Displacement Behavior in Dogs 


Displacement Behaviors: Often times our dogs will display a seemingly ordinary behavior but at a possibly unusual time. We call these behaviors displacement behaviors. Essentially, the dog wants to do something but he is holding back. He will displace the behavior that he is holding back on and instead display another behavior. Ordinarily, there is a sense or anxiety and/or the dog is in a situation of uncertainty. The displacement behavior is a result of that inner
turmoil. Remember, these are ordinary behaviors but pay close attention to the context in which the dog is displaying them. If your dog is yawning at bedtime, that’s ok but if he’s yawning while your child is hugging him that could be a clear sign that he’s experiencing anxiety.

Examples of displacement behaviors:

  • Sudden sniffing of objects or the ground
  • Shaking as if he’s wet but he’s not
  • Biting at his paws or other areas of his body
  • Licking his mouth when there’s no food around
  • Yawning when he’s not tired
  • Sudden scratching of his ears or other body parts

The signs that we have discussed today are all signs that the dog in question is feeling uneasy. While an anxious dog is not always an aggressive dog, any dog that feels cornered or threatened may attempt to bite to protect himself from perceived danger. Always allow your dog a safe place to retreat to and educate all family members and visitors to stay away from your dog if he chooses to retreat.

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