Saturday, October 4, 2008

How to Stop Dog Behavior Problems

When you are addressing how to stop dog behavior problems, there is a formula. Whether the dog behavior problem is barking, jumping, chewing, digging, fighting, or a host of others, you need to:
  • Think about the behavior problem from the dog's point of view; what is he getting out of it?
  • Consider what you are doing that may be causing this problem.
  • Reinforce the dog's stopping this behavior problem. This may be very simple as in the example below...

Every time you sit down, your dog comes over and paws your leg. You'd like this to stop, so what do you do?

Common Sense Answer to solving this dog behavior problem: You take your dog's paw and put it back on the ground and say, "No, Rover". He keeps pawing your leg. Rover is thinking, "Well, I don't think Mom likes this, but she pays attention to me when I do it".

"Talkin' Dog" Answer to stopping this dog behavior problem: You don't look at your dog or acknowledge his presence; instead, you calmly get up and walk out of the room. Rover stops pawing your leg. Rover is thinking, "Well, this pawing thing is no fun anymore. Mom doesn't even look at me and tell me 'No'. She just gets up and leaves! I won't do THAT anymore. It not only fails to get her attention; it chases her away!"

This simple example illustrates how getting inside your dog's head -- "Talkin' Dog" -- can produce fast, easy, and somethimes even fun, ways to solve dog behavior problems with no harsh methods like jerking, no yelling and no gimmicks like squirting or clicking.

Another example of a dog behavior problem is fear aggression. If your dog has fear aggression, you may be thinking, "I give my dog so much loving attention -- how can he still have fear aggression?" Well, there's a good chance that all your loving attention may actually be INCREASING his fear aggression and causing this dog behavior problem! It is not true that only dogs that have been harshly treated wind up as aggressive biters or fighters.

Even when a dog is treated gently -- but incorrectly -- we can either induce or reinforce this problem of aggression. How you touch your dog and how you greet your dog can cause him to be fearful and can contribute to the next aggressive event. The difficulty with fear biters -- or nervous aggressive dogs -- is that people with the best intentions in the world often contribute to the behavior problem.

Here's an example of how you may be contributing to this problem: you come in and greet your dog, leaning over to pet him while looking in his eyes. He rolls over and you gently and lovingly rub his stomach. What's wrong is that you have just caused and rewarded the most submissive gesture a dog can make: rolling over on his back. Inducing and rewarding submission cannot induce confidence.

How to Greet Your Dog to Reduce the Behavior Problem of Submissive Aggression

When you greet a dog -- even your own -- your posture has a profound influence on your dog's behavior.

How to greet your dog to cause fear and submissive behavior: look him straight in the eye with your shoulders squared to him, lean over him, and reach down from above. How to greet your dog so he won't be fearful: squat down, don't stare at his eyes right away, and reach from the floor up to him to pet him on his chest and throat, not the back of his neck.

See my ebook on solving dog behavior problems for much more on my 'Talkin Dog methods of stopping dog behavior problems--methods that do NOT include jerking, yelling, squirting or clicking. And I wish the best for you and your dog!

Dr. Dennis Fetko, "Dr. Dog"