Understanding Your Pomeranian’s Behaviour

To an inexperienced or uninformed person, canine behaviour can be puzzling. Sometimes it’s funny or cute, but other times we humans may see it as disastrous. Before you get upset with your Pom’s behaviour, you should understand that what may be unacceptable to you is perfectly normal for your dog. Learn how to determine if his behaviour only needs redirecting so he can live in harmony with you, or if the behaviour is abnormal and requires the intervention of a professional.

Normal Behaviour

  • Mouthing, chewing, or vocalizing during play.
  • Cautious but curious.
  • Active, energetic; short attention span while playing, especially puppies.
  • Avoids direct eye contact until you have taught him to look at your face.
  • Plays by pawing, batting at, or pouncing on toys, other pets, or people.
  • Rolls over on back.
  • Wants to be with you, follows you, or wants to lay against you.

”Abnormal” Behaviour

  • Biting, snapping, or attempting to bite; growling or aggression towards people or other pets; makes and maintains eye contact in an intimidating manner; possessive of food, toys or bed.
  • Overly shy, timid, or fearful, wants to hide most of the time; frequent cowering or cringing; is agitated unless owner is present.
  • Hyperactive, unable to concentrate or focus attention briefly.
  • Continuous barking or crying. If your Pom is showing some of these ”abnormal” behaviours, you should talk to your vet, trainer, or a behaviourist.

Aggression

Pomeranians seem to prefer the established order of their pack over meeting and making new animal friends. Given this preference, they may also tend to be a more dominant breed than some others. Dominance and aggression are not the same, but excessive dominance can sometimes cross the line into aggressive behaviour.

Displays of aggression can include snarling, growling, lunging, snapping, biting, and can be triggered by many different things like perceived threats or invasion of space. Types of aggression can be fear aggression, territorial aggression, even dominance aggression, and more. Causes of the behaviour are often difficult to determine, and expert help should be sought if your dog shows any signs of aggressive behaviour.

Just because some Pomeranians are dominant does not mean they will be aggressive with other does not mean they will be aggressive with other animals or in new situations. It just means that it’s smart to keep a watchful eye on your dog when he’s around other animals, meeting new people, or in an unusual situation for the first time. Not only is it safer for him, it also gives you the opportunity to interrupt the behaviour if he begins to show signs of aggression.

First, study dog-to-dog communication so that you understand the difference between normal behaviour and aggression. It’s normal for dogs to communicate with each other about status and territory, so this communication should be permitted. Then, if you are uncertain whether or not your Porn is being aggressive, it is important to seek help. Aggression, even in Toy dogs, is an extremely serious problem

However, if your dog does show aggression towards another dog, person, or even you, tell him “no” and put him in his crate. Be cautious how you break up dogs who are fighting or how you handle a dog displaying aggression so that you do not get bitten. If the behaviour continues, consult with your veterinarian. Referral to a behaviour specialist may also be in order.

Biting, Snapping, and Nipping

Puppies love to play with their mouths and nip as part of this play. Between dogs, this is normal behaviour, but it is behaviour that needs to be discouraged when the nipping is directed towards a human. A dog must learn that it is unacceptable to intentionally use their teeth on a human.

When your puppy nips you, startle him with a loud ”Ouch!” and move away from him, terminating the play in which you were engaged. This is similar to what his mother and litter-mates would do and is a signal to him to stop rough play. It is referred to as teaching “bite inhibition.”

Substituting a toy may also redirect his desire to nip. If your dog continues to nip as part of play, add a firm ”no bite” command and stop playtime by putting him in his crate. He will soon get the message that when he nips, his fun comes to an end.

Occasionally, if a puppy’s nipping is ignored, and if the behaviour is reinforced by the owner laughing at, accepting, or otherwise encouraging the dog to nip, nipping can sometimes develop into snapping and biting. This type of behaviour is a difficult to reverse. Snapping and biting are different from nipping.

