Dogs are like kids…they need physical and mental activities to keep them healthy and out of trouble. Lack of these things for a dog, can manifest themselves in ways such as destruction of your home (chewing on furniture, shoes, peeing in the house, etc.) and aggression towards people and other dogs.
I think our society has misconceptions that certain breeds (ie pitbulls, doberman pinschers, & german shepherds) are just “natural born killers”. While many breeds were bred a long time ago for specific purposes and many are used for specific purposes today, I believe that no dog grows up wanting to be an attack dog.
This is where we as owners come in to play. If we create a stressful or angry environment for our dogs, that is what their behavior will manifest as–regardless of breed! On the other hand, if we create a calm, loving, and activity/exercise-driven home for our furry family members, they will acknowledge that with respect for you and your home.
Of course I am generalizing as there will always be exceptions to every rule, but please allow me to pass along a few helpful tips on how to create a calm and happy dog. Know that I am not a dog trainer, so these tips are from my personal experience along with that of friends, and some reading and research over the past year. My dogs are by no means examples of perfectly trained little angels, but I am constantly evaluating and reminding myself that exercise and mental stimulation = a happy dog, so know that we are all in this together and must retrain our way of thinking sometimes to communicate properly with our pets.
Working with your dog everyday on basic commands then advancing from there will strengthen the bond you and your dog have, creating loyalty and trust.
A breed such as the German Shepherd, is considered a working dog. To feel satisfied, they need to “do something”…they need mental stimulation due to their intelligence. Something as simple as putting a pack with your water on the Shepherd’s back when going for a walk, makes them feel needed and useful. While the Golden Retriever & Labrador Retriever are not necessarily considered working dogs, I’d still categorize them with the group of dogs who desire to “please” and get their worth from activities, which is why they make such wonderful search & rescue and guide dogs. All are active dogs and need exercise frequently. Retrievers love the water, agility courses, & playing fetch (due to their game hunting background for which they were originally bred).
Taking your dogs to the dog park is a must. Not only is the social aspect great for them, they can wear themselves out from all the running and playing and ball chasing that goes on. Remember that a well exercised and tired dog is a happy dog! Regardless if you have a “lazy” dog or a small dog you think doesn’t need much exercise, they still need activities to do and be around other dogs to keep them healthy, both in body and mind.
What about some of that bad behavior that we think is cute or don’t even realize as bad behavior? There is no way those puppy dog eyes would ever manipulate us…would they? Here is something Cheri Lucas has to say about that. (She is the founder and president of Second Chance at Love Humane Society, a no-kill dog rescue in Templeton, California)
“When we give in to a dog’s demands, we are essentially reinforcing his bad behavior by rewarding it. Think about it: if you pet your dog when he paws at your leg, you are teaching him how to demand affection and get it. Most of the time we nurture bad behavior unconsciously. Our responses to our dogs “demands” are pretty much automatic. But if you want to mold your dog into a model citizen, stop and think about the dynamics that are in play during your interactions with your dog. Make an effort to see how things appear through your dog’s eyes.
For example, if you love to take Rover to his favorite park to play “Let’s go chase the squirrels!” then is it any wonder he still chases the neighborhood cats? If it’s okay to practice aggression with one species, can we really expect him to not chase another species that he considers prey? Can you see how easy it is to inadvertently nurture bad behavior?
To begin to turn things around with your dog, you don’t need to take any activities away from him, just do them on YOUR terms instead of HIS.
- Invite your dog to play fetch with you when he’s NOT standing over you with a slobbery tennis ball. Instead, when he’s calm and submissive, grab his favorite ball and initiate a game of fetch. Make sure you win the game by ending it and putting the ball away ON YOUR TERMS.
- If your dog is following you around the kitchen in an effort to speed up his dinner service, ask him to go to his pillow in another room. Have him remain there calmly until you invite him back in for supper.
- If your dog approaches you as you’re watching TV and plops his head on your knee, fight the urge to see this behavior as adorable and see it for what it is: a command for attention. Send him to his pillow for a few minutes. Once he’s calm again, INVITE him over to you for that head massage he was hoping for.
Human or canine, the pleasures in life are so much sweeter when we earn them!”
(Cheri Lucas is the founder and president of Second Chance at Love Humane Society, a no-kill dog rescue in Templeton, California)
Does your dog chew your shoes or furniture? This is so common especially with puppies. You’re going to get tired of hearing this, but exercise! Besides that, dogs do need things to chew on…just not your Jimmy Choos. Go to the store and get safe chew toys. Redirect their attention to those toys, away from your shoes.
This next one is my observation. Occasionally when my dogs are home without me for longer periods of time than normal or they feel short changed on a walk, once in a while they pee in very specific spots. Not marking because they are house trained, but an on purpose “I’m mad at you that you’re not here” kind of pee. Again, the main remedy I have found is to take them on their walks for what they feel is their designated allotment of time.
I know I have in no way even begun to touch on the extent of tips and training and behavior issues out there, but I hope the ones I have provided are helpful to you as they have been to me in just beginning to understand the wonderful world of our dogs.