decides what has a reinforcing effect and what does not. For example, a dog that just ate a full meal might not find food as reinforcing as access to outside or play to burn off the energy from their meal. On the other hand, a dog that has been exercising for an hour and has not been fed in several hours may find food highly reinforcing.

Negative Reinforcement

The concept of negative reinforcement, a complex component of learning, also leads to a similar confusion. “Negative” does not mean bad; It means “subtracted.” Positive and negative reinforcement are similar because they both strengthen behavior.

Positive reinforcement means adding something immediately after a behavior occurs and negative reinforcement means taking something away immediately after the behavior occurs. With negative reinforcement, the “something” that is taken away or removed is usually something the dog does not find pleasant and would like to avoid. For example, if there is something happening the dog thinks is scary, like a person running toward them or trying to pet them, they may snap at them. If the scary thing stops or goes away, then snapping may have been negatively reinforced.

Negative reinforcement is a tricky process. It is often confused with punishment, and when used traditionally it is not a humane way to train your pet. That’s because they must be confronted with something they want to avoid—something they perceive as painful, scary, intimidating, or threatening. The minute a person adds something negative to a pet’s environment, there is fallout. Three major fallouts of using negative reinforcement are:

Creating a negative conditioned emotional response

Eroding trust with the handler

Increasing fear, anxiety, and stress

Positive Reinforcement Is Also a Movement

Positive reinforcement is also a movement based on the philosophy that, as professionals and pet parents, we should be focused on strengthening the behavior we want to see, as opposed to reacting and punishing behavior we don’t want to see.

Because of the way punishment is often used, it comes with multiple potential fallouts, like a statistical increase of fear-based behaviors and probability of aggression. Training is a tool that should serve as a fun and rewarding way to communicate with your dog.  

How Do You Use Positive Reinforcement?

When training your dog with positive reinforcement, you deliver a physical or verbal prompt for a behavior, wait for the dog to complete the behavior, and deliver something the dog wants. Repeat this process several times to assess the change in the behavior. Is the dog sitting more reliably, more frequently, or faster?

It’s not enough to say, “I gave my dog a treat after he sat so I used positive reinforcement.” You may have done this, but if sitting on cue doesn’t happen more often, you have not positively reinforced the behavior. 

Markers are also a helpful tool. Clickers are one of the more popular markers used in training. They help communicate to the dog exactly what they did to earn the reinforcer. It’s used to mark the exact moment the dog has completed the task and right before the reinforcer is delivered. For example, if you ask your dog to sit, wait for the moment your dog’s bottom contacts the floor and then immediately use the marker to “mark” that moment. Then deliver the treat. Working with a certified professional trainer can help get you clicking in no time.

Tips on Using Positive Reinforcement

Be sure you are actually using it: Track your training so you know that what you are working on is getting better. That is, when you ask your dog to sit, are they doing it immediately every time you ask?

Training environments: Ensure there is very little distraction when practicing a new behavior with your dog.

Select your reinforcers with care: In a structured session, use something you know will be satisfying to your dog. Remember, they decide what is reinforcing and what is not.

Use a marker: Marking the behavior functions as a secondary reinforcer as long as the marker—clicker or word—is paired with the primary reinforcer.

Sessions should be short and fun: Select one skill, work on it for 5 minutes, add verbal praise to your primary reinforcer, take breaks, and end the session while the dog is still enjoying it.

Most importantly, have fun!

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="72341/EL.jpg">


Erika Lessa, CBST, CDBT, CDBC, CPDT-KA, Fear-Free Certified


Erika Lessa has been helping pet parents live quality lives with their dogs through education and coaching as a certified behavior…

Can Benadryl Help With Dog Anxiety?

While some sources of dog stress are chronic in nature, such as separation anxiety, many are temporary and situational. Thunderstorms, fireworks, and even holiday gatherings can be stressful for dogs.

For these short-lived events, what can a pet parent do to help their anxious dog?

With good intentions, pet parents may rummage through their own medicine cabinets for potential solutions. Perhaps you have done so yourself and you’ve wondered if Benadryl can calm dogs. If so, you are not alone.

But is Benadryl safe for dogs? Can Benadryl ease a dog’s anxiety? These are questions I often hear as a veterinarian.

The answer isn’t a simple yes or no—it’s a little more complicated than that. Here’s what you need to know about using Benadryl for dogs and what you need to be careful of.

Can You Use Benadryl to Calm Dogs?

Benadryl is sometimes referred to by healthcare professionals by its generic name, diphenhydramine.

It’s an antihistamine, meaning that it acts to stop or prevent allergic reactions. For this reason, Benadryl is often used for the treatment of environmental allergies and allergic reactions to insect bites and bee stings.

Benadryl is also used to decrease the severity of or prevent vaccine reactions. Occasionally, Benadryl is helpful for mild motion sickness, though it is infrequently effective for this purpose.

But what about using Benadryl for dog anxiety? You may have heard that Benadryl can be used as a sedative to calm your dog while traveling or during fireworks or thunderstorms.

It’s true that Benadryl may alleviate symptoms for some dogs, but the sedative effects are mild and not nearly as pronounced in dogs as they are in people.

So overall, Benadryl is not commonly helpful for dogs struggling with anxiety or phobias.

Alternatives for Treating Dog Anxiety

If Benadryl’s not the answer for dog anxiety, what can you do? Work with your veterinarian to determine ways to decrease your dog’s anxiety depending upon the trigger. Here are a few helpful options that they might suggest to ease your dog’s stress.

Dog-Appeasing Pheromones

One OTC option that some dog owners have great success with is DAP (dog-appeasing pheromone).

These synthetic pheromones may induce relaxation and help modify your dog’s behaviors. They are available in many forms, including sprays, plug-in diffusers, and even collars, a personal favorite of mine.

Dog Anxiety Vests and Head Halters

Dog anxiety vests, mats that reduce static (for thunderstorm phobias), and head halters may help to calm your dog further. 

Noise Machines and Music

For noise-induced anxiety, try to provide background sounds from the radio or television.

Music with a lot of constant drumbeats, such as rap, usually helps. Don’t turn the music up loud; instead provide a constant distracting rhythm to focus your dog’s attention on the music instead of the triggering noise.

Using white noise apps can help alleviate noise-induced phobias as well.

Prescription Medications

Prescription medications can be very helpful in the majority of dogs struggling with fearful or anxious behaviors.

Maintain a Calm, Supportive Demeanor

Never punish your dog for their anxious behaviors (or in general). This means physically or by yelling or reprimanding him for things like chewing, digging, or eliminating in the house.