They have little to do with play and are primarily a display of dominance, aggression, or both. Snapping is usually a preliminary step that may lead to biting. It must be curbed by preventing the behaviour from developing further. If you haven’t started training your Pom, now is the time to begin. Dogs bite for many reasons-fear, self-defence, protection of property, territory, or food, as a reaction to sudden pain, as a message of displeasure, or because the dog is indicating he’s in charge. Often these reasons can be described as a warning for the perceived offender to stop, or as an attempt to protect himself or his owner from a perceived threat. In some instances, dogs that bite may have been removed from their mother too early as a puppy, thus failing to have learned proper bite inhibition.

In other cases, the dog may have been allowed to learn that he is alpha and in charge. A tendency to bite can also be genetic, such as when a bad temperament is inherited from a relative. This is another reason why you should carefully research from where you plan to buy a puppy. Dogs with bad dispositions should never be bred in the first place. If caught early enough during puppy-hood, it may be possible to train away from this behaviour, but it will take an educated, dedicated, and ever vigilant owner to prevent the biting from developing into a serious problem.

A history of abuse, sometimes even of punitive-type training can cause an otherwise good-tempered dog to begin biting. These dogs too may be trained away from the behaviour, but not always. Again, owners will need to put in extensive effort to reverse the behaviour.

If your dog indicates, by warning signs such as growling or snapping, that he is about to bite, sternly tell him, ”No bite.” Remove any toy, treat, or activity that your dog might consider as a reward for this behaviour, and put him into a sit-stay. Remember not to yell, hit, or use any type of physical discipline that could cause your dog to think he must protect himself or assert his pack status.

If your dog does bite, or if his behaviour escalates into biting, get help. Have him Checked by a veterinarian for an illness or injury that might be undetected, particularly if your Pom has never shown any inclination towards biting behavior before. Seek the instruction of a trainer who is experienced with biting problems in toy dogs and who can show you how to teach your dog that you are alpha and in charge, without making him feel threatened.

A dog who bites is not at fault. Except when there is an injury or disease that causes pain, usually a human is to blame when a dog has learned to bite. Regardless, dogs who bite are dangerous. They are a liability. And they are bad news for good dogs everywhere else. Because of the Pom’s tiny size, some owners may not believe it is a serious problem when their dog bites. Even though it may be considered cute by some to see such a small dog act big and ferocious, being bitten by any dog is never cute.

Whatever the reason, biting is never acceptable. (A possible exception to this rule is if the dog is defending you or himself from an actual attacker.) Listen closely again: biting is never acceptable.

A dog that bites is a stressed, miserable dog. Because the conclusion to an episode of biting is often tragic, don’t ignore the warning signs or accept biting in your Pom. Early intervention is critical if the dog (and possibly your insurance coverage) is going to be saved. If your Pom bites, seek professional help and stop the behaviour.

The Alpha role

”Alpha” is the first letter in the Greek alphabet. Applied to dogs, the term refers to the ”first” dog, or in other words, the leader of the pack. Dogs thrive on order, so it is important that each member of their group-the pack-has his own, determined position, such as alpha, or leader. Ranking within a pack determines which dog eats first, gets the first choice of the best bed or toys, and so forth. Having pack hierarchy that is understood and accepted reduces the chances of fighting over such choices everyday, since each member knows his place and rights.

Pack rank is still important to a Pom even when he is the only dog in the house. In his eyes, you and anyone else living in your home are members of his pack. No matter how clever he is, no dog should ever be allowed to run the household, so as the human responsible for your dog’s care, it is up to you be the alpha.

Excessive Barking

Just like humans, dogs like and need to talk, some more than others. Dogs do this by barking. Usually they bark because they have information which they wish to communicate to us. Pomeranians seem to have more information to communicate to their people than some other breeds.

