Owners often worry about their dogs misbehaving. It is important to look at the motivation of such behaviour.
Behaviour seen by owners as a problem is in fact often just normal dog behaviour. Barking is for example no problem at all on a farm and often something that the farmer expects of his dog. However in an apartment it is unpleasant.
Biting during a game
A dog should not bite during a game. To teach him this is not acceptable react by saying ‘ouch’ very loudly if he nips you, look angry and ignore him for a few minutes. He must understand that teeth are not to be used on you. Arms, legs and clothes are not toys. If you feel his teeth then immediately stop playing with him.
Jumping up at you and other intrusive behaviour
If a dog jumps up at you, ignore him. Say nothing, don’t look at him or touch him or try to push him away. Only when he is behaving and has all four feet on the ground should you interact with him.
Dogs are often left home alone for long periods because, for example, their owner is out at work. They can suffer from loneliness and may resort to bad behaviour to relieve their stress. By nature dogs are pack animals, they like company. When their owner leaves the house they might be worrying that the owner won’t be coming back.
If you have a new dog then get him used to you leaving the house for very short periods. When people leave the house they often make a whole performance of it so the dog sees it as something important, don’t make a fuss, just leave quietly.. Do not come back inside if you hear the dog barking or howling, but wait until he is quiet. Do not leave your dog for too long because he must be able to urinate on time.
A puppy can be left a maximum of 4 hours, an adult dog 9 hours.
A puppy needs to learn where he can urinate and defecate. At first puppies do this in the whelping box/den and the mother cleans it up by eating or licking it. After a while, the pup starts to move about and explore and then he needs to go outside of the den to urinate and defecate. The mother will teach him where to go.
A puppy knows that he cannot soil the whelping box/den. When you have a new puppy in your home he must know where he may urinate and defecate. He must also have access to this area through a door that is always open or a dog flap.
If this is not possible, he must learn to ask, so that someone from the family can open the door to the outside. If you do not have a garden you have to walk the dog to an area where he can relieve himself. You should always carry bags (minimum 2 pieces) to clean up the faeces.
Otherwise, you may be liable to a fine from the police or game keeper.
Pulling on the lead
Why does a dog pull on the leash or run in front of the owner?
A pup follows his owner because he feels insecure. With age, the puppy becomes independent and wants to explore, wandering further away from the owner. We see this behaviour in wolf packs when youngsters are often roaming ahead or behind the older animals. This has to do with the fact that younger animals have more energy and speed and often they are required to run ahead. Their senses are sharp and they can catch the scent of possible prey. Think of guide dogs, which lead their visually impaired or blind owner.
To teach a dog to walk without pulling it is important that you understand that the dog does not do so because he wants to dominate his owner. He just walks faster than you do. It all starts with putting the lead on. Often we have to ‘fight’ to get the lead onto the dog. However excited a dog is, he must learn to control himself. So we only put the lead on if the dog is quiet. Then we go to the door. Usually the dog wants to be the first through the door but he needs to control himself and to show respect by allowing the owner to be the first to go through the door. From the word go, when you step outside make it clear that the dog may not pull. If he rushes out then without saying anything turn back. After you have repeated this a few times your dog will understand the intention. You only go further when he is quiet. It could just be that the dog is not getting enough exercise! So when the dog is calm again and is able to come out through the doorway quietly, you can allow him some freedom, loose or on a longer line so that he can run around, play and explore scents.
Stealing food and eating faeces
Dogs do this out of boredom, because they want your attention or because they are hungry. Think about when and why you interact with your dog.
Maybe you pay too much attention to him when he is misbehaving? If so he will continue the behaviour to get your attention. Think about changing his diet to organic food.
Guarding food resources
No one is allowed to approach the food bowl or the dog will growl or even bite. This occurs when your dog does not trust you with his food. The dog has the right to defend his food. Teach your dog that pleasent things happen when you approach his food bowl.
You can do this by:
If you approach the food bowl put something in it, don’t come too close to the bowl with your hands so that you avoid being bitten.
Offer to exchange the bone he is chewing for something even more interesting and then immediately give the bone back. It is also important that you train a ‘give me’ command in case he picks up something that is poisonous.
Not coming when called
Choose a word you are only going to use when you want your dog to come to you and wait next to you until you allow him to go. The command ‘here’ is often negative for the dog. When we are out for a walk with our dog there is always so much for him to smell, see, to hear…
The highlight of the walk is when we get to the dog park or a field and the dog is allowed to run free. After a few minutes we want to go home, so we call the dog, but he doesn’t come. We try again, maybe he did not hear us however we notice that his ears move in the right direction, but still he won’t come. We lose our patience and become angry; the dog recognises our body language and definitely does not want to approach us. It is important to use a command that the dog understands and teach it to the dog. Everyone in the family should use the same word / command. Otherwise the dog will be confused. The command to come to you should indicate fun and not always something negative such as the end of freedom and playtime
If the dog does something and you react then he will do it again to get your attention. A dog likes attention. If he does something wrong, let him know clearly that it is not okay and that he must stop. Undesirable behaviour means that the dog does something you do not want him to do. However this does not always mean that it is bad behaviour. Perhaps you and your dog are not communicating as well as you might?
Does your dog exhibit undesirable behaviour? Contact a behavioural therapist for more information.