Here are some anxious behaviors your dog may exhibit:

Elevated heart rate




Loss of bladder or bowel control

Hiding or fleeing

Lowering their body and tucking their ears close to their head

Opening their eyes wider than usual

Curling their tail close to their body

Showing defensive aggression

Destructive behaviors, such as chewing and digging excessively

Excessive vocalization

Remember that punishment for any behavior will only worsen anxiety in dogs. Instead, help to calm your dog and always reward them when they respond positively to things that usually cause anxiety.

In general, a dog’s anxiety will be lessened when their owner is calm, patient, and in control.

Featured Image: Garkusha

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="28424/laci-schaible-dvm.jpg">


Laci Schaible, DVM, MSL, CVJ


Why Dogs Pee When Excited or Scared

If you have an older dog that suddenly begins urinating inappropriately (or cannot seem to hold their pee), make an appointment with your veterinarian, as there could be a medical cause.

Have you ever been greeted by your hyper dog when you get home, and then noticed a puddle of pee by your shoes? Or perhaps your new puppy flopped onto their back to greet your friend, and then peed a little on their own fur and your clean rug.

This could be excitement peeing or submissive peeing. Both are common in dogs, but what separates the two are your dog’s state of mind and their emotional triggers.

Some dogs pee because they are excited and submissive at the same time. For example, a dog that excitedly pees when their pet parent comes home may also submissively urinate if they are sternly reprimanded or overcorrected for the initial excitement pee.

So how do you know which one you’re dealing with?

Here’s what you need to know about why dogs pee when you wish they wouldn’t.

Why Does My Dog Pee When Excited?

Excitement peeing is most often found in happy, hyper, young dogs that may not have full bladder control. Dogs frequently outgrow this form of peeing as they mature and emotionally calm down.

It can become worse if your dog is suddenly awakened or startled, and then gets very animated (such as when you come home while they’re taking a nap).

Signs of Excited Peeing in Dogs

Dogs peeing when excited won’t necessarily squat or lift their leg like usual. They often pee while walking, standing, or even bouncing up and down. You can tell that your dog is excited if they are holding their tail higher than normal, wagging their entire body and tail side to side, holding their head up, or whining and/or barking.

How to Stop a Dog from Peeing When Excited

There are three main keys to controlling excitement peeing:

Frequent walks

Helping your dog relax

Treating the excitability

Take Frequent Walks

Taking your dog for frequent walks will encourage your dog to pee in the great outdoors rather than in your living room. If they have an empty bladder, they have less urine to release when they become too excited.

Beginning at the age of four months, a dog can usually hold their bladder 1 hour for every month of age, plus 1. So, a 6-month-old pup should be able to hold their bladder for up to 7 hours (6 months old + 1 = 7 hours). But some dogs may need to go out more often than that, and that’s perfectly okay. You will want to take your dog out more frequently than this to reduce the excitement pee also.

Teach Your Dog How to Relax

The second key is to teach your dog how to relax. Not all dogs have the instinct or desire to relax on their own and may need some help from their humans. For dogs that have a hard time settling down, they can be taught how to relax with short, daily training sessions.

One good program is Dr. Karen Overall’s Protocol for Relaxation from her book Clinical Behavioral Medicine For Small Animals. This is a 15-day positive reinforcement training program that trains dogs to relax quietly while experiencing different activities and noises.

Having your dog perform a behavior that is directly incompatible to excitement behavior can also help. An example would be to have your dog lie down with their head/neck extended. This helps move your dog out of the excited mindset and into a more relaxed, task-driven mentality.

Don’t Interact With Your Dog When They Are Excited

The third key is to not interact with your dog during situations that trigger excited pee. First, make sure your dog is capable of holding their bladder and has been fully house-trained.

When your dog becomes too stimulated, simply stand quietly while turning away from your dog, and wait for them to settle down. Greet them after they are calm. If your dog starts getting excited, turn away again and let them settle down.

Treating the excitability is crucial to treating excitement peeing. Reducing your dog’s energy level with consistent, daily exercise and daily mental stimulation can also help decrease excitement peeing. A tired won’t have enough energy to get excited enough to pee on your floor.

Activities such as playing catch, doing agility training, jumping hurdles, or running with you are great ways to get out some of that excitable energy.

While it is understandable that you might get angry or be frustrated by frequent excited peeing, do NOT use punishment to try to correct the issue of excitement peeing. Pet parents used to be told that it was a good idea to rub the dog’s face in the pee or poop to teach them that peeing or pooping inside is a bad behavior. This is an outdated and incorrect training method.

Any punishment will only make the situation worse by adding a submissive or fear component to your dog’s inappropriate peeing. It may even cause damage to your bond with your dog. A better solution is to use positive reinforcement to not only help correct the situation, but also to strengthen your bond with your dog at the same time.

Submissive Urination in Dogs

While most dogs outgrow emotional peeing, submissive peeing can be found in dogs of all ages. It’s more common among young female dogs, puppies, dogs that have been repeatedly (and often harshly) corrected, and dogs that have been kept in a dependent situation (in a shelter or kennel).

This type of peeing often occurs when some event causes the dog to give a submissive signal as they urinate a small amount. Submissive signals can vary greatly depending on your dog and their personality.

Signs of Submissive Urination in Dogs

Some common submissive signals include sitting, hanging their head down or to the side, exposing their groin, or full-fledged groveling. This is when a dog pees (and possibly drools) as they lie flat on their back, with their tail tucked and front legs pulled tightly into their body.

A typical situation where submissive peeing occurs is when a dog is approached by a stranger, and they lie down and pee a small amount. Another classic situation is when someone moves their arm toward the dog, who will then look down, back away, and pee a tiny bit.

Of course, no one wants their best four-legged friend cowering away from them. It’s important to note that this is a show of submission to a person or situation the dog considers to be dominant. It is not necessarily a sign the dog has been beaten or abused.

How to Stop Submissive Peeing in Dogs

You will need to change your behavior and also train your dog to become desensitized to triggers.

Change How You Approach Your Dog

For pet parents and other humans, this means not leaning over your dog, making direct eye contact, reaching toward your dog (especially over their head), hugging them, or approaching them head-on.

Instead, sit on the ground to make yourself appear smaller. Look to the side or at the dog’s hip to avoid direct eye contact, and allow them to approach you. Entice them with treats, and if they do approach, and pet them gently under the chin, not on the top of their head.

Desensitize Your Dog to Certain Triggers

The next step is to desensitize your dog to movements that trigger submissive peeing. First, you’ll need to identify the situations that trigger your dog. Then in those situations, start making smaller movements and rewarding your dog for not peeing.

For example, if your dog pees when you reach for their collar, begin by moving your hand a few inches away from your body and rewarding them for not reacting. Once your dog calmly accepts small movements, gradually progress to larger ones.

Continue rewarding your dog when they don’t react or pee in response to the movements. Over time, you can work up to being able to touch and handle your dog’s collar without a drop of pee on the floor.

