This month we have an article from behavior trainer Jen Anderson. We hope this gives insight into your dog’s natural behaviors and how to support the positive behaviors!
Dogs are amazing animals. Sharing your life with one can be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. Or it can be a total disaster. The difference is usually a misunderstanding or a failure to communicate effectively.
Behavior describes any action an animal takes as a response to an external or internal stimulus. It is influenced by the genetics, environment and experience of each individual animal. Some behaviors are innate (finding food, mating and raising offspring) while other behaviors must be learned. One way that animals learn is by experimentation, or trial and error. Another is mimicking or copying behaviors they see others doing. Dogs are phenomenal observers, and they are always learning.
Every dog is an individual who’s innate behaviors will manifest in some form. Unfortunately canine behavior problems have been increasing over the last 50 years or so. 6-8 million dogs and cats are surrendered to shelters every year in the US and up to half are euthanized, mostly because of irresponsible breeding and ongoing behavior issues. It is up to us to shape pet behavior into appropriate and safe actions that allow our canine companions to navigate a human centered environment.
In order to navigate a human centered environment, safely and confidently, while maintaining a state conducive to learning your dog must learn behavior that does not come naturally to him. Sitting still while a squirrel or other interesting thing is beckoning him to chase is something that needs to be first learned then practiced. Alot. In order to successfully teach a new behavior you must first consider these things:
- Your relationship with your dog. Does your dog trust you? Do you trust your dog?
- Have you established clear boundaries with your dog?
- Do you understand your dog’s body language and have the ability to communicate clearly and give meaningful feedback? If you don’t, develop a way to clearly communicate.
- Are you consistent? Do you ever lie to or trick your dog? Inconsistency is confusing. Consistency is foundational to building and maintaining trust and a leadership role.
- Are you providing the necessary environment or “habitat” for your specific dog to help him build the confidence and skills necessary to live in an environment (your home) in which his natural tendencies can easily become dangerous or destructive behavior?
- Do you understand your dog’s value system? What is he willing to do work for and how focused is he on you?
Dogs are born into this world with everything they need to survive. It is up to us- their guardians- to provide the necessary guidance and tools for them to learn everything they will need to thrive.