Understanding bad dog behavior modification



┬ĚThis is when outside help is often sought. A book is purchased. Understanding bad dog behavior modification is too important to over look.The veterinarian, breeder, pet shop, a trainer or behaviorist may be consulted. If lucky, the owner gets advice that brings genuine insight into pet/owner relationships and dog behavior. But, more likely, they find traditional quick fixes and the dog winds up in a desensitization program; gets dosed with anxiety relieving drugs or barbiturates; is stuck in a cramped crate or cage all day, or banned to the yard or garage, or has its mouth stuffed with chewed debris and taped shut for hours. Since none of these approaches deal with the causes, the 'thinking dog' and the total relationship with its owners and the environment, success is rare. The majority of these formerly precious pets find themselves rejected ... relegated to the local pound for five to seven days, where the odds are 3-to-2 they'll suffer society's 'ultimate solution'. But things don't have to be so grim, if the owners learn some 'dog think.'

Applying Positive Imagery To Solve 'Separation Anxiety'

  • Dogs that misbehave when they are left alone are said to be suffering from separation anxiety. The term is a neat buzz phrase; almost everybody uses it. It sounds professional. The trouble is, as a transplant from human psychiatry, it really doesn't convey much useful information. However, the term is here, so we'll use it in its broadest sense, which is; "a troubled feeling when left alone or apart from a certain person or persons." This allows us to recommend a remedial behavioral program that deals with the realities of the dog's total relationships. First, however, we must be sure that the dog's veterinarian has ruled out the many physical/medical causes for anxiety, such as thyrotoxicosis, hyperthyroidism, pre-diabetes, encephalitis, allergies, hyperkinesis, etc. etc.

The Program

  • Dogs that are unduly upset when left alone usually enjoy their owner's attention and petting whenever they ask for (or demand it) when the people are at home. To apply the imagery concept to this relationship, we could say the dog 'sees itself' as directing, or leading the owner. When it wants some petting, it nudges or otherwise stimulates the owner, and the owner complies. The dog wants out, whines at the door or at the owner, and the door gets opened. Mealtime approaches, dog whines and prances, and dinner gets served. When the owner goes from room to room, the dog is either ahead, leading them, or close behind. This is the reality of their relationship, at least in the dog's mind. But, when the owner leaves, against the dog's wishes, the pet is predictably upset, and problem behavior occurs. This can involve barking, chewing, pacing, self mutilation, off schedule bowel movements, urination around the house, etc.
  • The leadership problem can be turned about by presenting a different reality to the dog; one in which the dog is pleasantly, but firmly and consistently told to perform some simple act, such as 'sit' whenever it attempts to gain attention or affection, or whenever the owner wants to give the dog some attention. All 'sits', or whatever command is used ('down' is a good one for highly bossy dogs) are praised happily as 3 to 5 seconds of petting is awarded; then the dog is cheerfully released with an "OK" or "Free." (Free is a good release because OK is too common a word.)
  • If a really bossy dog refuses to obey, and many do when they realize their relationship is being turned around, simply ignore the situation, turn away and go on about some other activity, ignoring the dog. Some dogs have refused to respond for as long as four days before coming to terms with a follower relationship. However long it takes, after a few days the dog's image of itself seems to evolve from one of giving direction to taking it with compliance prior to being petted, getting dinner, going out the door, getting on the couch, etc.
  • In moving around the house, whenever the dog forges ahead, simply about turn and go the other way. This must be repeated until the dog walks patiently behind or, better yet, doesn't even follow. It is also helpful, but not vital, to practice down stays of increasing length during several evenings a week.

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