In fact, excessive barking, often described as “yappiness”, may be the top complaint among problem behaviours in this breed. Rescue groups specializing in Pomeranians note that some of the dogs they receive have been given up by their owners because they couldn’t tolerate all the barking.

Additionally, dogs who bark to excess may create problems for their owners. Neighbours who complain may report the problem to city or county officials, who in some cases may have the right to press charges against a Pom’s owner. Fines may be imposed by a court, or in the worst cases, the dog may even be forcibly removed. Landlords who receive complaints from other tenants may resort to issuing ultimatums to owners of noisy Poms: either get rid of the dog or move out.

If neighbours complain that your dog barks while you aren’t at home, this may be a symptom of separation anxiety. Although this is not a common problem in Poms, this type of barking needs to be handled differently.

Solutions

So what can you do if your Porn is one who barks, frequently, and for long periods of time? Removing the triggers to barking is not likely to work, since it is normal for dogs to bark in many situations. You cannot control every situation which ‘ triggers barking, such as when unannounced guests knock on your door. Instead, start with training to control the behaviour. A recent and novel development in bark-control training is to listen to what your dog has to tell you, then thank him for the message. If he continues to bark, tell him, ”enough.”

You can also teach your dog to bark. Why would you want to teach a noisy dog to bark? Because by training him to bark, you can also train him when to bark, when to stop barking, and when not to bark. The first step is to teach your dog to speak on command. When he barks, tell him, ”good speak,” or create a situation where he normally barks, issue the command, and reward him.

Next, work on turning off the barking. Tell him, ”no bark” and place a finger over your lips, whispering, ”sshhh.” This should get his attention and when he responds, tell him, ”good quiet,” or ”good sshhh.” “Quiet” can actually be taught when your dog is not barking. Do this simply by telling him ”good quiet” while he is being still. Clicker training can be combined with ”quiet” training so that your dog understands the exact quiet behaviour for which he is being rewarded.

Barking excessively outdoors may be more of a problem than indoor barking, both for your neighbours to endure and for you to control. It is okay to let your Pom bark once in a while at squirrels or children playing up the street. But you will have to determine when he has barked enough, and again, control the behaviour.

The easiest way to do this is by bringing your dog indoors. Don’t bring him in as punishment. Teach him to come in when you call him, then reward him when he comes. Keep him in until he calms down. Each time you bring him in when he barks too much, he will learn that he only gets to play outside when he is quiet. Couple this with the ”quiet” command, and soon you will have a method for controlling excess barking outside.

In a few cases, owners may still have difficulty preventing their Poms from barking excessively. If this uncontrolled barking damages relations with neighbours or a landlord, or becomes unbearable for the owner, some owners may think about having their dogs debarked.

Debarking is a surgical procedure, performed under general anaesthesia, which alters the vocal chords and permanently renders the dog incapable of barking. There are different degrees of debarking, ranging from a muffled bark to a barely discernible squeak. Veterinarians remind owners considering this surgery that it will not make the dog silent-he will still continue to vocalize, and some level of sound always remains.

Although no greater number of post-surgical complications in Pomeranians than in other breeds are reported by veterinarians, a few owners feel that their debarked Poms have had additional problems with their trachea’s (an issue for the breed, anyway), such as scar tissue, which result in difficulty swallowing and breathing.

A large number of dog enthusiasts believe that debarking is cruel and inhumane and should never be performed on any dog. If bark control training is not completely successful, other tools, such as a collar that issues a strong-smelling puff of citronella each time the dog barks, should be tried first instead. Once all other training methods have been tried for a sufficient period to determine they are not working, and all options have been exhausted but your Pom still barks excessively, and if this barking is creating serious problems which will result in the loss of your home or your dog’s life, then you may wish to consult with your veterinarian about whether or not debarking can save the situation. But a word of warning-remember that debarking is permanent and disabling, and is a drastic option of last resort, to be done only if it will prevent your dog from losing his life or you from losing your home. Whatever your Pom’s reason for barking, listen, tell him when enough is enough, and teach him to be a good, quiet canine neighbour.

