Avoid “humanizing” your dog (known as “anthropomorphism,” which means giving human qualities to animals)! Your dog is not a human child wearing a furry suit. He’s a dog, and behaves like a dog. He does not do things out of spite, he doesn’t get jealous, and he doesn’t choose not to listen to you. Dogs do only behaviors that for them. If he’s learned that a particular behavior (i.e., peeing on your carpet) gets him reinforced in some way (experiences relief), he’ll continue to do that behavior until he’s taught that an alternate behavior will become more reinforcing than the one he’s been doing (peeing outside on the grass gets him heavily praised and he gets a treat the minute he goes outside).
Never physically punish your dog. Dogs in a pack who become aggressive are considered the bully dogs, or the “alpha wannabes.” Your dog will look at you as if you’re a bully, and he won’t respect you. He may be afraid of you, but he won’t respect you. If you use aggression on your dog, don’t be surprised if your dog will eventually resort to using aggression toward you or he’ll act out on someone else.
Don’t think your dog knows that he did something wrong, because he stands there looking guilty. This is called “pseudo-guilt.” Your dog looks away from you, he lowers his head and puts his tail between his legs, or he runs away and hides from you in order to avoid your punishment. He sees that your demeanor has changed. Dogs view things as either safe or dangerous. You look dangerous. He isn’t responding to you because he knows he did something wrong - he doesn’t know that if he is continuing to do it. He’s experiencing some sort of reinforcement, which is feeding the behavior you find objectionable. Teach him to do an alternate behavior that gives him better reinforcements than he’s getting now.
Teach your children to behave properly with your dog. Never allow kids to pull tails or ears, or to sit on the dog. Always supervise children and dogs, and never leave them alone together without an adult being present.
Always praise and reward your dog when he’s behaving well. We tend to punish dogs for doing what we don’t want them to do, but we neglect to praise and reward them for doing something that is good. Give your dog that feedback whenever he’s doing something that you like.
When teaching your dog good behaviors, reward him ASAP when he does well. Don’t wait more than a half-second to give your dog a reward.
Teach your dog to walk on a loose leash without pulling. The more you pull him back, the harder he’ll pull forward. This is an automatic reflexive response, called, an “oppositional reflex.” Do not use the flexi-leash. There is always tension on this style leash, and you’re teaching your dog to pull by having him walk with this tension.
If your dog is afraid of something or someone, never console him for being afraid. Your dog will see your petting him and cooing to him as a reward for that behavior. When your dog shows fear of something, speak to him in a confident manner, and help him create distance from that scary thing until he can get accustomed to it.
Avoid using choker chain collars, prong/pinch collars and shock collars. These types of collars cause pain and/or discomfort. If you give your dog a leash correction with one of these collars, he will blame whoever he’s looking at when he gets that correction. Your dog could be looking at your child, or your neighbor’s dog, or a man walking down the street. This can cause a dog to become fearful and/or aggressive toward other dogs and people.
Never chain a dog outside. You will guarantee that your dog will become dangerous and aggressive. Chained or tied up dogs become frustrated and angry because they are prevented from being where the activity is. Dogs are pack animals and enjoy being part of goings-on. Each time your dog runs toward the end of his chain, he gets a major leash correction. This creates anger and barrier frustration. If you don’t have a fence, bring your dog inside the house, or put him in an outside kennel where he has room to walk around.
Feed your dog at least two meals/day. Do not leave food in his bowl all day. He will become a fussy eater, and you won’t be able to establish a routine of good housetraining, because he won’t have a set schedule for eating, and then eliminating. Your dog won’t appreciate his food, and will just nibble at it like a cat.
Exercise, exercise, and exercise your dog. Most of all behavior problems are the result of lack of exercise. A tired dog is a good dog!
By Renee Premaza Dog Obedience Trainer & Behavior Consultant (609) 280-9338 www.Jerseydogtrainer.com