I frequently get calls from distraught owners of dogs with behavior problems. Their complaints are valid, the behaviors are a problem, the owners are sincerely upset and I don’t blame them.
Lets first define the term “behavior problem”. Behavior is anything a dead dog can’t do. The “problem” part is up to individual interpretation. From the dog’s point of view I imagine we humans demonstrate many behaviors, which could be classified as problems. After all a majority of our dogs were given little choice as to whom they live with. Since we choose to live with dogs it would be a good idea to get to know the species better. The good natured dog over looks our problems and loves us despite them. We humans on the other hand pick on the most menial issues while 99% of all that we define as behavior problems are simply natural dog behavior. Lets face it we have opened our homes to carnivorous predators but what we really want is a large gold fish with fur that can exist outside of the fish bowl, not move too much, make very little sound if any and respond with affection but only when we require it. What we have is a culture clash. Any behavior the dog demonstrates, however infrequently, which the owner disapproves of is considered a problem. When asked, “Why does my dog …” (you fill in the blank) my usual response is – “Because it’s a dog!” Dogs do dog stuff. We don’t do dog stuff and don’t understand dog stuff so we don’t like most of the dog’s stuff that they do.
For the sake of time I would like to address just a few of the most common problems owners experience with their dogs.
All dogs bark but incessant barking is annoying, not to mention illegal in many city limits. The obvious purpose for barking is communication but rather than delving into the hundreds of potential reasons why your dog may be barking lets just blame it on the fact that it’s a dog and for the sake of time deal with just few. First off teach him to bark on cue. Then teach him to be quiet on cue. When he barks give him the cue for quiet and be sure to reinforce his quiet behavior. Remember this is not a scolding but a new learned behavior, which the dog will begin to offer so long as it is being reinforced (rewarded).
Give him a companion. This does not need to be another dog. I know of a dog whose best friend was a desert tortoise. The dog follows the tortoise around the yard and lies down next to him whenever it stops. Another dog I know has his own cat. He loves this cat. They sleep together, play together and if the dog wants his cat he just carries her in his mouth and puts her where he wants her to be. She is a very easygoing cat!
If he is barking at night try crate training him in the house and do something to keep him awake during the day. If this is not possible how about playing the radio for him? Just hang one up outside and out of reach, loud enough to drown out probable causes but not so loud that it will disturb anyone. If the dog is barking because of communication with other dogs, if he lonely or fearful using music to drown out any outside noises has proven to be tremendously effective.
Many behavior problems are simply due to boredom. We no longer permit hunting so be creative with the presentation of their meals. Ration out the breakfast of kibble, half of the breakfast gets poured into a plastic empty milk or soda container, some poured into a Buster Cube or a Kong [these are toys which can be purchased at most pet supply stores] and the remainder thrown on to the lawn for grazing. These are problem solving and time consuming adventures in
breakfast. Supply a smoked knucklebone given to your dog only during his bark periods. If the dog is barking during the day and you are home, bring him in the house! Housebreak him, teach him house manners, and offer stuffed toys (as previously mentioned) to keep him busy.
Certain breeds are more prone to dig than others because it’s part of their job description. These will be undoubtedly harder to “cure” than breeds whose job description includes herding sheep or chasing bunnies. Dogs dig for many reasons. Here are just a few:
If your dog is digging around the perimeter of your fence line it’s a good indication that he is planning his escape. Try to find out what is out there that is more fun than his back yard. Maybe he needs more attention, a companion, more problem solving toys. In any case don’t ever allow him to escape or you’ll soon have an escape artist on your hands. Preventive medicine is your best cure. Quick fix: Buy pipe cut in ten to twelve inch long pieces. With your dog out
of sight, hammer them into the ground, at least half way deep, along the fence line where your dog has been focusing his efforts and distance them less than the width of his head apart from each other.
Laying in a hole of freshly dug cool dirt under a nice shade tree during our hot California summer is a pretty tempting thing to do. Offer him a child’s wading pool filled with a couple inches water under the same shade tree instead. Or how about plastic soda bottles full of ice to lay up against. Or better yet bring him in the comfort of your air-conditioned home even if just to siesta in a crate for a couple hours.
So supply him with other fun stuff to do to divert him from the dirt – OR – just let him dig! Digging is great fun for our dogs so lets come to a compromise. Give him a digging pit of his very own. It may sound crazy but get four railroad ties make a square preferably in a shaded area, fill it up with sand and let him have at it! This must be taught and digging must be supervised at first so there are no misunderstandings. Teach your dog to dig on cue. Then when you have this behavior on cue, teach him to stop on cue. This makes it easier to teach him where he can and cannot dig.
Puppies chew and can be quiet destructive. Since a puppy ideally comes from a litter his attitude is “If you’re not playing with it it’s mine.” This attitude applies to all objects that can not move out of reach of the teeth including patio furniture, barbeque grill (especially if it has tires), the hose, Malibu lights, sprinkler heads, flowers, back door mats, even screen doors. Beside the obvious inconvenience of such destructive behavior it’s down right dangerous! In the case of puppies there are two quick fixes: 1) supervise constantly 2) provide a safe but restricted area to play when unsupervised. Number 2 is obviously the most practical and fun when you add water, shade and a variety of textured toys, durable and problem solving toys with food treat pay-offs. Some adult dogs chew for the same reason that puppies do. Compound this with boredom and you can have a real mess on your hands. The cure to this behavior problem is the same as with a puppy but add obedience, which often occupies the mind so he’s not quite so bored when left alone.
This is the number one reason dogs are surrendered to shelters all over America. This behavior problem could be considered the unpardonable sin. What we have here is a failure to communicate. Aside from territorial marking, dogs do not care where they relieve themselves. If they are in the house there is no reason for a dog to leave the house to eliminate as far as the dog is concerned. So it is not a natural act for a dog to find his owner and communicate to him or her that it needs to go out. This needs to be taught on cue. During house breaking the dog must be supervised or restricted to a crate or put outside when unsupervised. The dog must be taken out to the designated location periodically where the owner and the dog stay until the dog relieves himself. A cue is given to this behavior such as “Go Potty” and three food treats are offered to reinforce this behavior. House breaking does require consistency but if the dog is not yet house broken do not allow for “accidents”. Because eliminating is a self-reinforcing behavior, “accidents” cause the reoccurrence of yet more “accidents” until your dog is un-house broken and you hate him. If for some reason you are having no success in house breaking call a dog trainer familiar with this area of behavior.
Obedience training, though an absolute must for harmonious two-way communication, is not a cure all for behavior problems (just most of them). As a desirable behavior is reinforced, with the intent of replacing an undesirable behavior the dog will offer this behavior at a higher rate. As a result the undesired behavior will be displayed less frequently especially when ignored, until it finally disappears. This is how training can have a tremendous positive effect on the human - dog relationship. Dogs are thrilled to offer behaviors once they are reinforced. They can be wonderful hard working employees! It gives them a sense of purpose, a sense of self worth. This two-way communication does wonders for the dog’s owner as well. No longer placed in the same category as a tree or a post the owner is now consequential, in control, the Great Kibble Hunter! It’s a joy to see a one-time resentful dog owner walking proudly with his attentive dog on a loose leash.
In our society an unruly dog is an outcast while the obedient dog is a pleasure. Yet again what we consider as unruly dog behavior is just a dog doing dog stuff. Getting a dog to do people stuff will take a little thought and a little time, but worth the effort. Aren’t you glad your dog is never so busy doing dog stuff that he has no time for you?
Article submitted by: © Judy Guile (Biography & Additional Information)
Article courtesy of Pet360