Another method to discourage submissive peeing is to have your dog wear a canine diaper while you work on the desensitizing. The diaper will make getting into the submissive squat more difficult.

Do not use negative reinforcement such as spanking, yelling, or rubbing their nose in it, as this will make the submissive peeing worse. If training fails to correct submissive peeing and your dog is submissive in all social settings, you talk with your veterinarian about using a mild anti-anxiety medication.

Why Does My Dog Pee When I Pet Them?

If your dog urinates when you reach to pet them, you most likely have triggered a submissive pee. Submissive dogs are trying to send the distress message, “Please don’t harm me; I’m no threat.”

Submissive dogs need gentle encouragement and a calm environment. It takes time, patience, and a lot of positive bonding and engagement to help submissive peeing dogs stop this behavior.

Try to avoid actions that trigger submissive peeing. Allowing your dog to come to you for petting and interaction will greatly decrease submissive peeing. You can also try the desensitizing method.

Calm, slow movements give your dog time to process what is happening, read your body language to make sure you’re not a threat, and react in a way that feels comfortable.

Environment management is also key. One common trigger for submissive peeing might be when strangers approach your dog.

If this happens in your house, try asking visitors to ignore your dog until they approach on their own. Another option is to keep your dog contained in an area where there is a barrier (a crate or a baby gate) that allows them to see the stranger but also feel safe in their own area or den.

If you are out on a walk and a stranger asks to pet your dog, simply decline politely, and tell them your dog is in training and needs to be focusing on you right now.

Why Does My Dog Pee When I Come Home?

If you come home to an exuberant pup, is this a sign of separation anxiety? Most likely not.

Separation anxiety is a mental disorder where dogs will go to the bathroom indoors, destroy things, and/or vocalize when left alone. It is a complex condition with many causes, but the underlying emotion for separation anxiety in dogs is unease and displeasure. Just peeing when you come home is not enough to indicate separation anxiety.

A dog’s world revolves mainly around their family group, be it other dogs or their human family. Their enthusiasm for your return home is most likely because they are happy to see you.

Whether due to excitement or submission, you’re not alone dealing with inappropriate peeing. Management of both excitement and submissive peeing takes time and patience. If the peeing continues despite your best efforts, consider working with a qualified behavior professional.

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="73104/image002.jpg">


Megan Keller, DVM


Dr. Megan Keller attended North Dakota State University/NDSU in Fargo, North Dakota to earn a Bachelor in Animal Sciences. During these…

Why Do Certain Sounds Scare Dogs?

Updated and reviewed for accuracy on July 24, 2019, by Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM

Does your dog jump at the sound of thunder or start shaking every time you turn the vacuum on or hide during fireworks? He might be suffering from noise phobia.

A poorly understood condition, noise phobia can actually develop in dogs of all ages, although dogs over a year of age are more likely to suffer from it, according to Kristen Collins, a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) and the director of the ASPCA’s rehab center, which specializes in treating fearful and under-socialized dogs.

“Some dogs simply seem more sensitive and susceptible to developing a fear of noises, and this susceptibility may indicate a genetic predisposition toward the problem,” Collins explains.

Other dogs learn to fear certain sounds. “A dog who isn’t initially afraid of a sound can become fearful when an unpleasant event is linked with that noise,” Collins adds.

What Dog Noise Phobia Really Is (and Isn’t)

Although they might all sound the same, fear, anxiety and phobia are actually quite different.

Fear in Dogs 

“Fear is a physiologic, emotional and behavioral response to animate or inanimate things that pose a threat of harm,” explains Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, DACVB, and clinical instructor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, where she’s part of the Animal Behavior Clinic.

Fear is a normal reaction because it enables animals to respond to situations that could be potentially dangerous.

Anxiety in Dogs

Anxiety, on the other hand, is what Dr. Borns-Weil defines as a persistent fear or apprehension of something that is not present or imminent. Essentially, anxiety is a fear of what might happen in the future.

Phobias in Dogs

And finally, there are phobias: extreme, persistent fears of a stimulus, such as a thunderstorm, that are entirely out of proportion to the level of threat it poses. 

“Noise phobia is an extreme, persistent fear of auditory stimuli that is out of proportion to the real danger, if any, associated with the noise,” says Dr. Borns-Weil.

“There is no survival advantage conferred on an animal that panics in response to things that are not truly threatening or dangerous,” she explains.

Noise Phobia vs. Thunderstorm Phobia 

Although thunderstorms are also a common type of canine phobia, Dr. Borns-Weil says it’s important to understand the difference between noise phobia and thunderstorm phobia.

“Storm phobia is multisensory,” Dr. Borns-Weil says. “While it certainly includes very loud noise produced by thunder, other aspects of the storm (flashes of lightning, heavy wind, rain battering the roof, changes in air pressure, etc.) may be either independent fear triggers or become anxiety-inducing predictors of impending thunder.”

Thunderstorm phobia and other noise phobias may co-occur, but they also occur separately, Dr. Borns-Weil adds. 

Sounds That Trigger Noise Phobia in Dogs 

Fireworks, gunshots and vacuum cleaners are common causes of noise phobia, according to Dr. Borns-Weil. “Dogs may also become phobic of fire alarms and even cooking because they associate it with accidental triggering of the alarm,” Dr. Borns-Weil adds.

There are also less common fear triggers, such as crying babies, people sneezing and/or coughing, snow sliding off the roof, and even the clicking of the furnace when it turns on, according to Dr. Borns-Weil.

“I also meet dogs that are fearful of electronic tones,” Dr. Borns-Weil says. “Dogs that have been trained using electronic collars that give a beep before emitting a painful electric shock may become generally fearful of electronic tones, including message alerts on cell phones.”

What Causes Dogs to Develop Phobias of Certain Sounds? 

Trying to understand what caused the phobia to develop can be tricky. For example, lack of socialization is often behind the issue.

“Puppies that have insufficient exposure to a variety of normal stimuli during their first four months of life are at higher risk of being overly fearful as adults,” according to Dr. Borns-Weil.

Older dogs can also develop phobias following an exposure to an extremely frightening situation. “Recently, I saw a dog that was extremely frightened of the sound of wind after having been in a home when it was hit by a tornado,” says Dr. Borns-Weil.

And here’s something you might not have expected to hear: Your dog’s noise phobia could be related to his health. “Any illness, pain or itching may lower a dog’s threshold for anxiety and fearfulness,” according to Dr. Borns-Weil.

Symptoms and Behaviors Associated With Noise Phobias

The symptoms of noise phobia are usually extreme. A dog who’s experiencing a phobia episode is panicking, so he’ll pace, pant, tremble and hypersalivate.

