Updated: Jun 19, 2019
I get it. You love your dog and I know you are well intended. But dogs speak an entirely different language than we do. If we don't figure out what they're saying and why, we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed by bad behavior. That’s why I’ve made this short yet important list for you to read over and hopefully clear up some things so that you can make changes in the right direction for both you and your dog. Remember, you may require the help of a qualified behavior specialist if you're having any issues with these scenarios. It is in your best interest to take the time needed to address any potential problems before they grow into bigger and more serious problems.
1. Sending your dog mixed signals
A dogs world is black and white. There aren’t many grey areas, especially when it comes to rules and boundaries. For example, If sometimes it is okay to jump on you or a family member and sometimes it is not, how is your dog supposed to know the difference? How does your dog know their paws are dirty and you’re wearing your favorite shirt that day? Or that grandma just had hip surgery? Fact is, they don’t. Your best bet is to train your dog to either never jump on anyone or to only jump up on command. This way you can control your dog's behavior and know what to expect from them because you've given them clear rules and boundaries. This can also be applied to jumping on furniture and eating fallen food off of the floor as well.
2. Coddling your shy, timid, or fearful dog
We've all done it, it's almost instinctual. But we promise you, it's making the behavior worse. Want proof? Say “good boy”(or girl) like you would when your dog is a good boy. (Go ahead and say it out loud). Now say (out loud) “aww it's okay” Like you would when your dog is afraid of a person, dog or object. Notice something? You're using the same tone of voice. Your dog certainly notices it too. Guess what message they're really getting… It's okay to be afraid, they like when I'm afraid, I get lots of attention when I'm afraid. Believe it or not, in most situations your dog exhibits fear or timidness, your best response is either nothing at all or just quietly removing them from the situation. Coddling your dog, petting your dog and speaking in baby talk is the last thing you should do. If you are unsure as to why your dog is fearful or how to change this behavior, contact a qualified K9 Behavior Specialist.
3. Dramatic departures and arrivals
What do I mean by this? To begin with, dogs are excellent observers and will find practically any existing pattern in both their life and your life. So chances are, they already know when you are leaving and depending on how regular your schedule is, they know when you’re coming home too. With that said, every time you “announce” to your dog that you are leaving by speaking in a high-pitched voice or just generally exciting them before you go, you create a serious void for them when you leave. It’s like telling children to get ready to go get ice cream and leaving without them! Likewise, when you come back home and you provoke or encourage excitement, you only solidify their growing belief that life is terrible when you’re not home. It can gradually or quickly become a bigger and bigger void which typically results in house soiling, crate escaping, and destructive behavior. Instead, don’t make a big deal when you leave and come home. It would be more productive and beneficial to give your dog a nice chew toy or interactive food puzzle game to say “goodbye” as your dog will associate your departure with a positive experience. On the other end, when you return, allow your dog to settle down BEFORE you love them and give attention. There is absolutely nothing wrong or mean about giving your dog love and affection at the right times, when they are calm and relaxed. In fact, it will only help you in the future.
4. Giving your dog free reign of the house
One common mistake made by new and seasoned pet owners alike, is showing their new puppy or new adult dog how much they “love” them by allowing them to roam free in the house completely unrestricted. This is a bad idea for several reasons. First off, it can potentially create territorial dominance. Meaning, your dog thinks your house, or certain areas of your house belong to him. Second, for a dog not yet housebroken, you are inviting the practice of a very unwanted behavior-house soiling. While you’re making dinner in the kitchen, your dog is making poop in the living room. Not to mention the possibility of your dog chewing on furniture or possibly an electrical wire which could prove to be fatal. The solution... a nice crate and a good ‘ol leash. Yes, it is that simple. Have your dog on a leash and tether it to you or a piece of furniture close by where you can clearly see your dog and what they’re doing. You can put the handle/loop of the leash around your wrist, ankle, belt or under the leg of a table, chair, couch, bed etc… Have them in a crate if you are unable to supervise. Remember this, freedom and trust are earned, not given. This can be applied to any dog, young or old.
5. Ignore aggressive behavior from your dog because they’re “protecting” you
I hear this quite a bit. “He’s being protective of me” So I ask, Do you NEED your dog to protect you from your spouse, children or speed-walking neighbor? Did you get your 6 pound Chihuahua for protection? Probably not. Especially not from your spouse, neighbor, children, friends or other pets in your home. So do not ignore this behavior when it is potentially dangerous to you and to others around you. And to be honest, your dog more than likely, is not protecting you. At all. In fact, they may just be protecting themselves (defensiveness), or looking at you like a piece of property/object that they don’t want to share or let anyone else near (resource guarding). They could also be afraid or uncomfortable for some reason. Most dogs used for protection need to be specifically trained in protection and those who have a natural defensive drive tend to act defensively in certain situations-like a stranger approaching in a very creepy, awkward manner. Bottom line is, you need to find the root cause for this behavior and address it ASAP. Establishing structure and leadership will be a big help. Giving your dog something to do and letting them know you’ve got everything under control is equally important. I suggest the help of a qualified K9 Behavior Specialist if you don’t know how to correctly go about properly addressing this.
As long as you have a dog in your life or home, you are training that dog. It is up to you to train your dog and make sure your dog is not training you. This can be tricky if you are unfamiliar with how dogs speak or how they express themselves in a particular context or situation. Misinterpreting body language is very common and the leading cause of unwanted behaviors in dogs. Whether you take to the internet or choose to hire a professional to resolve your issues, do so sooner than later. You don't want a small problem turning into a huge one.
Thanks for reading, I hope this helps you understand your role in your dogs behavior. Please share!!!!