I’m often asked for advice regarding how to get dogs to stop doing things. While I can often help people start to “fix” issues pretty quickly, there are a number of reasons that I am hesitant to offer advice sight unseen.
Every situation is unique. The people involved and the dog involved are all individuals and need to be treated as such. There are very few issues that are fixed with a one size fits all approach. Personalities and temperaments need to be taken into consideration. You may take one approach to dealing with a dog with a dominant personality, but if you use that same approach with a more submissive dog you may overwhelm it.
There can be different reasons. Typically there are three main reasons that dogs misbehave. First, they don’t know what to do so they make up their own “games”. This could be because they haven’t received an education or it could be due to miscommunication. Second, the dogs think they’re in charge so they’re not listening to their owners. Or third, they are experiencing stress for one reason or another and are reacting to the stress they’re feeling.
In order to “fix” problems we need to deal with the causes of the behavior and not just the symptoms. It’s important to find out what is really going on and why the dog is misbehaving. Most people call me with symptoms and part of my job is to figure out the causes. If you don’t address the causes of the behavior it’s less likely you will implement a plan for a lasting solution.
First I need to gather information. I watch the interactions. How do the people relate to the dogs and how do the dogs interact with the people? Is the communication clear between both? Do the people understand what the dog is telling them and vice-versa? What is the dog’s temperament and personality? Are all of the dog’s needs being met? How old is the dog? How long have the behaviors been taking place?
Dogs always do things for reasons. Sometimes the reasons are apparent and sometimes they’re not. Jumping is a symptom of how the dog feels when someone enters the house or when it meets someone. Is it feeling like it needs to let you know who’s in charge or is it jumping to get affection or is it jumping for some other reason? Are there other things going on? Behavior or misbehavior is related to how a dog is feeling about a situation and getting a complete picture will help when figuring out what is really going on.
I need to know how the people have been dealing with the issues so far. Often the people will have tried a number of things but with mixed results. One thing I’ve found to be true is that everyone with a dog, or who knows someone with a dog, has an opinion. People often listen to their friends and acquaintances and try using a variety of methods. This often confuses both the people and the dogs. There are certainly a number of ways to train dogs but rarely will using a variety of methods at the same time or one right after another be productive.
While dogs are lifelong learners and you can teach old dogs new tricks, age can be an issue. Behavior that has been occurring for long periods of time will be fully ingrained and may take longer to permanently fix than behavior that is just starting. Patience and consistency will be critical.
You need to do your homework. The dog’s owner is really the key. Rover is living with you and it’s your relationship with him that is at stake. While we can show you what to do and help you if you get stuck, your participation is what will change Rover’s behavior.
You can have a great relationship with your dog. It will cost you time, money and some effort, but having a great relationship with Rover is worth it. Instead of yelling and your blood pressure going up you’ll be calmer and so will Rover.
You’ll both be happier and we all know what that means.
Happy Dogs = Happy Families