Owning a dog with problem behaviors is frustrating and all too often people, even trainers, spend a lot of time addressing why the problems occur. Descriptions like dominant (widely misused), territorial and aggressive are used to describe the dog's behavior.
Once the dog is labeled, little is done to change the problem. The behavior is chalked up to the descriptor.
Classifying a dog's poor behavior as bad or dominant does nothing to fix the problem. You must identify the problem and work out a solution.
What do you mean when you say your dog is bad? Exactly what is he doing? Chewing on the furniture?
For a dog, chewing is a natural outlet for releasing energy or having fun. Walk the dog more frequently and give him a variety of appropriate chew toys for his need.
Rotate his toys regularly. Put one-third of your dog's toys in the closet and every three days, bring out those toys and put another third away. By rotating the toys, your dog will have renewed interest in the toys and will enjoy the variety. Give him food-stuffed toys and tasty chew items when he is left home alone.
Many dogs get labeled as dominant.
Dogs that jump on people are accused of trying to dominate the humans. They are not.
Jumping is a natural way for dogs to play and greet their fellow canines, and they jump on people for the same reasons. Their jumping is often rewarded when someone pushes them back. This is a fun game of wrestling for many dogs.
Teaching a dog to keep four paws on the floor stops the jumping. The dog cannot keep all four paws on the floor and still jump on people at the same time.
Instruct all who encounter your dog to turn a shoulder toward your dog each time he starts to jump and not to give any form of attention until the jumping ends. If the dog knows to sit on cue, have visitors ask him to sit before they pet him.
Many problems can be fixed with a few simple changes. Management is one way to prevent unwanted behavior.
A dog that jumps on visitors can be put on a leash and kept away from the visitors until he calms down.
A dog that begs from the table could be put behind a baby gate while the family eats. No training is needed.
The dog is prevented or managed from performing the unwanted behavior.
Counter conditioning can be used to change the dog's behavior. Teach the dog a new behavior that makes it impossible for him to perform the unwanted behavior.
Teach him to sit when meeting new people (as long as the dog is confident and not shy or fearful) or to go lie on a rug while the family eats would be ways of using counter conditioning to stop the jumping and begging problems.
Most dogs that are labeled as aggressive are actually afraid of the person, event or object that is the outlet for his attack. Change the dog's attitude about the scary thing and his behavior will change.
When the dog sees what he perceives as a scary person or thing he gets tasty bits of hotdogs and cheese. Soon he will look forward to seeing the previously scary things and change his outlook and in turn his behavior will change.
The best thing to do if you have a dog with a problem behavior is to pinpoint the problem and then decide if you want to use management, counter conditioning or desensitization to change your dog's behavior.
Tip of the week: If you have a problem dog, be specific about what it is you don't like about your dog's behavior. Then ask yourself what you do want your dog to do instead and work from there.
Find a positive reinforcement trainer to help you change your dog into the family member you'd like him to be.
Bark questions to: Canine Companion, 11652 North - 825 West, Huntington, IN 46750 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canine Companion conducts dog training classes in Fort Wayne, Huntington and surrounding communities and behavior consulting nationwide. Along with their combined 30 years experience and endorsement by national organizations, the lead trainers are graduates of Purdue University's DOGS! Program and have earned the title of Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.