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Is My Dog Throwing a Tantrum?

Dr. Jan Bellows.

Dogs have very obvious emotions. They are an animal that wears its heart on its sleeve (or fur). They put their tail between their legs when they are scared, wag their tail wildly when they are playful or happy, and lay down and look up at you when they are tired, sad or bored. In general, most dog behaviors are fairly easy to understand.

However, there are a variety of dog behaviors that are more complicated. We sometimes have a tendency to place human emotions onto dogs, but the reality is that there is still a lot we do not know about dog emotions. One of the best examples of this is when it comes to negative behaviors.

Dogs may also exhibit some strange behaviors that seem moody, angry or sometimes even a little bit scary. For new dog owners that have never experience some of these behaviors, they may look as though your dog is trying to act out, and possibly throwing a tantrum.

Uncontrollable Running

Some types of dogs are prone to uncontrollable running. Excite them just a little bit and they will suddenly jolt around your home, running and weaving in and out of anything in their path, possibly running into pieces of furniture until they finally stop and look up at you, tired.

Do you have a herding dog? This is not a tantrum. This is the effect of a rush of energy that has caused these dogs to be overwhelmed by their instincts. Herding dogs have herding instincts, so they will start to run. Anything that causes a rush of energy can lead to these types of behaviors.

Many of these strange, sudden, and possibly overwhelming behaviors are a result of your dog’s specific breed type. You will find that many breeds, not just herding breeds, have some type of instinctual behavior that they struggle to control when they are rushed with energy. Keep that in mind when you are worried about a dog tantrum.

Alpha Behaviors

Other types of behaviors that may seem like tantrums are alpha dog behaviors. Dogs may show these behaviors by urinating on your pillow or chewing up your favorite shirt. In some ways these dogs are throwing a mild tantrum. For example, a dog is more likely to urinate on your pillow if you recently kicked it out of bed.

However, these are generally the result of the dog thinking it is alpha of the pack. When you do things that question its leadership, these dogs respond with bad behaviors designed to reinforce “their dominance.” Urinating in your pillow may be due to you sleeping in a space it thinks is its own. All of these “tantrums” are due to a long term problem and your dog acting out in specific ways.

Do Dogs have Tantrums?

According to pet owners, dogs do have tantrums. Many pet owners have found that their dogs seem to slam their paws on the ground when they do not get what they want or nip at their feet when they are unhappy. Some of these dogs may be having tantrums, while others behaviors may simply be getting anthropomorphized by their owners.

Still, there is no denying that there are a number of behaviors that dogs show that could easily be defined as having a tantrum. For example, if your dog gets frustrated, it may bark at you angrily, growl and whine a bit, or go and attack its toys out of frustration. But dogs are not likely to show you true tantrums in the same way that humans do.