...When you got your dog,
you expected happiness and cuddling and ball games
and dog tricks and a best friend, right? If
you are here, it's probable that things aren't
perfect and you are looking for a solution to
something that is bothering you, and that's too bad.
I want to help you fix it, and this article targets
the top five causes for how things went wrong. It
also shows you how to get things on track.
The vast majority of folks who call me or contact
me for help with their pet dog have the following complaints:
Gets overexcited and is hard to control.
Barks too much.
Won't come back when he's loose outside.
Isn't reliably housetrained
Can you relate?
Although the items above are certainly a pain in
the butt to those who live with the dog, THEY ARE NOT THE ROOT
PROBLEM. All of the listed items are symptoms of a deeper
"disease." They are SYMPTOMS.
If you have headaches caused by a brain tumor,
you can certainly stop the pain of the headaches by taking
medication. But what do you REALLY need to do? Mask the symptoms,
or cure the brain tumor? The answer is obvious. You need to take
steps to get rid of the cause of the headaches. You need to cure
the brain tumor. After the brain tumor is taken care of, the
headaches will go away. If you don't take care of the brain tumor,
eventually you might die.
The brain tumor analogy is almost exactly
parallel with what happens to dogs when owners try to mask the
symptoms of the deeper problem rather than curing the overall
"disease." Dogs that have the "disease" will not get better unless
the disease is treated. If you treat the symptoms alone, the
disease is still there...and IT COULD KILL YOUR DOG.
With dogs, the first symptoms are usually mild
and slightly annoying. Then they get bigger and bigger and WAAAY
more annoying. They will not go away without "treatment" and they
will DEFINITELY get worse. The dog will not "grow out of it" or
magically get better. IT WILL GET WORSE. Before long, the
behaviours are so annoying, or even dangerous (biting) that they are
potentially life-threatening to the dog...the owner has to "put it
Did you know that the number one cause of death
for pet dogs in North America is euthanasia? Yes, folks, death is
the end of this "disease," almost as surely as for person with a
brain tumor who chooses to go untreated. Don't kid yourself. If
your dog is not behaving well, he is in danger of dying.
So what is the disease?
It is very likely
that your dog's basic needs are not being met as well as they should be, and his
behavior reflects this imbalance.
Gaps in proper husbandry (husbandry: the care and control
of your animal) is the cause of each and every symptom listed
above. A dog whose basic needs are met does not act the way your
dog is acting. That's the disease we have to cure. Most of the
dogs that I see are absolutely normal dogs who do not have any
genetic tendancy of inherited temperament issues.
Here's what dogs need in order to
behave well. Most dogs have all of these things in SOME
fraction, but if the balance is off, the dog acts out.
Training and Control
Diet and Health Care
Are your dogs getting the
balance of things they need in order to live up to
their potential? Read on to find out.
Training & Control
thoughtful training in order to know how to act. They do not somehow
"get that way." They do not "grow out of" unwanted
Unless you take time to train your dog how to act, he is going to
act how he wants. Usually this is in direct conflict with ease
of management in a human home. Whether you are a Chihuahua
owner or a farmer with a stockdog, this rule applies
to your dog.
owners benefit greatly from teaching the commands Come, Settle, Off,
Sit, Down, and Stay.
learning at all times. Unwanted behavior is usually learned
behavior that the human did not guide or direct. For this
reason it is necessary to exercise control of your dog to prevent
him learning things that you didn't teach.
necessary not only to teach dogs good habits. Control is
absolutely necessary in human society. The simple acts of
having a dog on-leash or in a fenced backyard are aspects of the
control necessary. However, control is necessary in nearly
every interaction the dog has with his world.
understand clearly (and without harsh treatment) who is in control
(the human). If they do not understand this basic concept,
they experience stress when the human tries to take control.
They may become very fearful, struggle, and even bite. They
often take active measures to avoid accepting direction by running
away, staying just out of arm's reach, or other avoidance
behaviors. Read more about this on the page
In most pet
homes, control is only exercised over the dog when absolutely
necessary. Generally, if the dog is not actively bothering
someone, they are left to their own devices. The dog learns
that 99% of the time, he chooses what to do. 1% of the time
somebody directs him.
In order to
have a pet that responds to you well, acts in a way that is pleasing
to you, and is a safe animal to be around, training and control are
In order to
establish training and control, implement the
Life program. This program works for older dogs
and also as a starting-point for raising a puppy.
cautious creatures as adults. If they encounter something new
they normally choose to back away rather than investigate. If
they cannot back away they become frightened and may show aggressive
behaviour toward whatever is scaring them.
Dogs must be
desensitized to human environments or they will be scared, hyper,
and show various other reactions to stimulus. Ideally, a dog
should be taken to various environments, meet all different kinds of
people, and learn doggy social behaviour from all different types of
dogs as a young puppy (young pups accept new things easily).
However, even an adult dog can be desensitized to all sorts of
things. Lack of a good socialization record is the #1 cause of
dog aggression (fear aggression).
aspect of the socialization issue is that many dogs do not get
enough interaction with a living being on a daily basis, and hardly
ever get to interact with their own species. Dogs are social
creatures, just like us. If they spend too much time alone
they start go wonky, just like us. How much interaction are
you giving your dog? Just being in the same house doesn't
count! Active social interaction is needed. How often
does he get to spend time with other dogs, his own species?
Most dogs need more.
Socialization to learn how to socialize your dog.
This is by
far one of the biggest reasons why pet dogs act up. It is also
the factor that, when improved, almost immediately produces huge
improvements in a dog's behavior and demeanor.
programmed instinctually to do a million different things on a daily
basis. When we keep dogs as pets, they rarely get to act on
any of these instinctual urges. So, they make up stuff to do.
