5 min read

5 Common Behavioral Problems in Puppies


By Leslie Ingraham

Published: 11/02/2021, edited: 11/02/2021

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All puppies display behavioral problems from time to time, sometimes getting away with them because they’re so darn cute! But there are some behaviors that may indicate a psychological or physical health issue in your pup.

More and more pet insurance plans are expanding their coverage to include behavioral disorders. These behaviors indicate a psychological problem such as separation anxiety, or a medical problem like hypothyroidism. They can include obsessive chewing or licking, aggressive behavior, incessant barking, and phobias or obsessive behavior. Want to learn more about some of these harmful habits and when to call a behavioral specialist?

What is a behavioral specialist?

A behavioral specialist is a dog trainer that focuses on harmful and destructive mental problems beyond everyday sit-down-stay commands. For example, if a puppy becomes wildly aggressive at the sight of another dog, changing this behavior becomes critical to successful dog socialization skills. 

Sit-down-stay may be key to avoiding a fight and injury. These can be taught by any trainer, but a behavioral therapist is useful to train puppies to obey these commands in stressful or stimulating environments. Teaching pups how to act when they’re being aggressively challenged can prevent harmful attacks.

The fur-st step in addressing puppy behavior problems is to see your veterinarian, who can screen the pup for underlying health problems that may be causing them. The vet will take a complete history and do a physical exam, which may include blood and other tests. If there are no health problems, like chronic pain conditions that may be causing the problematic behaviors, a behavioral therapist is a next step.

The behavioral professional will want to discover the root causes of problems to find solutions. Dog trainers typically work to change behavior without always considering underlying causes. Pet insurance companies sometimes cover behavioral therapy, whereas routine training is not covered.

5 common behavioral problems in puppies

Let’s look at five common behavior problems in puppies that may be appropriate for a behavioral specialist.


Aggression in puppies may be mistaken for harmless play when they’re very young but could become problematic as the pup grows unless it’s addressed. 

In most grown dogs, aggression is the result of a need to control a situation out of fear or a perceived threat. It can also be caused by pain. If  left untreated until the dog is no longer a puppy, it will be more difficult to reverse and can cause more serious harm.

How do I train my dog not to be aggressive?

  • Identify your dog’s triggers
  • Distract your dog with a toy
  • Review obedience commands regularly

Separation anxiety

Dogs are natural pack animals, and pet puppies consider their human family to be their pack, even if it is only one person. When separated from their packs, puppies make lots of noise so their pack can hear them and find them again. As the time lengthens, the distress grows and the pup will attempt to escape to find their pack by scratching or chewing on their crate, door jambs, or carpeting. 

Pet parents sometimes react to the destruction with anger, which confuses the dog. Behavioral therapists know the techniques needed to make the puppy feel safer and adjust to their pet parents’ being away from home.

How do I stop separation anxiety?

  • Start crate training early, ensuring your dog’s crate is comfortable
  • Don’t make a big deal out of goodbyes
  • Exercise or play with your pup before leaving the house
  • Provide a safe toy when you leave, like a Kong filled with peanut butter
  • Ask your vet about supplements like CBD oil for severe separation anxiety

For more information, check out our guide on training a dog with separation anxiety.

Obsessive behaviors

Obsessive behaviors like destructive chewing, constant licking, pacing, and fur-pulling are upsetting for any pup parent to see. When training efforts to distract the dog don’t work, it may be time to call in a behavioral therapist to get to the cause. 

In many cases, anxiety is the problem. A behavior therapist knows how to reduce anxiety and teach pet parents how to continue the therapy for the long run.

How do I stop my dog’s obsessive behaviors?

  • Visit a vet to rule out underlying conditions
  • Identify your dog’s triggers
  • Give your dog more space to move around if you can
  • Provide plenty of mental and physical stimulation

For more information about obsessive behaviors, check out our guide on canine compulsive disorder.

Excessive barking

Excessive barking is also often the result of anxiety and is your puppy’s way of expressing it. While it is useful to have a dog who barks at dangerous situations like intruders, constant and persistent barking at every stimulus can be annoying, and can become problems for the pet parent and possibly their relationships with neighbors. 

Also, excessive barking may repel canines and humans and impede opportunities for healthy socialization. A behavioral therapist who is adept at teaching g a puppy when and how long it’s appropriate to bark can significantly improve the behavior without resorting to shock collars and confusing angry responses.

How do I train my dog to stop barking?

  • Identify the dog’s triggers
  • Avoid shouting at your dog
  • Introduce a “bark” command
  • Teach your dog the “quiet” command
  • Be patient and consistent with training

For a detailed walkthrough, check out our guide on how to train your dog to stop barking.


Dogs can have phobias, just like their human parents. There may be objects or activities around them that trigger a significant fear response that interferes with their ability to live peacefully. 

A garden statue, a cat, or sounds like fire engines and fireworks can raise a puppy’s anxiety level to the extent that they may even urinate or defecate in their fear. While soothing and petting may calm the pup down temporarily, the fear remains. Behavioral therapy may help alleviate it over time. 

How can I help my dog overcome fear?

  • Identify your dog’s triggers
  • Ask your vet about anti-anxiety medications like Buspirone
  • Review obedience commands to build confidence
  • Stay calm to let your dog know there’s nothing to fear

For more tips, check out our guide on how to train your dog to stop being fearful.

Some pet health insurance plans can help with problem behaviors in puppies

Pet insurers that offer comprehensive behavior therapy coverage include:

For an additional cost, PetFirst and Trupanion have limited benefits covering three to twelve sessions. Be sure to check individual plans to find out the actual benefits and costs included in policies with a behavioral component.

Behavioral therapists vary widely in their fees, costing from $50 to more than $600 for single sessions. Pet insurance plans typically cover 70% to 90% of these fees, with policy deductibles from $250 to $1,000. Deductibles are the amount owed by the pet parent prior to the insurance kicking in. In addition, some plans have a separate deductible for pet therapy, and coverage limits from $5,000 to $30,000 over the lifetime of the dog. After reaching the coverage limit, pet parents pay 100% out-of-pocket. 

For most dogs, training is a walk in the dog park. But if you’re having trouble with training, consider investing in pet insurance. Many plans cover prescribed behavior modification for conditions like separation anxiety. Plan ahead and start searching for pet insurance today.

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