A happy and well-behaved dog
Submitted by: Your Dog’s Friend, a non-profit that supports and educates dog owners
Every dog is unique, but there are some general reasons why dogs misbehave. We dog owners are failing to give our dogs something they need.
Dogs need exercise
This means walking your dog, not just letting him out in the yard. If you aren’t an active person, don’t get a younger, more active dog. A laid back, adult dog would be better. Dogs have energy that needs to be spent somewhere, and you don’t want it to be in your house! Take a look at the book, “Fitness Unleashed: A Dog and Owner’s Guide to Losing Weight and Gaining Health Together” by Marty Becker, DVM and Robert Kushner, MD. Maybe this will motivate you to get out there!
Dogs need mental stimulation
This is one of many reasons to take your dog to an obedience class and to make obedience cues part of your daily routine. Toys are another source of stimulation; get enough to rotate them every few days. I especially like food-dispensing toys. You put hard treats inside, and your dog has to move the toy around to get them out. These include, among others, the Buster Cube, Tube and Groove, Molecule Ball, and Twist and Treat. Some of you may like ideas in the book, “Canine Adventures: Fun Things to Do with Your Dog” by Cynthia D. Miller. Try agility training or flyball. How about search and rescue, tracking, or dog-assisted therapy?
Dogs need a leader
Otherwise, they will fill the void! Leadership does not mean jerking, hitting, or pinning down your dog. There are much more humane ways to teach your dog that you’re the leader. Practice training cues as part of your daily routine. Tell your dog to “SIT” before you feed him, put on his leash, walk him, or throw a ball for him. Teach him a release word that lets him know it’s okay to go. Every time your dog demands attention, food, or playtime and you comply, you are relinquishing the role of leader to your dog. If your dog nudges your hand and you pet him, if your dog barks for food and you give it to him, if your dog pulls you down the street, if your dog jumps on you and gets your attention, whether you pet him or push him away, you are teaching him that he can determine what you do. Whether your dog is dominant or submissive, a dog that knows that you are the leader will feel more secure and behave better.
Dogs need consistency
Dogs need to figure out what you want them to do, and they can only do that if you and everyone in your household are consistent. You have to all decide which rooms your dog can be in, whether he can get on the sofa, and what words to use for obedience cues. If “down” means lay down to you and get off the bed to your husband, how is your dog supposed to know what “down” means? And if you don’t want your dog to jump on people, you can’t let him jump on your child in play. That will only confuse him. Set your house rules and enforce them. That means everybody!
Dogs need companionship
They are social animals. Hard-wired to be part of a pack, they don’t do well when they don’t get attention. They will misbehave, jumping on you or grabbing your things, if that’s what it takes for you to notice them. You should start praising and petting your dog when he is lying quietly next to you. Reward good behavior not just in training, but all the time. If you’re gone all day at work, you may want to hire a dog walker or take him to doggie day care, so he isn’t alone all day. When you crate or tether your dog, it should be in an area of the house with a lot of activity, not in an isolated area of the basement.
Dogs need to chew
They need quality, hard food without a lot of fillers. They need chew toys, like Kongs, Nylabones, sterile bones, or Galileo bones. You can put peanut butter, cottage cheese, wet kibble, or any of the “recipes” on the Kong website in Kongs and freeze them. You can also fill a sterile bone or soak a Nylabone for fifteen minutes in chicken or beef broth to make them more appealing. If you see your dog chewing something inappropriate, interrupt him with “NO” and give him an acceptable alternative. Adult dogs chew less than puppies, but dogs will chew all their lives. So, close your doors, put your shoes away, confine your dog when you’re not home, and stop blaming the dog for chewing your things!
Dogs need good associations
If, when you call your dog, you give him a treat, he will start to come when you call him. If you feed and play with your fearful dog when a stranger approaches, he will start to associate seeing a stranger with good things happening. This is how you teach dogs behaviors that you want. It’s much better than yanking them with a choke chain or punishing them for not behaving. When you punish your dog, you are harming your relationship with him; he won’t know what he is being punished for; and you may end up discouraging a behavior that you actually want. Here’s an example:Your dog runs off. You call him. He eventually comes, but you punish him for running off in the first place. Next time you call him, your dog is more likely to avoid you.
Puppies need socialization
I can’t stress this enough! Socializing your puppy can help prevent his becoming a fearful, and possibly aggressive, dog. Don’t get your puppy from a puppy mill. Puppies need to be touched from birth. They need to play with their littermates until seven or eight weeks old to learn social skills. Before four months old, expose your puppy to as many situations as possible. Help him have good experiences with men, women, children, teenagers, dogs, and cats. Teach children how to approach your puppy; ask strangers to give him a treat; let him play with your friends’ healthy, vaccinated dogs; and take him to puppy kindergarten.This is the time to teach your dog how to tolerate touch, control his impulses, develop a soft mouth, and share, rather than guard, resources.
This page last updated 11-13-08