How do we deal with behaviour issues?
A bad behavior issue means that your pet behaves in a way which is inappropriate or unsociable to people and/or other pets.
In this article, we’re discussing animal behavior for dogs because they are generally more interactive than cats and require a greater degree of discipline.
Generally, small behavioral issues range from tugging on leads and jumping up when dogs greet people to more serious destructive issues like destroying furniture and other property. Unacceptable behavior such as aggression towards other animals and people can be a common reason for the re-homing of dogs. Sadly, in some cases, extreme behavior can lead them to be put down. The way we respond to behaviors can have a marked effect and a positive outcome and in a lot of cases – if these behaviors are met with an aggressive response, they can be reinforced really easily.
With all behavior issues, prevention is better than cure – and taking steps to reduce problems starting is always favorable. Before you get a dog you need to make plans to ensure that you are going to be able to look after it responsibly. A new pet, especially a dog, can take up a lot of time, attention and commitment.
Firstly, you need to be certain that you are going to be able to offer the appropriate lifestyle and surroundings for your dog and you’ll be able to commit to taking him out for walks. If you work full time and say, live in a flat, your dog will most certainly get bored. This can lead to stress and eventually cause behavioral problems.
Some dog breeds need more exercise than others. And some working breeds like Border Collies are bred to run around for hours on end. It is for this reason that they can become obsessive, hyperactive and stressed when they are only taken on two short lead walks per day. In conclusion, be mindful of the size and demands that your dog will need before making your choice.
Socialisation can prevent behavioral problems from developing if introduced early on.
What is socialisation?
Socialisation is a process by which dogs learn to relate appropriately to people objects and other animals. This involves as many positive encounters with adults, children, and other animals as well as becoming used to a wide range of events, environments, and situations.
It is ideal for puppies to encounter new experiences during the first 14 weeks as this is the most receptive stage of their development. Initially, a puppy is with his mother and siblings and this environment will give you a few useful clues as to how you’ll support a young dog in the future. A wide range of varied experiences at this time helps them build confidence and ability to cope with future situations.
Most dogs are sociable and love the interaction with people including children and environmental change. Keeping dogs in kennels can be corrosive to behavior and unfortunately many end up in this unfavorable environment through no fault of their own. The lucky ones get a second chance and the ideal friendly environment they deserve.
Puppies should experience as many social encounters as they can and visit as many places as soon as they’ve had their initial course of vaccinations. New experiences for both young and old dogs should be made as positive and as fun as possible with plenty of treats and positive encouragement.
A great tip is to take your dog for a regular trip to your vet for a biscuit and a cuddle with the nursing or reception staff and is a great way to get your dog used to the veterinary practice in a positive frame of mind.
Although the early period for your dog is very important, socialisation is an ongoing process and it should be introduced to your rescue or older dog – it’s never too late for new experiences to enrich yours and your dog’s life.
Should I bother with training?
In a word – YES!
Whether it’s a structured programme or you decide to take this task on at home – any training is better than none.
However, for obvious reasons, we would only advise home training if you’re an experienced dog owner.
Training classes are an ideal socialisation and are part of a dog’s initial and ongoing lifestyle. An early experience of meeting lots of other dogs and puppies in a common environment is invaluable.
Because training classes vary, it is important to find a class which you enjoy and one that works for you and your dog.
When you look for a training class it would benefit you to look at a few classes so that you and your dog can get a feel for what is on offer. Training is also important for your dog’s expectations – to learn what is expected of him or her within a social situation and the wider community is worth your time and relatively small financial input.
Training is important for all dogs – basic commands such as sitting, staying, waking to heal and good recall are all important to a dog’s safety and your long term enjoyment.
My rescue dog shows behavioural problems, can he be helped?
As well as being challenging, a rescue dog can be very rewarding. Many rescue dogs can come with their own emotional conditioning and behavioral problems which could be the reason for a dog being re-homed in the first place.
It is very important to understand and anticipate the fact that problems may arise in this area so discussing any problems the dog has with the rescue centre is always wise before you take him or her home. Being sure that you’ve made the right choice for that breed of dog along with environmental and lifestyle considerations is always good preparation.
Always contact your veterinary surgeon at an early stage if behavior issues emerge after you have taken on a rescue dog. It is always best to tackle behavior problems early before they get more difficult to treat.
Many behavioral problems originate from poor socialisation early on and are part of a dog’s conditioning. Although we won’t be able to recreate an early development window, we can socialise our pets with new surroundings and experiences they can grow accustomed to. Providing rewards in the form of healthy, tasty treats will soon have a positive effect on long term behaviors.