Many of us strive to simply have a well behaved dog. In my definition, a well behaved dog is social with people and other dogs, a dog that looks to its human leaders for instruction, a dog that can accept adversity (being startled, stressed or annoyed) and recover easily, and that same dog can happily go out in public because it is welcome and truly enjoyable to be around.
The above dog does not bark incessantly, pull or drag its owner on leash, jump on people, fight or try to obnoxiously pummel other dogs, encounter stress and have a meltdown, or demonstrate unstable, aggressive, skittish or overly reactive behaviors.
The sad and simply truth is that the natural behavior of a dog does not include being fearful, aggressive, insecure, obnoxious, hyper, have ‘anxiety’ or lack good overall canine social skills. We see this every day when we introduce our training dogs into a pack and allow them to interact and ‘show us the true dog’. Humans are the ones that remove the natural, normal and stable behaviors of dogs today.
Don’t get me wrong…as I write this article I have a dog in bed with me and another 3 in my room in their own dog beds. I love and spoil my own dogs…BUT they are stable, secure and very well behaved! At this nearly 11pm hour, we are all winding down after a busy day and my ‘pack’ is calm. My two puppies just enjoyed their 2nd birthdays and they are safely tucked away for the evening in their spacious indoor kennel runs with beds, water buckets and toys. At least 5 days a week I make sure to adequately exercise each of my 6 dogs to the extent that they can handle based on their ages 2 up to 13.5 years old. That includes swimming, hiking, atving, walking, and running. But it also includes quite a regime of structured daily rules, schedules and expectations. This includes confined ‘down time’ (no different if I said to you “here is a glass of wine, now GO LIE ON THE COUCH AND RELAX!”) It includes patiently waiting for ME to feed each dog, enforcing that they sit at the door every time and wait until I release them to go outside or enter the house. They must also accept being left in outdoor spacious pens all day (while I work). It includes not being able to cause damage or bark nonstop (thanks to no bark collars), and our dogs wait and look forward to our lunch time and 6pm returns where we let them out to ‘air’ and either train, exercise or come in our home to settle down and relax.
In my 25 years of experience working with dogs of all breeds, I am very convinced that all dogs, no matter the breed or background THRIVE with structure and rules, exercise and then love and affection. However, most people just do not provide their dogs with this balance and in this order. They provide mostly love with lots of spoiling, affection and food, crazed exercise where the dog is in a wild, hyper state of mind, and then lastly, lazily or reluctantly those owners throw in some rules but with inconsistency and laxity. Thankfully this keeps me in business, BUT it makes me feel so badly for your dogs!
I am going to list as many of the ‘red flags’ that owners check off when they reach out for our training help. These might be ‘okay’ if they were only allowed here and there….but mostly owners combine a variety of these ‘lack of rules’ or ‘leniencies’ that collectively add up to MAJOR BEHAVIORAL ISSUES!!!!!
My dog is better off leash than on leash
My dog has full run of my house
My dog is allowed on furniture and sleeps on my bed
My dog is free fed (food out all the time)
My dog is over weight
I have a doggy door
I have an invisible fence
I have a huge fenced in yard so my dog just runs around and plays
My dog does not like/will not tolerate….”nails, brushing, other dogs, men with beards, big furry dogs, etc”
My dog jumps on people
My dog is destructive in the house or outside
I rough house, wrestle, chase my dog or play tug of war with my dog
My dog is not house trained, urinates or poops in my house
My dog pulls on the leash and lunges at other dogs
Around other dogs and or people my dog is nervous/hyper/aggressive/growls and fights or bites
My dog is aggressive around food with people and or other dogs
My dog is possessive with toys
All dogs can exhibit some of these traits and you may have a great dog that is allowed on your furniture and you have a doggy door, but your dog is still nice and well behaved. However, many breeds that are smart, athletic and crave a job will take advantage when given the freedom to: eat whenever they want, go through the doggy door and ‘own’ the house whenever they want, pull their owners on leach…etc. The lack of leadership and rules simply put the dog into the leadership role. How do dogs naturally react? Well, for social hierarchy they growl, snarl and bite. They own spaces and territories. They claim food and possessions. These allowances not only prove that the dog is the leader, it puts the dog into the stressful role of HAVING to be the boss…all of the time. They feel the need to guard the home, make the decisions, keep the humans in check and be the leader, and this can only make naturally insecure dogs more insecure or dominant dogs even tougher. We are not all born leaders, and neither are dogs. Those dogs that are good leaders will effectively use ownership of space, possessions and food to take on the alpha role. With that role comes growling, challenging authority and dominant behaviors. Put a weaker minded dog in that role and they can cave, becoming skittish, perpetually nervous and stressed, emotionally sick and forever worried.
In closing, I wanted to point out that many clients reach out to us for obedience or behavioral help with their dogs. In many cases it is not the dog, but the human simply not demonstrating good, consistent structure and leadership. It seems to stem from society’s belief that it is mean to act ‘alpha’ with an animal. Today’s training encourages to use lots of praise with high pitched happy voices or coerce with food. In 25 years of training dogs, I do not need to use bribery to convince my dogs to listen. They listen because we use a firm, fair, consistent program based on leadership. Dogs follow us as leaders because they respect us and WANT to be with us. They choose to be with us. They look up to us and love to work with us.
Want to learn more about our training, reach out today QKDogs.com to read about our programs or sign up for private lessons with our trainers. In just one lesson you will walk away with a completely new understanding of the canine mind….and we will prove it with hands on training with your dog!