We all like to think that our pets will be as well-adjusted and as well-behaved as those movie-star dogs. And wouldn’t it be great if our dogs could tell us exactly what is the matter? (“What, Lassie, Timmy is stuck in the well, again?”). Our dogs actually do have many ways of communicating with us, we just need to learn to translate that doggie language. For dogs that have behavioral issues, however, understanding that communication becomes even more important.
One of the main reasons that dogs are turned into shelters is for behavioral problems. These include aggression, housebreaking difficulties, high energy issues, jumping and excessive barking. Addressing these problems in detail is beyond the scope of this newsletter, but it should help you understand a little more about these problems and when you need to seek professional help.
With very few exceptions, aggression issues require the assistance of your veterinarian, trainer or both. There are many kinds of aggression. It can be related to fear, dominance, food, territory or often a combination of these. Dogs can also focus their aggression towards people (familiar or strangers), other dogs or other kinds of animals. Because the problem of aggression is so complex and the methods of dealing with it depend on the type of aggression, you need to enlist the help of a professional. Dealing with aggression requires patience and diligence. For many families, having to deal with an aggressive dog is not possible. Again, your veterinarian and trainer can guide you in your decision about dealing with this serious problem.
Many other behavioral problems can be handled at home with basic training and an understanding of dog behavior. The best time to start training is as soon as you bring your new puppy home. Young puppies are like young children- they are little sponges that soak up information. In addition, if they learn what is expected from them at the beginning, they don’t get into the bad habits. For example, if you encourage your 7-week old Rottweiler puppy to jump up and kiss your nose, don’t be surprised when he weighs 100lbs and knocks you off your feet doing the same thing. If you adopt an older dog with some bad habits, it means he will have to unlearn the inappropriate behaviors and relearn the right ones. There are many excellent books about dog training out there and I certainly have not read them all but by reading a few different ones, you can decide what kind of techniques will fit you and your dog the best. Training classes (either group or private) are extremely helpful for basic training and for addressing problems as well.
If you have any questions about behavior, please call us and we will set up an appointment to discuss any problems and work out a plan that is best for you and your dog.
We haven’t forgotten about cats! We’ll be discussing them next month.