Socialisation

Dogs are social animals. Without social exposure they may develop serious behavioural problems. With social contact, they thrive. Even if your Pom prefers to limit his socializing to the company of his family, it is still important that he be properly socialised.

“Socialisation” is a term you hear quite a bit in the dog world, but what does it mean? The dictionary defines it as ”preparation for cooperative living.” Without socialisation, your dog will not know how to behave around people, other animals, or in public. He could also become fearful, timid, or overly protective.

To socialise your dog, you should expose him in a controlled and positive manner to a wide variety of people, animals, places, sounds, smells, and objects, and teach him how to respond correctly to changing situations. Socialisation should begin when your Pam is young and continue throughout his life.

When approaching a new situation, explain to your dog, in short, precise words, where you are going and what he will be doing. Also tell him how you expect him to behave. Hearing your voice is soothing to him, and gives him a word or phrase to associate with specific situations-and their likely outcomes. This in turn allows him to learn what he can expect in the future.

Calmly introduce your dog to the new place or person. Act as if the new situation is routine. If your dog acts hyper, teach him to ”settle.” If he is fearful, avoid a reaction which he may interpret as praise and which will reinforce the behaviour. Don’t force him to investigate, but don’t withdraw him immediately from the new situation.

Start slowly with little excursions, such as taking your Pom with you to the bank drive-through, or have a neighbour meet you at a park to walk your dog. Dogs that are well socialised tend to be happier, well-balanced, and better-behaved dogs.

Chewing

Although Pomeranians aren’t more prone to chewing than any other breed, like any other dog they do like to mouth and they like to chew, particularly as puppies. Chewing on a safe toy is fine, but chewing on your shoes or the furniture is not. The solution to destructive chewing is simple: prevent, supervise, and redirect.

While your puppy is out of his crate playing, watch him closely. If you are supervising his play time, he won’t have the opportunity to chew on any items that are off limits. An easy rule for chewing is that if it’s on the floor, or within reach of your puppy, then it is okay for him to chew it. That means keeping shoes, remotes, pens, the kids’ toys, or anything else that you don’t want chewed, put away or shut out of reach from your pup. For large items that can’t be removed, place a drop of Bitter Apple, vinegar or Tabasco sauce on the spot where your dog likes to chew.

Puppies need to chew, especially when they are teething, but adult dogs also need to chew. To meet this need, always keep a supply of safe chew toys (such as Nylabones) readily available for your Pom. When your puppy begins chewing on a non-chew item, use the “give” command and take it away . from him. Praise him for allowing you to take the item, then immediately substitute a chew toy and tell him, ”good boy” when he takes it.

Digging

Digging is an activity many dogs love and is instinctual behaviour for others. Dogs dig for a variety of reasons: to have something to do; to pursue small prey like a chipmunk; to make a comfortable bed in which to lie; to get out of a fenced yard; to hide a prized possession; or to find a cooler or warmer place to lay on the ground. The most common reasons that a dog digs may be because it’s fun or for reasons that humans may never guess.

Like other Nordic breeds, Pomeranians seem to enjoy an occasional digging expedition. Owners report that their Poms dig outdoors during play. Because of their size, extensive damage to the yard is unlikely to occur. But Poms also like to dig inside in bedding, carriers, mattresses, carpet, and more, probably for some of the same reasons they dig outside.

As long as your Porn is not damaging the lawn or furniture, there’s probably no reason to stop this behaviour. But if your Pom is a problem digger, you might want to offer him a single area where he should confine his digging. Outdoors, provide him with a sandbox that’s filled with white, filtered sand, and toys. Indoors, place a pile of old sheets, towels or a blanket in his play or sleep area and let him dig to his heart’s delight. Once you show him that digging is acceptable in these locations and that the box and toys are his, this will usually curb his tendency towards destructive digging elsewhere.