“Frightened dogs may cower, ears flat against their skulls, eyes wide, muscles tensed and tails tucked,” explains Collins. “Some dogs become restless and move around anxiously with no apparent purpose, while others become immobile, shutting down and unable to move.”

Some fearful dogs cling to their owners, seeking comfort, while others prefer to hunker down on their own, away from people and preferably somewhere dark and quiet.

“I knew one very friendly, loving dog who feared the sound of thunder and only seemed comforted by lying down on a dog bed, alone in a bathtub, until the sound stopped,” Collins says.  

It’s also not uncommon for dogs with noise phobia to engage in destructive behavior like chewing, digging, scratching and tearing up objects in the home.

“At worst, noise phobias can trigger frantic attempts to escape,” says Collins. “Panicked dogs may scratch and dig frantically at doors or even jump out of windows.”

How to Help a Dog With Noise Phobia

For discrete sounds such as the vacuum cleaner, Dr. Borns-Weil says systematic desensitization and counterconditioning can be a very effective treatment.

Desensitization and Counterconditioning

“It involves the presentation of the frightening sound at a gradually increasing intensity, always making sure to stay below the threshold of intensity that would cause a fear response,” Dr. Borns-Weil explains. “The presentation of the sound is paired with a high-value reward such as food, play or petting.”

Play the recording of the sound at a low volume and give your dog treats. Increase the volume over several training sessions, always keeping an eye on your dog’s body language to make sure he’s not upset by the noise.

However, desensitization and counterconditioning don’t work well for certain noise phobias, such as thunderstorm phobia, since storms are multisensory.

“A dog may be desensitized to the sound of thunder with the help of a recording but still will be nervous about the sound of wind, the flashes of light, the rain, the pressure change, the static electricity in the air,” Dr. Borns-Weil says.

Creating a Sense of Safety

For thunderstorm phobia, she says a dog can be taught to go to a “safe place” in the home. Or you can try using sights and sounds—white noise, relaxing music, light blocking shades—to shut out the storm as much as possible. Dog anxiety vests can also be helpful.

Medications and Supplements

There are also natural calming agents which can help some pets, says Dr. Grzyb. VetriScience Composure dog chews, Rescue Remedy and Adaptil collars are options that have worked for some dogs.

Finally, if all else fails, the use of medications, such as sedatives, can be helpful in severely affected pets. For example, Sileo, a medication that is absorbed through the gums, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in dogs who are fearful of loud noises.

What Not to Do When Your Dog Is Scared 

Anything else you can do? It depends on your dog. If you have a dog who approaches you for company and comfort when scared, don’t ignore him, and never punish him.

Don’t Ignore Your Dog

“In fact, ignoring and avoiding him may make him feel confused and more fearful,” Dr. Borns-Weil says. So let your boy sit on your lap if that makes him feel better, but keep in mind that providing comfort will not address the underlying problem.

You’ll still have to work on helping your dog overcome his fear.

Never Punish a Scared Dog

Whatever you do, never punish or reprimand your dog for being scared.

“Punishing a dog for destructiveness, barking or soiling that is done out of panic will only increase anxiety and make the problem worse,” Dr. Borns-Weil says.  

There are many other options if desensitization and counterconditioning are not helping a pet, says Dr. Katie Grzyb, DVM. She recommends using cotton balls or rolled gauze sponges to place in the ear canals, which can lessen the noise during storms and fireworks displays. Just make certain to remove them after the inciting event. 

Nugget: A Case Study of Desensitization and Counterconditioning

A dog named Nugget became extremely anxious when she heard any large vehicle pass by on the street outside her house. “She and her mom had recently relocated to a busier part of town, so the sounds were new to her,” says Collins. “To help with this, I asked her to buy a CD with traffic noises.”

From then on, Nugget’s mom would play the CD at a very low volume. “Then she gave Nugget a frozen KONG toy, stuffed full of boiled chicken bits and other tasty things that Nugget never got at any other time.” Collins explains.

After a few sessions, Nugget would notice the quiet traffic sounds when her mom turned on the CD and start looking excited, knowing that her goodie was coming next,” says Collins.

By the time Nugget’s mom started to increase the volume of the CD, Nugget was already doing much better and was able to deal with the sound. 

By: Diana Bocco

Featured Image:

Why Are Dogs Scared of Vacuums?

Many pet parents don’t recognize that encountering a vacuum for the first time can be a traumatic experience for dogs.

Canine reactions to vacuums can range from entering attack-mode to running away in fear. Since vacuums are a necessary evil, the best way to help your dog tolerate cleanup day is to train him to make a positive association with his dust-sucking nemesis.

Here’s some insight on why dogs are scared of vacuums and what you can do about it.

Why Do Dogs Hate Vacuums?

It’s no surprise that many dogs are afraid of vacuums; they’re big, noisy and disruptive. Add self-propelled cleaners to the scary equipment equation, and our dogs are forced to cope with yet another frightening household foe.

Vacuums are unlike any other type of household equipment, and a single scary run-in can set the stage for a lifetime of fear. Sure, hairdryers and mixers are similarly noisy, but they don’t emerge from closets and take over the room the way vacuums do.

Self-propelled cleaners, like Roombas, are especially frightening because they make noise, move unexpectedly, and appear and disappear without warning.

The Easy Solution: Try a Management Technique

An easy way to help your dog cope with cleaning day is to manage his environment while you work.

Instead of forcing your dog to confront his fears when you bring out the vacuum, try putting him in a quiet room in a different part of the house and giving him something to keep him happily occupied.

A dog interactive toy, or “busy toy,” that dispenses dog treats or dog food kibbles, like the KONG Wobbler dog toy, gives him something to focus on other than the ruckus down the hall. Turning on a white noise machine or the television can also help to camouflage the noise.

The More Involved Solution: Training Dogs to Overcome a Fear of Vacuums

The goal of vacuum training is to help change your dog’s perception of the vacuum, taking it from nemesis to occasional nuisance. The key is working slowly, particularly if your dog has a long-standing fear of it.

Step 1: Establish a Positive Association 

To start the training process, find a friend to help out and fill your pockets with small, meaty dog treats, like Blue Buffalo Blue Bits training dog treats.

Bring your dog to a quiet room, and ask your helper to stand far enough away that your dog won’t be triggered when the vacuum appears. (Depending on your dog’s level of fear, it might be an adjacent hallway or even a different room.)

Tell your helper to bring out the vacuum so that your dog can see it (keeping the vacuum turned off and still), then immediately start feeding your dog the small treats. Continue treating your dog for a few seconds, making sure that your dog can see the vacuum but maintains a relaxed posture. Then, have your helper remove the vacuum, and stop feeding your dog treats.

Repeat the process several times, having your helper bring the vacuum into view and holding it still while you give your dog treats, then stopping the treats when it goes away. This first step helps your dog make a positive association with the vacuum, because when it appears, he gets goodies!

