Sometimes they’re naughty and they jump up in glee when they’re not supposed to, or find delight in chewing up a roll of toilet paper and distributing it across the lounge – but we forgive them of course!
However, in our devotion to our dogs – are we humanizing them too much?
Many responsible dog owners find that they still have training or behavioral problems with their dog that they just don’t seem to be able to get on top of. In our experience, some common ones are:
- Stress and separation anxiety
- Territorial behavior
- Bad manners around other dogs and people
- Barking when visitors come to the door
- Disobedience or a lack of respect for owners
Dogs need a leader. In the absence of one, our dogs will be forced to assume this position themselves. Contrary to popular belief, this is not generally something that they want. Unlike humans, dogs feel most comfortable and relaxed when they have structure, boundaries, and someone to tell them what to do. When a dog is secure in their position, they are calm, relaxed, and quiet.
Have you ever noticed that your dog follows you everywhere like a shadow – even to the bathroom? I used to think this was just because my dog thought I was the greatest being in the universe (clearly a misjudgment). What I learnt from Craig is that shadowing can often mean that my dog doesn’t feel I can be trusted to look after myself. Feeling that he has to keep an eye on me in this way is actually a symptom of separation anxiety – he has to be close to me because as the pack leader, he has to look after me.
By establishing ourselves in a clear position of leadership in the household, we can solve many of the common issues we are having with our dogs.
But how do we actually do this?
As Craig discussed, it’s important to first understand this role. In the dog world, pack leaders remain calm but assertive, make the decisions and set the boundaries, control the food resources, and ensure the well-being of the pack.
He shared with us some fantastic tips for putting this into practice in a day-to-day context. Here are some of the things you can do:
- Create managed spaces for your dog (a crate, mat, bed, tether point) – a safe and secure space that very clearly belongs to your dog. Good things (like feeding, relaxation and treats) happen here!
- Ignoring – ignore them for 10 minutes when you first arrive home. Ignore them when you they approach you looking for a response or attention. Interact and play with them on your own terms. This is an important way of communicating that you’re not constantly looking to them for affirmation.
- A short house-lead – this can be useful as a tool to provide physical guidance to your pup, especially in distracting situations. It also helps to get them used to wearing a lead.
- Feeding practice – the pack leader always eats first, undisturbed by the other members of the pack. Feed your dog after yourself – tether them on a managed space while you’re eating if you need to.
- Changes in the way we great new people and visitors – ensure that you greet people at the door first. Take your dog to their managed space if they won’t sit quietly while you do this. This indicates that the new people are not a threat because you’ve got things under control.
Your dog will be all that much happier for it.
If there are any specific issues you need help with or you’re after more information on dog behavior, be sure to get in touch with Craig:
The Dog Fixer
Phone: 027 450 7833
Along with consultations, he also runs puppy school (something we’d 100% recommend for those with puplets) and a variety of seminars and clinics on behavioral problems.