Leadership for your dog is just as important as what I call the “four basics” food, water, exercise and affection. As an animal behaviorist, I see many dogs and their owners in my line of work. You would be surprised by how many are “out of pack order.” What do I mean by this? Simply stated, it means that they are unsure of who is boss and what their job is.
Many owners think that by letting their dogs pretty much do what they want, they are loving them or spoiling their babies! When a dog is out of pack order, it creates a certain amount of insecurity. When a dog is certain of where he is in pack order, his mind is at ease and he is HAPPY!
Most dog owners don’t know that their dog is unbalanced (any dog out of pack order is unbalanced). So, how would one make this diagnosis? There are many telltale signs, but let me give you the most common ones that I see.
1. Your dog is not housebroken. I am not talking about the occasional accident, but on a regular basis he poops and pees in your home.
2. Your dog jumps up on you when you don’t want them to. Even if your dog is greeting you (or your guests), they shouldn’t jump on ANYONE, unless invited to do so. My pitbull, Harvey, jumps up on me when we play, but not on other people and not when I tell him “down,” the command I use when it is not okay to jump up.
3. If you give your dog a command and you have to repeat yourself. Once or twice, even if he is excited should be sufficient.
4. Your dog barks enough to annoy you and/or your neighbors.
5. Even on a leash, your dog practically knocks you over to get out the door, the gate, or in the vehicle.
6. On the leash she pulls, instead of walking calmly beside you.
7. Your dog is not socialized. In other words, can be aggressive and/or shy with other dogs, people or children. You should be able to take your dog anywhere and have him or her act like a gentleman or lady.
Most people don’t know that their dog is out of pack order or “unbalanced,” which is the word I will use heretofore. All they know is that their dog sometimes makes bad decisions and they feel helpless as to what the solution might be.
This is where an expert opinion is needed. The “fix” for each dog is individual. The “fix” for each owner is also individual. Yes, if your dog is needing help, then so are you! You are a big part of the solution, because you are a part of the problem.
When I do a consultation for someone with a dog who is misbehaving, the first thing I do is to (gently!) make sure that they know that they have some work to do, too! Taking responsibility of the situation is crucial and having the whole family (or the whole pack) involved in the fix is also crucial.
Everyone has to be on the same page or the program that I design will fall short.
What does a program that I design look like? Well, it is different for every dog and owner.
The first step is to make an evaluation and figure out if the dog is getting their needs met. Is their life sufficiently making them happy?
Dogs are pack animals and they thrive on being with other dogs. They need socialization 2-3 times a week. This could mean play dates with other dogs, doggie daycare or frequent trips to the dog park.
If you want a well behaved dog, your dog needs to have his energy drained pretty much on a daily basis. Walking your dog is the best way to do this. I often teach dogs to run on a treadmill because their owners don’t have time for daily walks. This comes in real handy when the weather is bad. Doggie Daycare is also a very healthy way for your dog to play with friends, be a part of an emotionally healthy dog pack (she learns how to be balanced from the pack) and drain her energy. Most dogs go home from daycare and are so worn out they go right to sleep when they get home! My owners tell me that the next day they are very calm and relaxed!
Is the dog getting too much or too little to eat? Also, what are the owners feeding? There are many commercial dog foods out there that contain sugar/corn products which make your dog hyperactive. You would not believe the difference in many dogs when you feed them a diet that is high in meat/quality. There are many great quality dog foods out there, just consult an expert to find out which one is right for your dog.
Do the owners understand how a dog thinks? Dogs don’t reason the way humans do and often times we “humanize” our dogs and this does not make a balanced relationship. I have a class that I teach designed to make owners into what I call a “mini dog whisperer.” It is called Canine Communication 101. In the class, you learn basic obedience, but more importantly, you learn how a dog thinks. Each person in the class works with their own dog, but also with every other dog in class (maybe 10 dogs). Every dog has something different to teach you about communication so you have-to adjust your energy for each dog. This class is a lot of fun (and we laugh at ourselves often!)
Hopefully, I have given you some insight into your relationship with your “Best Friend”! It is true with any relationship that if you meet the needs of that person (in this case dog, but it does hold true of any relationship) they will meet your needs as well.