Their brains need to be busy, the human doesn't give them an outlet,
and the dogs "get busy" on their own.
The lack of
adequate mental stimulation causes hyperactivity, inappropriate
chewing, development of obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and even
consider taking the dog for a walk or a free run to be the end-all,
be-all answer to a dog that is jumping out of his skin with
excitement. This is far from the truth. Mental
stimulation is very different from exercise. Although
certainly exercise can be combined with some mentally stimulating
activities, it does not replace the dog's need for busy-work for his
brain. If you don't believe me, try an experiment on yourself.
Do not read, speak to other people, do crossword puzzles, watch TV,
or engage in any of your favorite activities for one week.
Instead, every time you feel like doing one of these things, go walk
on a treadmill. See how you feel after a week. You might
be fitter, but you'll be jumping out of your skin to do something
mentally. You'll be bored and frustrated. This is
exactly what happens to dogs all the time.
Stimulation to learn how to insert far greater amounts of mental
stimulation into your dog's day. Be aware, too, that many of
the exercises prescribed on that page are cross-purpose because they
involve social interactions with humans and other dogs.
Dogs that are
well-exercised are far more pleasant to be around. Dogs need
to run around freely at least three times a week or so, or they
gradually begin to exhibit signs of hyperactivity or become obese.
reason for a lack of exercise opportunities lies in the dog not
being trained very well. If every time you take your dog for a
free run, he runs away (and you get very frustrated and/or scared
because you can't get him back) you will gradually stop taking him
for free runs. As the lack of exercise builds up, the results
start to show at home.
routine for doggy exercise is to take him for at least one
leash-walk every day, and for a 30-60 free-run three times a week or
more. Be aware that daily leash walks alone are never enough
exercise for a dog larger than about 10 pounds. For small
dogs, indoor ball games can be substituted for outdoor walks, but
they are a poor substitute because they don't include logs, grass,
groundhog tracks, bugs to chase, birds to watch, or other dogs to
One great way
to provide exercise for your dog is to find a couple of other folks
who also have dogs, and schedule regular free-runs. Your dog will
get some doggy buddies (fulfilling some of his need for more social
interaction) and exercise at the same time.
I do not
recommend frequenting "dog parks" where the dog is constantly
meeting and interacting with strange dogs. You can use dog
parks well if you take along a few dogs that already have
relationships. Dogs are not instinctually programmed to
constantly accept and play with "stranger dogs." Letting them
have ongoing relationships is much better. However, if you
can't find other "dog buddies," dog parks are better than nothing.
Good Diet and Health Care
Ever see that
documentary "Supersize Me?" This guy decided to do an
experiment. He ate nothing but McDonalds food for one whole
month. He lived through it, but he felt depressed, queasy,
irritable, and experienced massive ups and downs in relation to the
blood sugar swings from all the crappy carbohydrates he was
consuming. He also gained 27 pounds in 30 days. At the
end of the experiment, his blood readings indicated that he was in
danger of liver failure.
have a poor diet probably experience some of the same effects as the
guy that did the Supersize Me experiment. I have had direct
experience with improving a dog's temperament through the
improvement of their daily diet.
Many dogs are
allergic to items in dog food, and allergies to food can express
themselves in very different ways. Dogs can have very obvious
health issues such as continual ear infections or skin problems,
diarrhea, or arthritis when they are eating something their body
can't handle. But did you know that allergies to items can
also cause behavioural problems? If you don't believe me, do
some research on the net about allowing kids to eat certain red
dyes. Commercial dog foods are full of all kinds of things
that have been shown to have a high instance of allergic reaction,
including the meat sources (chicken being the highest, beef next,
and so on) and the preservatives and carbohydrate sources.
possible diet to feed is a raw, wholesome, fresh homemade diet.
If you do a Google search you will find various well-researched and
Dog food is
one of the only products available today that you can reliably
predict is better if it costs more. Feed the most expensive
food you can afford to feed. Avoid grocery-store brands.
Feed dry food rather than wet (wet food is mostly water and your dog
has to eat massive amounts to get the nutrition he needs). You
can usually feed a smaller portion of good quality dry food because
each kibble is packed with more calories and nutrients than the less
Be very wary
of following the feeding directions on the back of dog food bags.
Most tell you to feed far more than your dog needs. My Search
and Rescue certified Aussie eats *half* of the recommended portion
on the back of my dog food bag. Of course this can result in
obesity, but it can result in another telling behavioural result as
well...your dog might (instead of getting fat) use up the excess
calories he is getting in restless energy. I cannot tell you
how many times I have cut a dog's food by one cup or more a day, and
the dog stayed at the same weight...and he became calmer.
If you are not sure if your dog
is at a proper weight, visit my article
Is Your Dog Fat, Skinny or Fit?
and do an at-home test!
instructions on how to set up and maintain a great feeding routine, visit
Your dog needs to see a vet when he's not feeling well, and I
recommend a yearly exam for all dogs, and an exam every 6 months for
shown that yearly vaccination is possibly doing more harm than good.
Yearly vaccination is too much. Many people think that it's a
good thing, so why not do it more often, but there is huge evidence
that indicates that yearly vaccination could actually really hurt
your dog. I encourage you to educate yourself in regards to
this issue and speak to your vet about it. I personally follow
a very different vaccination schedule than what my veterinarian
recommends. My choices are based on studies and research
conducted at Cornell and Guelph Universities that show that yearly
vaccines are not necessary to adequately protect your dog against
information on the vaccination issue, you can start with
article by Catherine O'Driscoll. She has written an excellent
book on the topic as well called "What Vets Don't Tell You
About Vaccines, 2nd Edition."
This article at
Leerburg is a simple overview of some of
the common viewpoints of those that are against yearly vaccines.