Can’t We Just Talk?
Remember to look at the entire dog, not just one body part or a single vocalization, and to also look at the situation to get an accurate read of the dog’s emotional state. Dogs understand some words, but they can’t understand a full conversation. Gestures and body language are clearer ways to communicate with dogs. Clear communication takes attention and effort, but is well worth it!
Not every dog can succeed in every situation. Watch your dog for signs of anxiety or aggression and change the circumstances so that the dog doesn’t get overwhelmed. If something seems like it’s about to happen, step in. Either remove the dog from the situation or change what’s happening. Sometimes our dogs must feel the way you would if you were dropped into a place where you don’t speak the language and no one speaks English.
Dogs primarily use nonverbal communication. Learn to read dog body language. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears. Using visual cues and training techniques based on positive reinforcement will help you be more successful in communicating with your dog.
Choosing Your New Best Friend
The first few days are critical for every newly introduced dog, but especially for puppies. The sensitive socialization period, when a puppy needs to learn what is safe and acceptable in life.
winds down at around twelve to fourteen weeks of age. Avoid letting the puppy have unrestricted and unsupervised access to the entire house or relegating her to be alone in the backyard, since both of these will likely set your puppy up to learn unwanted behaviors.
Crate (or den) training is a beneficial start, because it provides a safe way to prevent soiling in the house, a place where the puppy can go to escape excessive handling by small children, and also a way to prevent destructive and potentially dangerous behaviors in the house when you are away. In addition, the crate can be used to teach independence by preparing the puppy to be calm when left alone.
To select a dog who will be a welcome member of your family for her entire life, you must spend some time and effort to make the best selection. Carefully assess if a dog is right for you, and research which breed or mixed breed you feel would best match you and the environment you will provide.
Avoid being led by TV or movies that portray certain carefully selected and highly trained individual dogs as representatives of their breeds. Likewise, do not fall prey to wistful memories of a childhood dog who was either exceptional or seemed so with selective memory, since your current situation may be very different and that breed may no longer fit your lifestyle.
Once you have decided on some likely options, think hard about where you can find a new dog or puppy, and carefully consider the options of adopting from a shelter or purchasing from a reputable breeder.
Select a dog who seems well-balanced and neither too rough nor too shy. And get ready to fall in love with your dog and guide her to be well-adjusted to her new home and live happily ever after with you.
Creating a Mensa Dog
Often when dog owners are asked during a behavioral consultation to demonstrate their dog’s response to “sit” and “down,” many say, “Oh, he’ll only do that if I have food.” But your dog should comply with a request every time you ask, whether you have food or not. What’s wrong?
You have to reward the dog if you expect him to do something for you. He is no more likely to work for no salary than you are. But once he has made the association between a word and an action, you do not have to reward him every single time. In fact, you shouldn’t. Never knowing when the reward will come will keep your dog “gambling” in hopes of the big payoff.
What if your dog does very well at obedience school and in your living room, but he doesn’t seem to understand your requests when you visit other people or while you’re walking? This is likely a failure to generalize his learning from one environment to another. Practice in a variety of situations—and with various distractions—to help him generalize his skills.
Your dog is always learning; his brain is always developing. Take advantage of your dog’s ability to learn! Train him to do the simple tasks that give his life consistency and your life joy. Dogs need incentives, just like all animals, including people, do. They will offer a response many times for a reward but eventually will stop responding if there is no reward. Dogs can be classically conditioned to find a click rewarding. Clicker training can be very useful in training a variety of behaviors. Your choice of words and tone of voice when training are equally important.
Dogs are not wolves in Poodles’ clothing. It is not necessary to be dominant over your dog in order to teach him to be the perfect dog. You can easily teach him to look at you, to sit, to stay, and to come using positive reinforcement. Your dog will enjoy receiving rewards, and he will learn to trust rather than fear you. The relationship from the perspectives of both ends of the leash will be stronger.
A dog’s natural inclination to keep sleeping or den areas clean, and adhere to the substrate and location preferences learned early in life, help make housetraining a dog possible.
Until a puppy or dog is reliably housetrained, she should either be in an area where elimination is acceptable, under your direct supervision, or confined to an area where she is not likely to eliminate.
Set routines for meals and exercise, and frequently scheduled potty breaks, to avoid indoor accidents.
Appropriate toilet areas are usually outdoors, although indoor potty systems can be helpful for special circumstances, such as long hours, unsupervised smaller dogs, urban living, or travel.
Housetraining accidents will happen. When they do, just calmly clean up and resolve to tighten up your scheduling and supervision.
I Know They’re Normal Behaviors, but How Do I Fix Them?
Remove all rewards or reinforcement for nuisance behaviors. That is, ignore the dog completely when he performs a nuisance behavior, and instead praise and treat the dog for sitting, being quiet, chewing on his toys, and other desirable behaviors.
