Puppies that don't have enough positive experiences with people, other animals, and environments learn to fear the unfamiliar.
How can you rein in bothersome behavior? For most problems, reward based techniques that help dogs unlearn their deep-seated fears are effective. But occasionally medication is in order.
Sleep RunnerThere's a video of a dog on YouTube - he jumps up in his sleep, starts running, and crashes into a wall.
In normal animals, brain activity during sleep is similar to that of an awake, alert state. The only difference is that large muscle movement, in the legs, for example, is inhibited.
In what's called R.E.M sleep disorder, the brain signals reach the large muscles so that the animal acts out its dreams.
There are medications that may help control the condition, says Dr. Yin.
Fear of ThunderFear of thunder is a common canine fear, but keep an eye on it to be sure it doesn't develop into a phobia.
Symptoms of a phobia include pacing, shivering, and drooling, says Dr. Yin. Some dogs panic and try to escape, and there have been cases of dogs injuring themselves by slamming into doors or glass panes.
If your pup starts acting like he's seen a poltergeist whenever there's a storm, intervention may be in order. Try playing a CD of a thunderstorm at a low volume while playing with him and giving him treats, says Dr. Yin. Raise the volume on CD slowly, and only when he is comfortable - or the therapy may backfire.
The idea is to get him to associate thunder with good times.
Poop SnackDoes your dog like to eat poop? He's not crazy, says Dr. Yin. He's normal. Dogs evolved as scavengers, and poop has protein.
There is the rare dog that never develops a taste for poop, just as some humans never appreciate the taste of caviar. So if your dog turns up his nose at the kitty litter box, consider yourself lucky.
Don't Touch MeSome dogs have specific dislikes - like having their feet touched or nails clipped. If this sounds like your little beast, you may be able to fix the problem by training him to love the things he hates, says Dr. Yin.
Start by pairing grooming with treats. Restraints might work, but they don't address the underlying fear.
Around and AroundHave you seen the dogs on YouTube that compulsively spin in circles? Their owners may think it's funny, because their dog isn't doing it for hours at a time - yet.
There is a danger in letting such behavior go unchecked, says Dr. Yin. It can worsen - sometimes after a traumatic event - and the dog may get to the point where he's unable to stop.
Some dogs spin compulsively at the expense of eating, and may even have to be euthanized.
Crash Bang PopIf your dog destroys the house every 4th of July, he may be afraid of the fireworks in the neighborhood. Don't add to his anxiety by yelling or punishing him.
Instead, says Dr. Yin, pick up a sound effects CD and play the sound of fireworks at low volume. Play with him and give him treats as you do. Gradually increase the volume so that he associates the loud noise with fun.
This will work for some dogs, while others will need antianxiety medication.
Separation AnxietyWhining, incessant barking when you leave - what's wrong with that dog? It could be separation anxiety, and your neighbors will thank you if you start behavior modification stat.
Just like humans, dogs need to learn emotional self-control. When Dr. Yin works with clients, she teaches the dog that he must lie down quietly to get the owner to return.
Owners must be educated as well. Making a fuss over your comings and goings reinforces a dog's anxious behavior. Stay calm, and reward your dog is he does too.
Dog HaterDoes your dog love people but hate other dogs? This behavior is natural for pets who didn't have enough positive experiences with other dogs during the sensitive period of socialization - three weeks to three months of age.
A dog raised in an exclusively human environment may come to see other dogs as aliens.
Shadow ChaserIt may be amusing to watch your dog chase light and shadow patterns on the wall. He might do it for attention, if he gets a positive reaction.
If you can easily distract him from the game, that may be okay. But if he is prone to compulsive behavior and the shadow chasing is not nipped in the bud, it could morph into something the dog is incapable of controlling, says Dr. Yin.
Mirror, MirrorDoes your dog bark at his reflection? Or does he go to great lengths to avoid looking at it?
That's normal. Think about it - a moving, odorless dog that appears in the house is probably as scary as seeing a ghost, says Dr. Yin. Most dogs eventually learn to ignore the specter.
Senior CitizenHas your older dog started snubbing your calls? Does he fail to greet you at the door? Is he suddenly having potty accidents in the house?
He may have canine cognitive dysfunction, which is similar to senility in humans, says Dr. Yin. Special antioxidant-fortified dog foods or antioxidant capsules can slow the process. If all else fails, your vet may be able to prescribe a helpful medication.
Night SuckingYour dog can't help but obsessively suck on his own thigh, or a blanket, at bedtime? There's a name for that: Flank sucking. It's seen most often in Dobermans.
Owners are often unconcerned, but this behavior should not be encouraged. Dogs who suck blankets can swallow pieces of blanket so large they have to be surgically removed.
Is It Alive?You may laugh to see your dog bark angrily at a fire hydrant, but if this fear-based behavior is left uncorrected, it can worsen - and bleed into other aspects of the dog's life.
Leader of the DanceThe old way of training taught owners how to lead by bossing dogs around. Dr Yin favors having the human lead the dog - like a dancere leading his/her partner.
"If you can move in ways that make your signals clear, your dog will understand what you want or expect of him, " she says. "Overall, you will become more predictable and trustworthy in his eyes."
That makes for a better-adjusted dog.
Train YourselfThe old adage "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" has no basis in truth, says Dr. Yin. The difference between training an old dog versus a younger one actually lies in the behavior of the human.
If the owner has had a dog for a long time, he/she has likely developed habits that contribute to the dog's undesired behavior. The dog may learn a new way to behave, but if the owner is inconsistent, the dog might not make progress.
Sometimes, says Dr. Yin, it's harder to break the owner of his/her bad habits than it is to change the dog's behavior.