Over the years I have come to learn prospective clients often explain their dog’s behavior due to past experiences. If the dog was rescued or adopted from a humane society, his behavior has been formed by a traumatic experience in his life. If it’s a puppy they have had since 8 weeks, it’s because he’s an alpha dog, because of his breed, or again, a traumatic experience in the dog’s life. If you have a dog misbehaving, should we rationalize his behavior because we feel sorry for the pooch or should be take charge and do something about it?
Do we make excuses and “live with it”, if we have an abusive spouse or do we do something about it? Do we rationalize our spouse’s bad behavior because they came from an abusive home or experienced trauma or do we do something about it? With humans we can get the authorities involved, seek counseling and change behavior. This works because humans have the ability to think, rationalize and learn through behavior modification techniques taught by counselors. With dogs we cannot teach them anger management skills because a dog’s brain is not hard wired that way. You have to use dog psychology to change dog behavior. You can talk and plead with your dog all you want and all they get out of it is attention (which reinforces behavior) and they hear “blah, blah, blah, blah, mommy”. Assuming the dog knows Mommy already. Stop making excuses, “he’s never liked men” and get down in the muck and do some work. Especially with aggression issues, I always recommend a professional trainer. You would be surprised the progress that can be made with a few weeks of board and train followed up with handler lessons.
First of all, to change a dog’s behavior we need to change our mind set. Stop feeling sorry for the dog and take control. Affection is all good, but only when the dog is in a calm, relaxed state of mind. Do not pet, talk, comfort a dog when they are nervous, growling, or in an alert state of mind. If you do, you will be encouraging or rewarding the behavior.
Follow that up with rules. Dog’s love rules and if you do not teach the rules the dog makes them up as he goes along. #1 rule: Dog doesn’t make the rules! From this point forward dog now works for a living. No more free food. He sits, downs, speaks, does something different each time you feed your dog. You eat dinner first while dog goes and lies down, away from the table. After you are finished then the dog eats, but first he must do something for his food.
When you go for a walk, does your dog drag you out the door and around the block (thus setting the rules) or does dog sit at door, waits for you to exit, follows you out the door and walks nice next you with a loose leash? It all depends on who is making the rules for the walk. Yes! There are now rules for the walk.
I’ve often heard people tell me that my dogs behave better than their kids. Everyone always gets a chuckle out of that comment. Your dog can mind better than your kids too, it only takes, rules, consistency, and exercise. The difference between dogs and children are that children are human. They have the ability to think, rationalize, which is followed up by debate whether they can have a Facebook page, car, or stay at the beach over night with their friends. Dogs don’t think in the future, they only live in the now. So, now you know the difference between animal and human psychology. No more excuses! Take control, be a leader, be fair, consistent and your dog will behave better than your kids too!