Be consistent. If jumping up on people is allowed on the weekends, the dog won’t understand that the rules change during the week. Dogs don’t discriminate between days or jeans and office attire.
Be persistent. After repeated reinforcement (however unintended) of a nuisance behavior, the dog won’t immediately abandon his original strategy. But sooner or later, the light bulb will go on and he’ll understand the new and better way to get what he wants. And remember, dogs, like people, may revert to a strategy that worked in the past; just ignore him and ask for the new behavior.
Appreciate your dog’s dogness. Okay, dogs steal food and jump and do obnoxious things to capture our attention. They are dogs. But we couldn’t teach them a high-five or snuggle with them on the couch if they were goldfish. And if we spend a little time teaching them which behaviors we like, we can get the best of both worlds—nice manners and devoted companionship.
All Dogs Need a Job
Don’t wait to see evidence of lack of stimulation before offering enrichment. Undesirable habits can form fast, and they can be hard to change. If you set up good habits in the form of acceptable outlets for your dog’s behavioral needs right from the get-go, both you and your dog will be happier.
Sometimes we get busy or our schedule changes and we forget to plan accordingly for our pets’ enrichment. Life changes may make it necessary to change the type of enrichment you can offer, so consider what you can do within the constraints of your schedule and environment.
Dogs sometimes become injured or have illnesses that make it impossible to provide exercise or other forms of enrichment. In this case, you should always consider how you can replace a particular activity with a new, acceptable one. For example, this could mean providing more chew toys or feeding most meals out of food toys when your dog is physically limited.
All dogs require some form of enrichment. If you just want a soft creature to look at and to pet occasionally who will not place demands on your time and won’t affect your schedule much, a dog may not be right for you.
- Dogs are individuals who have behavioral, social, emotional, and physical needs.
- A lack of activity or the wrong kind of activity may result in undesirable behaviors.
- Enrichment will contribute to well-being, reduce problem behaviors, and enhance your relationship with your dog.
- Creating the right enrichment environment will depend on your dog, his life stage, temperament, and physical abilities, as well as your own preferences.
Aggression Unleashed: Do Dogs Mean to Be Mean?
It is important to realize that any dog has the potential to behave aggressively. Proactive interactions are critical for each and every pet owner, whether your dog has shown aggressive tendencies or not. If your dog is aggressive and you are determined to keep her despite the risk, however small it may be, you need to foresee high-risk situations and be prepared to prevent them as much as possible.
Aggressive behavior is not a training problem; there are many well-trained dogs who bite people. Therefore, if you choose to keep your dog, a consultation with a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, when possible, is the first step. This will give you a diagnosis, a realistic view of expectations, and a treatment plan for you and your family to follow.
To keep your dog safe and others safe, you must think proactively for the life of the dog. Avoid identified triggers and high-risk situations. For example, dogs who fight with other dogs should not go to the dog park; dogs who are afraid of new people should not greet strangers (and the strangers should not be permitted, no matter how much they insist it will be fine, to approach and pet the dog!).
Don’t leave your dog unattended anywhere, even in your own backyard. In addition, anticipate problem situations, so that your dog won’t be set up to make a decision you will both regret.
Loyalty Gone Overboard: Separation Anxiety
Practice your behavior modification strategies every day. It takes only a minute or two to fill food toys (they can be filled in advance and stored in the fridge for when you need them), a minute to work on teaching your dog that keys mean treats, three to five minutes of basic relaxation work twice daily, and barely any extra time to set up some music and structure your interactions. You don’t have to do everything every day, but practice something every day so that you can keep your plan moving along.
While implementing a behavior modification program, do your best to avoid leaving the dog home alone, if at all possible. If you must leave your dog alone and vulnerable to separation anxiety, it’s important to discuss antianxiety medication with your veterinarian so your dog doesn’t have to suffer.
Don’t get a new pet to treat your dog’s separation anxiety unless you really, really want another pet. Sometimes a companion pet will help only temporarily, or not at all.
Be careful when you are practicing departures. Don’t push the program too fast or you could accidentally make your dog more anxious about being alone and, especially, about the process of being left. The goal of practice departures is for your dog to be calm the entire time. If your dog starts to show signs of separation anxiety while you are practicing departures, you are moving too fast. Take a couple of days off. Just give him the food puzzle toy without leaving, as you did in the beginning, and then restart your work at least a few steps back from the point at which your dog became agitated. Pacing, panting, whining, barking, and rearranging things are all signs that you are moving too fast.
- If your dog shows any of the clinical signs of separation anxiety, contact your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist right away to make sure you have a complete and accurate behavioral diagnosis.
- Make a video of your dog home alone and bring it with you to your initial appointment. For comparison, you can also include some video of your dog when he is not alone.
- Don’t punish the dog, especially for behaviors that happen when you’re gone.
- Strongly consider antianxiety medication to ease suffering and speed improvements.
- Focus on calm departures and returns.
- Reward calm behavior in general.