Having been the foster “mom” of eleven dogs, I have encountered my share of behavior issues with them, as well as with my own dogs over the years. When a dog exhibits a behavior problem such as housetraining, aggression, anxiety or other issues, it is always a good idea to rule out a medical problem first. A health issue can masquerade as a behavior problem. And vice versa.

Housetraining issues are a great example. When dogs who have always been reliable with their house manners and then suddenly are having accidents, it is a good indication of something medical going on. The problem could be a urinary tract infection, kidney problems, or even food-related sensitivities. My female Poodle started to urinate in the house when I switched her food. Go figure! Housetraining accidents may also be a related to the onset of diabetes or Cushings disease. Does your dog drink a lot of water? Best to get a vet check.

Has your dog unexpectedly started showing aggression? Of course, aggression is very complicated to diagnose a root cause, however, a medical issue may very well be the source. If a dog is in pain or any discomfort, they are more likely to show it by trying to bite. Please, before blaming the dog for being “mean” and possibly giving up on him, have a vet check him out. I remember many years ago when I was doing temperament testing on dogs at a rescue organization, one dog growled at me when I handled him. Luckily, I noticed that he was having trouble standing on his back leg. The vet checked him and sure enough, he had arthritis. Once he was treated, the growling stopped. He was adopted and is an amazing dog.

But the issue can go the other way, what may look like a medical issue could very well be behavioral. One of my foster dogs was having a lot of housetraining accidents. I noticed that he was drinking water constantly. I tried restricting water and he became very upset, knocking over my water glass, licking the floor, in search of water. So I had him checked by a vet. All tests came out normal. I realized I was dealing with a possible obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Because I didn’t know this dog’s history, it was possible that he had been denied water at one time and now he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to get access to it. Who knows what else may have been going on in this poor dog’s life before he came to me? But I was glad that I had him checked by a vet. Now I knew that he was healthy and I could then decide on a treatment plan for his behavior.

So before you jump to any conclusions about your dog’s behavior, please be sure to have a vet check him out. The outcome may surprise you.