After a bunch of repetitions, try a quick test: ask your helper to move the vacuum into your dog’s sightlines, as in the previous repetitions, and watch to see if your dog looks to you as if to say, “Where are my goodies?” That reaction means that your dog is starting to equate the vacuum with something positive!

Step 2: Familiarizing Your Dog With Vacuum Movement

The next step is introducing subtle vacuuming movement. Ask your helper to push the vacuum forward (still in the off position) while you feed your dog treats. Then have your helper stop moving it while you stop feeding your dog treats.

Repeat this step a number of times, adding different types of movement so that it looks like actual vacuuming. In subsequent sessions, begin to move the turned-off vacuum closer to your dog, always giving him goodies as it moves and watching to see if his body language remains relaxed.

If your dog stops eating treats or begins to look nervous, it probably means that you’re progressing too quickly.

Step 3: Desensitizing to the Vacuum Noise

The scariest part of vacuum training is turning it on, so make sure that your dog is happily orienting to you and taking treats with relaxed posture around a turned-off, moving vacuum before you try to flick the switch.

Even if your dog is calmly tolerating the moving vacuum in the same room, you may want to turn the vacuum on in a different room or at a distance from your dog that is similar to when you began the training process. Ask your helper to start the vacuum for a few seconds, then feed your dog goodies while it’s on and stop when your helper turns it off.

Watch your dog to make sure that the noise hasn’t derailed your progress. If your dog is unable to take treats when the vacuum turns on, it means that you’re too close to it; move farther away or shut the door between you and your helper when it’s turned it on.

It will probably take a series of training sessions spread out over a few weeks before your dog is comfortable with both the sound and movement of the vacuum. Don’t rush this part of the training process!

You’ll know that your dog feels more comfortable with it when he exhibits the same “Where are my goodies?” response when the vacuum turns on. At that point, you can begin moving it around and rewarding your dog, and then in subsequent sessions, start to bring it closer to your dog.

Clean Sweep: Vacuum Training Success

Of course, the goal is for your dog to remain calm while you actually use the vacuum, but it will likely take many training sessions before you and your dog get to that point.

To prevent backsliding when you need to tidy up, bring your dog to a quiet spot and give him something to do while you clean, like unpacking treats from the Starmark Bob-a-Lot dog toy. With patience and practice, your dog will be content to chill out while you do the dirty work!

By Victoria Schade

Featured Image:

< img src="21860/VSB1.jpg">


Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA


Victoria Schade has been a dog trainer and writer for over twenty years. During that time her dog duties have included working behind the…

Barrier Frustration in Dogs

Barrier frustration is a common issue in dogs that many pet parents face. The term refers to the frustration and anxiety a fenced or barriered-in dog feels when prevented from being able to get at something they want or desire, such as a person, another animal, or a toy that is on the other side of a fence or otherwise out of reach. This frustration can lead to a range of behavioral issues, including excessive barking, destructive behavior, and even aggression.

Causes of Barrier Frustration

There are a couple of key reasons why dogs experience barrier frustration. One of the most common is a lack of socialization. If a dog has not been exposed to other animals or people in a positive way during their critical socialization period of between 3 and 18 weeks of age, they may become fearful and anxious later in life whenever they are exposed to these stimuli. This fear can be exacerbated when the dog is prevented from approaching the object of their fear or desire by a physical barrier.

Another underlying cause of barrier frustration is the lack of a consistent, daily routine filled with physical exercise and mental stimulation. Dogs who don’t get enough engaging activity may become bored and restless, which can lead to frustration and destructive behavior. When these dogs are prevented from reaching something they desire, such as a toy or a person, their frustration can escalate into hyperexcitement, excessive barking, and even redirection (a form of aggression).

Consequences of Barrier Frustration

Barrier frustration can have serious long-term consequences both for your pup and for you, the pet parent. A dog’s constant and repeated exposure to this type of stress can lead to learned behaviors that require behavior modification and relearning. In addition to the behavioral issues mentioned, you may also notice physical symptoms, such as pacing, panting, and shaking. Over time, chronic stress can also weaken your dog’s immune system and increase their risk of developing illness.

Barrier frustration and its resulting behavior issues can be challenging and stressful for many pet parents to address. It’s always a good idea to chat with your veterinarian to determine what next steps to take, either with a diagnosis to ensure there isn’t an underlying health condition, or with recommendations for an animal behaviorist.

Prevention and Treatment of Barrier Frustration

Preventing barrier frustration requires a proactive approach starting early in a dog’s development. Socialization and positive introduction to new stimuli is key. This means working with your pup, exposing them to a variety of people, animals, sounds, smells, and environments in a positive and controlled way. And remember to include regular exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and restlessness!

For dogs already dealing with barrier frustration, several strategies can help to manage their behavior. One of the most effective is desensitization and counterconditioning. This involves gradually exposing your dog to the object or situation that triggers their frustration, while rewarding them for calm and relaxed behavior. Over time, your pup learns to associate the trigger with positive experiences, rather than frustration and anxiety. Just make sure to monitor the stress level of your pup to ensure they are not overwhelmed or shutting down (staring at floor, panting, avoiding eye contact) during the process.

Another strategy is to provide your dog with an alternative outlet for their frustration and attention, such as an interactive toy or game. This can help to redirect their energy in a positive way and prevent destructive behavior.

You may also want to consider calming supplements and pheromone collars to help decrease stress during this time. Recommended products include:

Adaptil On-the-Go Calming Collar for Dogs

Purina Pro® Calming Care Pro Supplement

VetriScience® Composure Calming Soft Chews

Nutramax®  Solliquin Calming Chews

Recovery and Management of Barrier Frustration

In severe cases, prescription medications, behavior modification therapies, and veterinarian guidance may be necessary to help manage anxiety and frustration levels.

While barrier frustration can be a challenging condition for dogs and pet parents alike, with proactive and effective treatment it is a problem that can be managed successfully. By providing socialization, exercise, and mental stimulation, as well as using behavior modification techniques under the guidance of a veterinary professional, you can help your dog overcome their frustration and lead a happy, healthy life.

Featured Image:

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="1670/TT_0.jpg">


Tiffany Tupler, DVM, CBCC-KA


Dr. Tiffany Tupler is a graduate from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine with a certificate in shelter medicine and…

Why Do Dogs Chase Their Tail?

Pet parents often tell stories about their dog spinning wildly, trying to grab their tail as it whooshes by. But while a dog chasing their tail is entertaining to humans, in many contexts it may be misunderstood.

Why Does a Dog Chase Their Tail?

There are a few situations where tail-chasing does not necessarily indicate an issue. For example, a puppy may become aware of their tail and begin checking it out with their mouth. Their spinning is a short-lived effort to get more information about their tail. A dog might also chase their tail when they’re feeling excited or playful.

