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Dealing With Doggy Temper Tantrums

Written by Ella White


black pug lying down and refusing to move

Ever feel like your dog is throwing a fit? While our furry friends don't have temper tantrums in the human sense, they do exhibit behaviors that might leave you scratching your head. From puppy antics to the quirks of older dogs, we'll dissect the unique dynamics at play in different life stages to help you understand what drives your dog's emotional outbursts, and gain insights into their needs and psychology. When you’re done, you'll feel like the master of taming doggy tantrums and nurturing a happier, well-behaved pet.

The question of whether dogs can have temper tantrums is one that often stirs curiosity among pet owners. While dogs do not have tantrums in the same way humans do, they can display behaviors that might appear similar. 

Canine tantrums are better understood as emotional responses to various stimuli, which are often rooted in frustration, fear, or anxiety. Dogs lack the cognitive complexity to intentionally throw a tantrum like humans do, but they can certainly exhibit behaviors that indicate emotional distress. These may include whining, barking excessively, growling, snapping, or even destructive actions like chewing furniture or digging holes. These behaviors are typically their way of expressing frustration or discomfort, rather than calculated attempts to manipulate us.

It's important to remember that dogs rely on non-verbal communication and body language to express themselves. Their "tantrums'' are often a result of not being able to communicate their needs effectively. Understanding these cues and addressing the underlying causes of their distress will help your pet overcome what might appear to be a tantrum.

The expression of temper tantrums can vary significantly between puppies and older dogs due to differences in age, experience, and maturity. Understanding these distinctions is vital for effective management and training.


Puppies are akin to human toddlers when it comes to tantrums. They lack self-control and emotional regulation, often acting out when their needs are not met or when they are overwhelmed. Common puppy tantrum behaviors include biting, excessive barking, whining, and destructive chewing. These outbursts are typically driven by curiosity, teething, fear, or the frustration of not getting their way.

Training and socialization play pivotal roles in managing puppy tantrums. Consistent, positive reinforcement and teaching basic commands can help puppies learn appropriate behavior. But patience and a gentle approach are essential, as harsh punishments can exacerbate the problem.

Older Dogs

As dogs mature, they generally develop better self-control and emotional stability. Tantrums in older dogs may stem from health issues, anxiety, or changes in their environment. Signs of tantrums in older dogs can include increased vocalization, aggression, or regression in their behavior.

Understanding the underlying causes is paramount when dealing with older dogs. Medical check-ups can rule out any health-related triggers, and gradual introductions to new situations or changes in routine can help older dogs adapt without resorting to tantrums.

In both cases, whether dealing with puppy exuberance or senior sensitivity, a consistent and compassionate approach to training and care is essential to minimize and manage temper tantrums and maintain a harmonious relationship with your four-legged friend.

Identifying the specific cause of your dog's tantrum-like behavior is the first step toward effective management and prevention. Addressing the underlying issue with patience, training, and, if necessary, consultation with a veterinarian or professional dog trainer can help you and your furry friend lead a harmonious life together.

1. Frustration

Dogs, like humans, can become frustrated when they can't achieve their goals or when they encounter obstacles. This frustration can manifest as barking, whining, pawing, or even destructive behavior. For example, if a dog is confined to a crate for extended periods without proper exercise or mental stimulation, they may become frustrated and act out.

2. Fear And Anxiety

Fear and anxiety are significant contributors to dog tantrums. Loud noises, unfamiliar environments, or being left alone can trigger anxiety-related behaviors like excessive barking, trembling, or hiding. Dogs may attempt to "escape" these situations by throwing what appears to be a tantrum.

3. Attention-Seeking

Some dogs may resort to tantrum-like behaviors, such as pawing or barking, to get attention from their owners. If they learn that these behaviors result in attention, they may repeat them, even if the attention is negative. This can also include taking items (children's toys, car keys or shoes etc), it doesn’t matter if your child is crying or you’re angrily demanding they return what they’ve run off with, it’s a game to them and they’re enjoying the attention. 

