Controlling dog behavior problems is easier if you anticipate them and work to avoid them altogether. Much of the success is rooted in the dog’s environment and interaction with its owner. As long as the owner is willing to make some critical changes, and teach its dog what’s allowed (and how to enjoy what’s allowed), an amicable relationship and environment are indeed, quite possible. The following describes how to do just that.
A lot of professionals believe a significant portion of dog behavior problems stem from poor health and even some medications. Sudden aggression, for example, is related to seizure disorders and housetraining problems could be indicative of a bladder infection. A countless number of health problems, in fact, could be the culprit behind some rather confusing dog behavior.
That’s why it’s so important to consult the vet before consulting a behavior therapist or professional trainer. The goal is to rule out health as a cause since ignoring it will make training efforts futile. The vet should administer a full health exam and a complete physical. Any results — even if they turn up nothing — are informative and suggest the appropriate solution: either medical treatment or additional training.
Most dogs don’t exercise as much as what’s recommended. A dog that freely roams about a 2-acre yard still won’t get the proper amount of aerobics that all dogs need. Proper aerobics requires fifteen minutes of chasing, jumping, and having a “dog good time” with its owner — breed, age, and health permitting of course. Across the board, dogs significantly differ when it comes to the type of exercise that they need and it’s very important to accommodate those differences. Over-exercising a low activity dog can be dangerous and under exercising a high activity could lead to behavioral problems.
An under-exercised dog, for example, will entertain itself with inappropriate activities, such as chewing, barking at anything that moves, and/or digging.
Consult your vet before putting your dog on an exercise program since its age and health requirements may contradict the plans you have in mind.
Every dog needs to play with its owner or a family member each day. You can consider play time as adequate exercise as long as playtime is vigorous. You can also consider play time as a simple game inside the home. What separates play from exercise is that play accompanies laughter. Laughter encourages good feelings that are passed on to the dog, and it all strengthens the bond between the dog and its caregiver. It also reinforces the idea that the dog is something to be enjoyed, and not constantly controlled or disciplined.
The best play time is unstructured and it incorporates impromptu ideas of what’s fun. Tickling, playing hide-and-seek, and even a little bit of roughhousing is enough to create a playful, fun environment that any breed would enjoy.
There’s a strong correlation between nutrition and dog behavior. Malnutrition dogs may resort to eating and chewing dirt, rocks, and grass in a desperate search for the vitamin or mineral their body needs. Even if a dog consumes a highly recommended product, the food may not satisfy what the dog’s body requires, and it may prevent the dog from doing simple things like controlling itself, following commands, or sitting still.
Natural food will correct these types of problem. A diet consisting of meat, potatoes, cheese, fish, and fruits don’t elicit hyperactivity or allergic reactions (like cereal grains do).
Of course, sufficient training is a key part of correcting concerning dog behavior, so it shouldn’t be left out. Dogs don’t automatically know what’s right or wrong. They have to be taught. We’ve written several articles that describe the correct way to train a dog so be sure to read all of them. Our article about using basic dog commands details reasons why training is so important. Training isn’t just about teaching a dog entertaining tricks. Training is always about teaching a dog critical life-saving skills. We also encourage you to read our article about basic dog training principles that lead to success, which explains why positive training is a much more productive approach than any other.
Managing your dog’s environment is part of prevention training since the way it’s arranged and runs can stop behaviors from forming in the first place. One example behavior that comes to mind is marking. Our article about dog behavior problems related to elimination describes the appropriate way to control marking both inside and outside of the home.
If you have to leave home for extended periods of time, for example, you can consider the services of a dog sitter, walker, or kennel. These choices minimize behaviors that might occur from a lonely dog. Of course, if those choices aren’t available, you can block off areas of your environment with gates or closed doors. And you can take the trash out before retiring to bed so that your dog doesn’t have anything to drag around the house at night.
The key is prevention, and if you notice that your dog is interested in something that it should be interested in, remove it or place it in an area that the dog cannot reach.
Although we stress positive training, we don’t advocate that you let your dog get away with behavior you don’t approve of. It’s OK to say, “No!” and stop behavior that you don’t like. With a squirt bottle, leash, isolated room, and/or crate, you have the tools need to let your dog know that certain behaviors have consequences just like certain behaviors are rewarded.