But there are other times when tail-chasing could indicate an issue. 

1. You’ve Reinforced the Behavior

The human response to tail-chasing is often attention, which can be reinforcing. Some people encourage the behavior by laughing, giving the dog a treat, or even by showing the dog their tail to prompt the behavior.

This teaches the dog that tail-chasing will result in something they like or want, and so they will do it more. If the attention stops, the dog may become frustrated and engage in the behavior even more, trying to get their pet parent to give them attention or treats.  

2. Your Dog Is Bored

All dogs need adequate amounts of activity to meet their physical, mental, and emotional needs. If these needs aren’t met, dogs can become bored and behave in ways that attempt to help them deal with the boredom. Tail-chasing is one example of this.

To combat boredom, try activities like:

Walking your dog every day in a relaxing environment

Arranging play dates with other dogs (if they’re social)

Providing access to doggy activities such as sniffing new areas, digging, chewing, running, and swimming

Playing brain games and doing problem-solving activities, such as food puzzles and positive reinforcement training

Chronic boredom can also lead to anxiety, another factor attributed to tail-chasing. 

3. Your Dog Is Stressed or Anxious

Chronic stress and anxiety are other underlying causes of dogs chasing their tail, especially if tail-chasing helps the dog avoid frightening situations or provides a feeling of relief.

Repetitive behaviors, such as tail-chasing, that are triggered by environmental conditions are known as stereotypic behavior. They happen in predictable patterns or rhythms. For example, a dog held in a kennel without enough enrichment may begin to spin in a tight circle, grab their tail, and continue to spin.

This may happen in homes where dogs are separated from their family, tethered outside continuously, or kept in a dog run without the ability to leave. Providing adequate enrichment can help many dogs.

4. Your Dog Has a Medical Issue

If your dog is all of a sudden chasing their tail for the first time or the behavior is increasing in frequency, there could be a medical condition or physical problem such as:

Anal sacculitis

An irritated rectum


Flea or tick infestation (which often occurs at the base of the tail)



Seizure disorder

5. Your Dog Has Canine Compulsive Disorder

Canine compulsive disorder (CCD) looks a lot like stereotypic behavior but happens without a connection to environmental factors. It can be hard to interrupt dogs with this issue when they’re chasing their tail, and they’ll likely go right back to the behavior even after they are given something else to do.

In CCD’s most severe form, the dog is not able to be redirected, and the behavior—in this case, tail-chasing—will interfere with vital activities such as eating and drinking. In addition, some dogs will snap, bite, and chew on their tail until injury occurs, creating the risk for infection. Tail-docking (removal of part or all of the tail) is not a cure for these compulsive behaviors.

Compulsive disorders in dogs are being studied, and there is evidence of a genetic component. It occurs in higher numbers in certain breeds, such as:

Bull Terriers

Miniature Bull Terriers

German Shepherds

Staffordshire Bull Terriers

For dogs with canine compulsive disorder, medication that helps regulate brain chemistry is typically necessary for any behavior modification or environmental changes to be effective.

When Should You See a Vet About Your Dog’s Tail-Chasing?

Tail-chasing that is difficult to interrupt, accompanied by other symptoms such as intense staring at their tail, panting, drooling, accelerated heart rate, or that results in self-harm should be addressed immediately. If you see any sudden behavior changes in your dog (tail-chasing being just one example), contact your veterinarian. They can assess your pet to identify and/or treat any medical causes.

How To Stop a Dog From Chasing Their Tail

Be Careful About Reinforcement

Reinforcing tail-chasing may lead to your dog relying on it for fun, using it to command attention, or (more problematically) setting off a genetic expression. If you are training “spin” as a trick, it’s important to complete the training by establishing a cue to start and stop. When your dog chases their tail, always assess why they are doing so before assuming it’s funny.

Replace the Behavior

If your dog is chasing their tail because they want attention or are bored, train a replacement behavior. For example, train the dog to retrieve a toy and sit or to sit and lift a paw when they want attention. Once these new behaviors are in place and consistently reinforced, the tail-chasing should reduce.

Make Sure They Have Plenty of Enrichment

For canine boredom, enrichment is the best place to start. Be sure your dog is getting plenty of meaningful attention. Make sure your dog is well-exercised, has the opportunity to socialize if they like it, has access to interactive toys and puzzles, and receives plenty of opportunity to play training games.

Talk to a Professional

If the spinning continues, consider enlisting a professional such as a certified behavior consultant, applied animal behaviorist, veterinarian, or a veterinary behaviorist.

Featured Image: iStock/Zuberka


Burn, Charlotte. (2011). A Vicious Cycle: A Cross-Sectional Study of Canine Tail-Chasing and Human Responses to It, Using a Free Video-Sharing Website. PloS one. 6. e26553. 10.1371/journal.pone.0026553. 

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="85863/EL.jpg">


Erika Lessa, CBST, CDBT, CDBC, CPDT-KA, Fear-Free Certified


Erika Lessa has been helping pet parents live quality lives with their dogs through education and coaching as a certified behavior…

Why Do Dogs Lick You?

You may love your dog, but not all of us like slobbery kisses from our furry canine friends. Many pet parents believe their dogs lick them to show affection, and while this may be true some of the time, there are also many other functions for licking.

So, why do dogs lick us? And are there different reasons for why dogs lick your hands, face, ears, feet, or legs?

Key Takeaways

Dogs lick people (including our faces, hands, legs, ears, and feet) for many different reasons.This behavior can mean something different depending on where your dog is licking you.While licking is a normal dog behavior, in some cases it can indicate a medical or behavioral issue.

Why Do Dogs Lick People?

Licking is a natural instinct in dogs. Studies have shown that licking releases endorphins in a dog’s brain. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that make dogs (and us!) feel calmer and more relaxed. This then leads to a release of dopamine, another neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and motivation.

There are many things that dogs lick—some more repulsive than others. So, what does it mean when a dog licks you? There isn’t one straight answer. Dogs lick people for a variety of reasons, including affection, communication, grooming, exploration, attention, and taste.

Dogs Learn to Lick as Puppies

Mother dogs lick their pups to clean and stimulate them as soon as they are born. For the first few weeks of their lives, puppies are prompted to urinate and defecate by mom’s licking. So, dogs learn very early that tongues are useful tools in communicating and interacting with the world around them.

Puppies lick to appease older dogs, including their mom, and clear the way for safe social interactions. Pups will lick one another to show affection, and to comfort themselves and sometimes their littermates.