4. Lack of Exercise And Stimulation

Dogs need physical exercise/learn/education/key-steps-to-make-a-happier-healthier-dog/home-exercise-for-dogs and mental stimulation to stay happy and well-behaved. A lack of these can lead to pent-up energy and boredom, which may be expressed through destructive chewing, digging, or hyperactive behavior.

This can be especially prevalent if you’ve got a high energy or working breed dog. FOTP’s Kim says:

“When my Australian Shepherd Osric/learn/dog-diaries/5-things-ive-learned-from-my-australian-shepherd gets plenty of exercise and attention, his behavior is perfect. But if we’re having a busy week and he misses a few training sessions, it’s like he’s a puppy again only obeying the commands he feels like obeying. Nine times out of ten, once he’s had a twenty minute training session or he’s learnt a new command, he’s suddenly back to behaving himself perfectly.”

5. Health Issues

Physical discomfort or underlying health problems can also lead to dog tantrums. If a dog is in pain, they may snap or growl when touched. It's essential to rule out medical issues when addressing behavioral problems.

6. Changes In Routine Or Environment

Dogs thrive on routine, so any sudden changes in their environment or daily schedule can cause stress and result in tantrum-like behaviors. These changes could include moving to a new home/learn/dog-lifestyle/7-tips-to-help-your-dog-while-moving-house, introducing a new pet/learn/dog-training/introducing-a-new-puppy-to-an-older-dog, or alterations in feeding and walking times.

Stopping or preventing dog tantrums requires a combination of understanding, training, and patience. Here are some effective strategies to help you manage and ultimately stop tantrum-like behaviors in your dog.

1. Identify The Underlying Cause

Start by identifying the specific trigger or cause of your dog's tantrums. Is it frustration, fear/learn/dog-lifestyle/is-my-dog-scared-of-the-dark, anxiety/learn/dog-health/dog-anxiety-facts-tips-and-treatment-options, or a need for attention? Understanding what's driving the behavior is crucial for addressing it effectively.

2. Consistent Training

Consistent training is essential in curbing tantrum-like behaviors in your dog. Teach them basic commands like "sit," "stay," and "leave it." And use positive reinforcement/learn/dog-training/positive-reinforcement-training-for-dogs, like treats or praise, to help them learn and motivate them to behave well.

3. Socialization

Exposing your dog to various environments, people, and other animals during their early development stages can reduce anxiety and fear-based tantrums. Proper socialization/learn/dog-training/how-to-socialize-a-dog at as early an age as possible helps dogs adapt to different situations and become more well-adjusted.

4. Exercise And Mental Stimulation

Ensure your dog gets enough physical exercise and mental stimulation. A tired dog is less likely to engage in destructive or attention-seeking behaviors. So regular walks, playtime, and puzzle toys that keep them mentally and physically engaged will lead to fewer ‘tantrums’.

5. Avoid Reinforcing Negative Behavior

Avoid inadvertently reinforcing tantrum-like behaviors. For example, if your dog barks for attention, avoid giving in to their demands. Wait for them to calm down before rewarding them with attention.

6. Create A Safe Space

Provide a safe, comfortable space/learn/dog-health/anxiety-products-for-dogs for your dog to retreat to when they feel overwhelmed or anxious. This can be a crate or a quiet room with their favorite toys and bedding.

7. Seek Professional Help

If your dog's tantrum-like behaviors persist or escalate despite your efforts, consider consulting a professional dog trainer or a vet. They can help identify any underlying medical issues or provide specialized training techniques tailored to your dog's needs.

8. Be Patient And Consistent

Consistency is key in training. Be patient with your dog as they learn new behaviors and unlearn unwanted ones. Consistent reinforcement of desired behaviors and ignoring undesirable ones can lead to positive changes over time.

Remember that every dog is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Tailor your approach to your dog's individual needs and personality, and always approach training with love, patience, and positive reinforcement. With time and effort, you can effectively stop and prevent tantrum-like behaviors in your furry companion.