If your dog is digging to make a comfy spot to rest in the yard, another option is to place a waterproof bed for him on a deck or patio. If he’s digging to escape, secure the bottom of the fence line. Any digging you want stopped, tell him, ”no dig” when you catch him in the act, then redirect him to the permissible digging zone or to another fun activity. Offer praise when he responds.

Jumping Up

When you really love your dog, you probably also love it when he eagerly greets you at the door, jumping up for a kiss and hug.

Licking and smelling of the muzzle to greet a pack leader who’s returning to the den is normal behaviour in dogs. This mutual face-level gathering represents the bonding and functionality of the pack. When you return home, your dog is just acting on this important instinctual behaviour. In order to reach the taller members of their pack, your Pom adapts his behaviour by jumping up to greet you.

Not every visitor to your home will be happy when your dog flies into their face to say hello as they enter your door. And there may be times when jumping up creates problems for you, such as if you’re wearing delicate clothing, carrying packages, or if you are feeling fragile. Plus, it is possible that your Pom could get injured if he jumps too high. You must decide if your Pom is going to be allowed to greet you by jumping up. If you want him to greet you calmly, with all four feet firmly planted on the floor, it will be necessary to teach him not to jump, then consistently stick to the rules. Being allowed to jump sometimes but not others can be quite confusing for your dog; how is he supposed to know when it’s all right to jump on you and when it’s not? If you want your dog to jump for you but not on Visitors, this will require extra training.

To teach your Pomeranian not to jump, he will need to be familiar with the basic obedience commands ”sit, stay,” plus the extra commands “wait,” and ”off.” Go out the door, then come back in. When your dog jumps on you, say, ”off, no jump,” and firmly but carefully place him back onto the floor. Turn away from him and tell him to ”sit” and ”stay.” When he responds, praise him then stoop to his level and allow him to greet you as exuberantly as he wishes from the sit position. Release him from his sit and continue your entry as you normally would. Eventually switch the ”sit/ stay” to “wait,” once he has learned not to jump. With ”wait,” your dog can continue standing or walking about While he awaits your greeting, and you don’t have to remember to release him from a stay. The important message is that your Pom is still permitted to greet you with plenty of enthusiasm but without jumping up on you.

Behaviour specialists

Occasionally, a dog can develop a behavioural problem which cannot be helped with training.

Dogs are complex beings, and it’s possible that even the most educated of owners won’t have the right answer on how to resolve their dog’s issues. If you are in over your head trying to solve your dog’s bad or baffling behaviour, it may be time to consult an animal behaviourist.

Behaviour specialists are educated to understand canine body language, communication methods, pack structure, and much more.

If you live near a university with a veterinary college or a post-graduate college, or in a large, urban area, you may be able to find a behaviourist by looking in the yellow pages. You can also find a behaviourist by searching the internet.

A few professional trainers with extensive experience may be capable of providing you with a behavioural consultation. Be cautious if you go this route. Is the trainer truly qualified to help you with your dog’s problem? Additionally, some behaviourists with psychology degrees may limit their practice to pet animals, but do this work without a certification in animal behaviour. Again, some of these counsellors may be able to help, but make certain that they are knowledgeable about canine psychology, and are able to translate this knowledge into a plan that resolves your dog’s issue.

Ask a potential behaviourist about her credentials, a history of her professional experience, or even for references. When selecting a behaviourist, look for one who has experience with Toy dogs in general, and maybe Pomeranians specifically.

How can you tell if your dog needs a behaviourist? Any sudden or extreme change in behaviour, or behaviour that has been deteriorating gradually over a period of time might be an indication. Start with a thorough veterinary exam first, since nearly 20 percent of abnormal dog behaviours are a result of a medical problem.

Don’t be afraid to seek help from a behaviour specialist. It could be the difference that turns your Pomeranian into a happier dog.