Dogs Lick People to Enhance Smell

Licking also enhances your dog’s sense of smell. Like humans, dogs can taste bitter, salty, sweet, and sour. But due to their small number of taste buds, they actually use their sense of smell far more than their sense of taste when deciding what to lick or eat. This is likely why dogs enjoy licking areas of our bodies that tend to have strong tastes and smells: our hands, faces, ears, and feet.

To understand why dogs really enjoy licking certain areas of our bodies, let’s take a quick look at the anatomy of human sweat. We have two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine.

Eccrine glands secrete a thin, odorless, clear fluid made of salt, protein, etc., and are found in large numbers on the soles of the feet, the palms, the forehead, the cheeks, and in the armpits.

Apocrine glands secrete a thicker fluid that reacts with the bacteria on your skin to create body odor and are found in the armpits and groin, but also in the ear canals, eyelids, and nostrils.

With all of this fun physiology, how could dogs resist licking parts of us that contain so much scent and taste?

Why Do Dogs Lick Your Hands?

As you move through the world, your hands collect smells and flavors that your dog wants to investigate once you come home. You might touch other people or animals, and you very likely touch food. Your hands are like a roadmap for your pup that tells the story of your day, and they want to taste and smell every “destination” your hands visited.

The palms of your hands also sweat, leaving a salty residue on your skin for your dog to enjoy.

Why Do Dogs Lick Your Face?

Along with your hands, your face gets constant exposure to the world, so it picks up a lot of interesting smells and tastes. Also, you’re likely to touch your face regularly, giving your dog even more reasons to lick your face!

Your face contains both types of sweat glands. Eccrine glands on your cheeks and forehead leave a salty flavor many dogs are certain to enjoy. But your eyelids and nostrils contain apocrine glands, which give those areas a mild but distinct odor easily identified by your dog’s super-powered nose.

Thanks to the food you eat, your lips and mouth contain all sorts of attractive smells and tastes for your dog. This may explain why some pups really want to plant a slobbery kiss right on your lips after you eat.

Aside from all the scents and flavors your face offers, licking your face is likely an instinctual behavior for your dog. Dogs lick each other’s faces for mutual grooming, affection, and to communicate appeasement or harmlessness. Pet parents who love when their dogs lick them may also reinforce the behavior with their excited responses.

Why Does My Dog Lick My Ears?

Your dog may be licking your ears to taste them, keep them clean, or possibly to show you some extra love.

The apocrine glands in your ear canals secrete a thick fluid that creates an odor when it mixes with the natural bacteria on your skin. Combined with the ceruminous glands, which create earwax, your ears offer a collection of enticing smells and tastes.

Dogs lick each other’s ears to groom one another. And because it’s a very vulnerable interaction, dogs that allow this likely feel very safe with the other dog.

Why Does My Dog Lick My Feet?

All of those eccrine glands on the soles of your feet create a lot of sweat, and that sweat creates a lot of salt. Your feet and toes offer a salty treat for your pup—and if you’re ticklish, it also makes for a fun game between you and your dog.

If you smile or laugh as your dog licks your feet, you could be providing positive reinforcement for the behavior. They quickly learn that licking your feet gets them attention from you. This may not only extend the licking session, but make it more likely to happen when your sockless feet emerge in the future.

Why Does My Dog Lick My Legs?

If you’re fresh from the shower, your dog may want to lick the water droplets from your skin. This doesn’t mean your dog is thirsty—rather, they’re interested in all the smells and tastes you’re bringing out of the shower with you.

Shampoo, body wash, and shaving creams all leave an interesting scent and taste on your skin. Nicking yourself with a razor may also attract some attention, since dogs also lick to keep wounds clean.

If the leg-licking has nothing to do with shower time, it could be a lotion you applied, salt on your skin after exercise, or something completely random you weren’t even aware you came into contact with.

When Is Licking a Problem?

Dogs lick for many reasons. They may lick out of boredom, in which case increasing enrichment could reduce the behavior. Activities like lick mats can provide an outlet for bored dogs who like to use their tongues.  

But there are times licking indicates a problem behaviorally and/or medically. Behaviorally, licking that occurs frequently in response to an event but is difficult to interrupt can be a sign of anxiety. Licking a person excessively can mean that the dog is not comfortable with that person and is either trying to sooth themselves, gather more intel, or move the person away.

Licking can be a canine calming signal or a displacement behavior. When a dog feels stressed, anxious, or conflicted about what to do, they may use a behavior to buy sometime and communicate that they are not ready to engage. Licking, because of the physiological effect on endorphins and dopamine, can be used to sooth themselves in anxiety-provoking social situations. It is also a common behavior involved in compulsive disorders.

Medically, chronic licking—not just grooming—of a specific area of their bodies can be evidence of allergies, infections, or pain. If they are licking everything, like couches, rugs, or floors, there may be GI issues with your companion.

If you recognize any problematic forms of licking, seek help from a professional. Reach out to your vet to determine whether there is a medical issue first. Then, a certified behavior consultant can lend their expertise to take a look at the behavior. Complex cases would benefit from contacting a veterinary behaviorist as soon as possible.

Featured image:

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="68477/Kasey-Stopp-DVM-2.jpg">


Kasey Stopp, DVM, CVA


Dr. Kasey Stopp was born in rural Illinois but spent most of her life in Cincinnati, Ohio. She attended the University of Cincinnati where…

Why Do Dogs Eat Poop?

Have you ever caught your dog eating poop and asked yourself, “Ugh, why do dogs do this?” You’re definitely not alone.

Poop-eating, also called coprophagia in dogs, is not exactly a hobby that you would consider ideal for your furry family member. Here’s everything you need to know about why dogs eat poop and what you should do about it.

Key Takeaways

There are normal and abnormal reasons why dogs eat poop.It’s normal for dogs to eat the poop of other species, but it’s abnormal for dogs to eat their own poop or other dogs’ poop.To stop a dog from eating poop, use positive reinforcement and redirection.

Why Dogs Eat Poop

The scientific term for the poop-eating habit is coprophagia.

Dogs eat poop for a variety of reasons. And while some are normal, others are signs of an underlying issue. For example: It’s normal and somewhat common for dogs to eat the poop of another species, but it’s uncommon for adult dogs to eat their own poop or another dog’s poop. 

Normal Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop

A dog eating poop can be normal in the following scenarios:

1. They Are Nursing

Nursing female dogs often eat the poop of their young to keep their den clean.

2. It’s Instinctual

A 2018 survey published in Veterinary Medicine and Science hypothesizes that dogs eat poop as a behavior inherited from wolves. Wolves would typically eat fresh poop (less than two days old) to keep the den free of fecal-borne intestinal parasites.

When eaten, the poop would have parasite ova that are not infective, the study explains. After two days, the infective larvae would develop. This could explain why, of the roughly 3,000 dogs surveyed, “the coprophagy was overwhelmingly directed at fresh stools.”

