Dog Behaviour Advice - Dog Advice Articles
Who is in charge?
When owners send me questions regarding their doggy problems, the first thing I must do is look to see who is actually in charge. In addition, you have to remember that I only get questions when there is a problem. This means there are many owners who might well say that their dog does run their lives but for them this is not a problem.
Having a dog does change our lives in many ways and we have to accept such new restrictions. The question owners have to ask themselves is the quality of life they now have with their pets restricting their lives more than they initially wanted them to. Most owners just want dogs as good companions.
However, back to the dog that does have problems. By its own genetic rules, it is natural for a dog to try to find a place in any doggy hierarchy and that includes any human/canine packs. This does not just mean the one in the house but will include any other pack formations. Being part of a pack at a training school is just another pack and so a new hierarchy will exist. This means that a dog that is a dominant dog in one pack may not be in another.
In my obedience classes, I often cook up liver titbits so that handlers always have something to help in training their dogs. Winston normally does not steal so I can leave food out and it is normally still there when I return. One day I had cooked some liver for the next class and left the room. On my return, he was busy eating one big chunk of it. I shouted at him to drop the remainder, which he did. For the rest of the day I ignored him completely and this did not make him very happy.
When all the dogs and owners turned up for the training session, Winston rushed up to the most dominant dog in the class and growled at him, seemingly telling him off. Then that dog turned to the next in the pack and growled at him and it quickly went down all the dogs in turn as in their order within the hierarchy.
I had a case where a dog was biting an eleven-year-old boy and the family were worried their dog was becoming dominant, seeing the children as lower in the hierarchy. The dog was also seemingly also challenging the owner so there was a lot of concern, but the children did not wish to loose the dogs. It also transpired that the dogs slept on the beds begging the question could this case turn nasty if the humans did not release their Alpha rolls.
It was a little later in our communications that the owner commented that when she told the dog off, he immediately took it out on the other dog that though objecting, did nothing else. Had the dogs seen the children as lower in the pack than they, then I would have expected the second dog to become aggressive towards them. Fortunately, it did not, so this meant the dogs were only very boisterous. The owners had indeed lost some control because in the way they faced up to their dogs and the way they played with them. In many similar cases boisterous children beget boisterous dogs with the only problem being dogs have claws and teeth. In so many cases, owners do not know how to teach dogs not to play using their weapons and will as my mother always says it will end in tears.
One thing the mother did do was to go face to face with the dog and it would growl at her but as she maintained her gaze eventually, the dog would back down wagging its tale. Whilst this also shows, the dog is not an Alpha; it would like to be if it could. The problem with this is in any face off this is a challenge. No human should ever attempt such tactics as they have little to back up their challenge. The dog on the other hand could suddenly lunge and bite the challengers face so learning it can win against humans, creating one major problem.
Therefore, for this case the dogs had to get out of the bedrooms and for the family to learn leadership skills. To reinforce their power they purchased the Pet Corrector. Having bought the can and whilst getting into the car with the dogs, she inadvertently released the harmless compressed air. The dogs shot up into the air and dived to the back of the car. This showed that finally, this family now had something to stop any dog challenges in the future. All the humans in the family were the Alphas not the dogs. This is the way it should be.
Most humans are kindly soles and taking dogs into their family is for mutual benefit. In the majority of cases, there are no problems so owners gladly accept the little changes or restrictions that they have in owning a dog. This brings me to the question what were the owner’s original expectations in having a dog or dogs in the family. Whilst it maybe great having a little puppy running around the house, did the family ever consider what they want in a grown up dog.
For me, I just wanted the biggest, blackest, German shepherd to work with me in working trials. When our bitch produced four puppies, we had one big black male that made poor Tizzy squeal when she gave birth to him. That was my dog. Though he was great looking as a puppy, I was also interested in what would he look like fully mature?
Many people simply look at the appealing pups and purchase one. Only later, when they are older they can find the dog is not what they wanted, not only in its looks but also in the character.
There are many web sites like www.dogbreedinfo.com that tell you all about each breed, what it looks like, its traits and suitability to living in flats or a working dog needing strong leadership from the human owners. Most people want a dog as a family pet, nothing more. Here on such sites as these you can find those dogs that will often make such excellent pets that also match your needs.
If having chosen a dog you find your life has changed or has gradually changed as the puppy has grown up and life now is not what you were expecting it to be like. This is often the time I start to receive correspondence requesting immediate help. I wish people that once they get a puppy they would take them to socialisation classes. Here they can learn how to understand their dog and how to train them correctly as well as nipping in the bud any immerging unsuitable traits. It is far better to do this as puppies than have to go for correctional training when the they are six months of age and when the dogs are now becoming out of hand.
I had a case where a little dog was always aggressive towards people, children in particular as well as other dogs. The dog was now eight and they had moved to Spain but far from being able to enjoy life here their dog was making things very difficult. As they were always with the dog, it would not let them out the house without constant barking. It was only in final desperation that they contacted me. Could I do anything to help or was their dog too old to change. Fortunately, I was able to help and now they can enjoy going out with their dog for evening walks. They can go into a bar for a drink and watch the sunset without their dog seemingly wishing to harm everyone who passed by or it could now simply stay at home when they went out without barking. They are now in charge once again.
Just look at your interaction with your dog. Do you initiate everything or does your dog demand when to go for a walk, have its meal, sit, or sleep where it likes or cannot be without your constant presents. Then question what you expected your life to be like when owning a dog and see if you are happy with the way things are. If they are not then its time to see if you can change it and to enjoy Spain as you originally intended.