Well, there are as many answers to that question as there are different kinds of dogs out there. In many ways it depends on the breed, the dog’s age, and those types of things. More often than not though, it is the environment the dog lives in. The environment includes living space, but more importantly, it is the time and attention – and what type of time and attention, the owner has given it.
As many people know, dogs are pack animals and they need and want a leader. If that leadership role is not being fulfilled by the owner, the dog will step into that role. That is generally where humans and dogs don’t mix well; when the dog – with generally as much intelligence as a human 2 year old – is the one running the show.
How do we, as owners, take that leadership role?
One of the first images that pops into my head when I think of a leader is a military leader; someone who commands new recruits to obey him by screaming at them. This approach does occasionally work with dogs, but the problem with it is you are instilling fear into them. The dogs more often than not cower away from screaming instead of obeying. What you want to do is establish a good relationship with them so they have respect for you, not fear. This is where positive reinforcement training works! This blog will address several problem behavior areas specifically, and how to use positive reinforcement to get your dog respecting you, and wanting to do what you like instead of making you want to give them to the pound.
First and foremost, it is important to form a good relationship with your dog in order to get them to trust you and start respecting you. One of the best ways to do that is spending time with them. One of the ways you can spend the most quality time with them is getting them exercise! We all know how important exercise is for us as humans, and dogs are also living creatures that thrive with exercise. I will go so far as to say that most problem behaviors are caused by a lack of exercise. Dogs often have so much energy, and many times, no way to release it. If you, as an owner, don’t provide that release of energy for them with exercise; you will see your dog release their energy by misbehaving. This is where we see lots of barking, destructive behavior like chewing or digging or tearing things apart. Many of these behaviors can be drastically improved, if not eliminated, by getting a simple walk everyday.
Walking dogs can often be challenging, and I will address that whole issue in another post. If getting a walk daily is too challenging, or many times in my own life doing a walk everyday can also get boring, there are other outlets that can provide great exercise for your dog. Many days my dogs get exercise because I play fetch with them. They are running, and I’m not! It’s a beautiful arrangement that the dogs and I both like. I have a lab mix and a border collie mix dogs. They both love the game of fetch, but there are many breeds that do not care as much for that game. Social “play dates” with other dogs is another great way to get exercise. Dogs can also be trained to use a tread mill; just be cautious with this. Obviously you have to supervise them the whole time, but also be aware that dogs associate exercise with going potty. Make sure your dog’s bladder is empty before putting them on a tread mill! Another great way to wear your dog out is to get them to use their brains! That is another subject I will address in another post because that is another benefit of training. It can also include other types of training like agility training, or therapy dog training, search and rescue, and many others. One of my favorite sayings is, “A tired dog is a happy dog.” Wear them out, and both dogs and owners will be better off.