3. The Poop of Other Animals Tastes Good to Them

Dogs sometimes eat the poop of another species. The stool of other animals, such as horses or cats, contains nutrients that can be beneficial. But this poop can also contain harmful bacteria, so it’s best to discourage your dog from eating it.

It’s normal for dogs to eat the poop of another species, but it’s uncommon for adult dogs to eat their own poop or another dog’s poop.

Abnormal Reasons Why Dogs Eat Poop

Eating their own poop or another dog’s poop is not a common behavior, and you’ll need to find out what’s causing it. Here are four reasons why an adult dog will do this.

1. They Want to Get Your Attention

Some dogs may have started eating poop when they are young because they feel like it’s a game. For example, when puppies are young, they may explore by grabbing their poop with their mouths. If your dog does this, you will probably run towards them and cry out some form of “drop it.”  

When this happens, some puppies may be startled, drop the poop, and never touch it again. Other puppies may interpret the yelling as an excited invitation to play.

As a result, they dart away, and then suddenly, an impromptu game of chase occurs. These puppies have learned another way to get their human parents to “play” with them.

Your dog may not even necessarily want to play, but they might simply want you to engage with them. As your dog becomes an adult, this is carried over as a learned behavior that gets them attention. And let’s face it: It’s really difficult to not pay attention to a dog that’s eating poop.

2. They’re Not Feeling Well

If your dog is eating poop, they may not be feeling well.

When you have a puppy or dog that eats other dogs’ poop or their own poop, have your pet examined by your veterinarian. Coprophagia can be associated with diseases of the intestinal tract and sometimes other parts of the body (such as the liver or brain).

If your adult dog has never been a poop eater and suddenly develops the habit in association with symptoms of disease, such as weight loss, lethargy, discomfort, behavioral changes, vomiting, or diarrhea, make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Coprophagia can be associated with diseases of the intestinal tract and sometimes other parts of the body (such as the liver or brain).

Your veterinarian will need to perform diagnostic tests to determine if your dog has an underlying medical problem, such intestinal parasites, nutritional deficiencies, or gastrointestinal disease.

3. They Have Anxiety

Other dogs eat poop as a displacement behavior when they are anxious. If an anxious dog is confined, they may defecate and eat their own poop.

Possible sources of anxiety that can cause coprophagia include:

General anxiety

Worrying about being confined

You being away from them (separation anxiety)

Lack of enrichment activities when confined

4. They’re Scared of Being Punished for an Accident

Some dogs may learn to eat their poop as puppies if they have been repeatedly punished by their owners for defecating in the house. The dog may eat the evidence because they’re worried about how you’ll respond.

When potty training a puppy or dog, never use punitive measures. Instead, rely on positive reinforcement.

How to Stop a Dog From Eating Poop

If your puppy or dog is eating poop, the best way to help them is to put systems in place that prevent them from practicing the habit.

After you’ve determined why your dog eats poop, try these solutions based on the reason behind the behavior.

Dogs That Eat Cat Poop

Even though it’s considered normal, you don’t want your dog diving into the litter box for a snack.

For dogs that eat cat poop:

Put up a pet gate or door that allows the cat access to their litter box while keeping the dog out of that room.

Place the litter box on a big table. This lets your cat jump up to access the box while keeping it out of your dog’s reach.

Try a coprophagic supplement that discourages dogs from eating poop by changing the poop’s taste. (Keep in mind, dogs usually repeatedly eat things that taste good to them. Poop may just appeal to their taste buds.)

Puppies That Start Eating Poop

For puppies that like to eat poop, you need to control their access.

When you are housetraining your puppy, take them out on a consistent schedule. Once your puppy has finished defecating, praise them and offer them a tasty treat. While they are eating the treat, quickly clean up the stool.

This way, you’re not allowing your puppy any access and preventing the problem from occurring. You’re also positively reinforcing their potty training instead of punishing your dog for accidents.

Dogs That Are Crated or Have Anxiety or Separation Anxiety

For confined dogs that eat their own poop, determine how to change some aspects of their confinement to help reduce their anxiety. Some dogs need a bigger space or quieter area, or they simply more puzzle toys to keep them occupied.

For dogs that exhibit anxiety and cannot be left alone, look into daycare or whether your dog to come to work with you. These dogs can also benefit from seeking the help of a veterinary behaviorist or certified animal behaviorist.

Adult Dogs That Have Learned to Eat Their Poop

If a dog has learned to eat poop because they are scared of being punished for having an accident, the first step is to stop using punishment. Then, take active measures to prevent your dog from having access to poop.

It might be the case that the dog was punished by past owners. In this case, keep your focus on positive reinforcement—though you’ll still need to restrict access to the poop.

Once the behavior has been established, it’s crucial that you remain patient and consistently use positive reinforcement to encourage alternative behaviors for your dog to perform other than eating poop.

Redirect Your Dog’s Attention

When you have an adult dog that has been eating poop for a long time, then it’s important that you go out with your dog whenever they need to defecate.

As soon as they are finished, call your dog over to you for treats. Then, either put them back in the house or toss a toy for them to chase while you pick up their stool.

If your dog immediately turns around to eat their poop and does not listen to you, you’ll need to keep your dog on a leash and lead them away as soon as they have defecated.

To truly discourage your dog from eating poop, you will need to continue to manage your dog and restrict access to the poop to prevent a relapse. Some people are successful by teaching their dogs a “leave it” cue and then a “come” or automatic “sit” using positive reinforcement.

The real key is to always offer plenty of praise and treats when your dog chooses not to immediately go for their poop. To help, you should find a super high-value treat that they only get in these scenarios.

Use Dog Training Tools

You can also use pet gear to help stop your dog from eating poop.

Leash: Keep your pet on a leash when working on this behavior so you can quickly lead them away from the stool. Work on “leave it” cues if needed.

Clicker: Clicker training can also be very useful when teaching your dog to stop eating poop.

Treats: Be sure to have a treat pouch and keep lots of tasty rewards on hand.

Poop bags: Pick up and remove all stool from the yard immediately to remove any temptation for your pet.

Make the Poop Less Appealing

If your dog is eating their own poop because it tastes good to them and they’ve developed the habit, try using dog chews to discourage this behavior. Popular products include:

Zesty Paws Stool Eating Deterrent

NaturVet Coprophagia Stool Eating Deterrent

Nutri-Vet Nasty Habit Chews

Solid Gold Stop Eating Poop

Probiotics can also be used to help stop your pet from eating their stool. 

These chews can be given in conjunction with your efforts to keep your dog away from their poop by distracting them with toys or using training tools.

Featured Image:

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="11978/Sung headshot.JPG">


Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB


Dr. Wailani Sung has a passion for helping owners prevent or effectively manage behavior problems in companion animals, enabling them to…