Separation Anxiety

Owners want their dogs to bond with them, but can your dog become too dependent? Yes. Separation anxiety, as the name implies, means that your dog becomes overly anxious when you are separated from him. In other terms, it means he is overly dependent on you. Dependent means “necessary to have” and an overly dependent dog has a higher than normal need to always be near its human. Fortunately, separation anxiety is not a common problem among Pomeranians.

A dog who does suffer from separation anxiety is not just unhappy when apart from his owner, he is extremely agitated and profoundly distressed. Signs that a dog may have separation anxiety include panting, whining, pacing, drooling, occasionally vomiting, and inappropriate urination or defecation while the owner is gone. Additionally, a Pom may bark almost non-stop until his owner returns. In extreme cases, depression, loss of appetite, self-induced injury like lick granulomas (lesions caused by repetitive licking), excessive and destructive conduct such as the shredding of clothing, digging up flooring, and chewing or scratching doors may also develop.

Exact causes of separation anxiety are not clearly understood. Lack of socialization, genetic, and poor breeding, a history of neglect, puppies who have been taken from their mother too soon, dogs who receive an unhealthy amount of attention and always get their own way, or even owners who are excessively needy of their dog’s company are all possible reasons.

The best way to deal with separation anxiety is to try and prevent it. Reduce the possibility of your Pom becoming too dependent on just one person by having different family members feed him. Ask a friend to take him for a walk around the neighbourhood. When you have to be in another room away from your dog, instead of closing the door, put up a baby gate so that he can still see you. Obedience training in a class with other dogs and exposure to new people, places, and sounds, is one of the best ways to provide your dog with the confidence that can help prevent separation anxiety.

if your Pom shows signs of separation anxiety, desensitize him to your departures. Place your dog in his crate with a favourite toy, then go outside for a few minutes. When you come back inside, leave him in his crate for a moment. Repeat this procedure, gradually extending the amount of time you are out.

Remove the clues that you are leaving-keep your keys in the garage, leave your coat in the car, park on the street instead of in the driveway. You can also act as if you’re leaving, then don’t. Put on your jacket, pick up your keys, walk towards the door, then turn around and sit down instead. Shortly, get up and put away your keys and jacket without leaving. And don’t make a big fuss about departures and returns since they are a normal part of household routine to which your dog needs to adapt.

When you actually leave, turn on a radio and a light, place an item of clothing that smells like you in your dog’s crate, and allow access to toys that will keep your Pom occupied until you return home. Although it doesn’t work in all situations, another Pom to keep your dog company may also reduce his anxiety while you are away.

Is separation anxiety developing?

Traits in your Pom that may mean separation anxiety is developing include:

  • Excessive shyness.
  • Fearful; easily stressed.
  • Inability to adapt to change.
  • Destructive when not occupied with owner.
  • Lack of interest in playing by himself.

Submissive Urination

If your Pom piddles on the floor, or rolls over and dribbles urine on his belly whenever you come home or visitors enter your house, he is probably urinating submissively. This does not mean that your Pom’s house training is not taking, or that he is misbehaving. Submissive urination is a sign of respect to the alpha of a pack, given upon his return to the den. It may also occur at feeding time or other times when the dog feels the need to submit. Dogs that urinate in submission may also do so when they are excited, such as when they greet new people. This is more common in puppies and younger dogs. These dogs may not even be aware that they are urinating in these situations.

Generally, most dogs outgrow submissive or excitement urination. In the meantime, owners need to stick with their normal house training routine, clean up the puddle, and move on. It is best not to react at all to a dog that has urinated this way. If you yell, or otherwise react in a negative or emotional manner, the dog will perceive it as a threat, and feel the need to appease you by being even more submissive and urinate even more. The same holds true for excitement urination – yelling excites the dog and he continues to urinate.

If the problem continues, treat it by training. Give your dog confidence through praise and reward for obeying commands. Being able to respond to commands, such as a sit-stay, gives him another outlet for showing submission to you, the leader of the pack.

Reply