3 Ways You Might Contribute to Your Dog's Bad Behavior

Punishment has been shown to increase aggression and conflict-related behaviors in dogs. When a dog is punished for growling or barking, she can no longer give a warning signal to show she is uncomfortable. That means the dog remains highly aroused, agitated or fearful, but rather than using her innate warnings, like snarling, a dog may escalate faster into aggression and even a bite.

Parents and grandparents be warned: Children often emulate the actions of adults, even if warned not to. That means that a child will model a parent’s yelling, scolding or physical intimidation of a dog. When a child copies the punishment techniques he witnesses, there is a good chance the dog will react with aggression toward him.

Instead of punishing your dog, use reward-based training with the entire family. It takes refocusing your mind on the good and what you desire to have happen, and rewarding your dog for those behaviors. Rewards can include treats, toys, praise and a favorite activity. Train your dog to do what you want, or reward the desired behavior she already does, while also limiting her ability to make an unwanted choice or get too upset to handle the situation. Allow your dog only into situations she can handle, and in those situations, show your canine what you want and reward her for doing it. Also, look at replacement strategies for channeling natural behavior in dogs. For example, if you have a problem chewer, offer acceptable chewing alternatives such as a stuffed Kong.

Human behavior 2: Lack of consistency and clear expectations

Canines need consistent guidance from the people in their lives regarding the behavior and manners that are expected of them. It’s unfair for the dog to have the rules change from person to person. If something is OK with one person and not another, it becomes very confusing to the dog. For instance, if the man of the house is allowed to hand-wrestle with a dog, but the dog cannot put teeth on other members of the family or play roughly with them, there is trouble to be had. The dog is likely, through practice and reward in the one scenario, to act the same way in others. The more predictable a dog’s life is, with clear boundaries and rewards only for certain behaviors, the better behaved the dog is likely to be.

By the same token, the entire family and those who interact with the dog need to be on the same page with how the dog is treated and trained. The cues or commands for the dog need to be the same among all the people in the home. The dog also needs consistent consequences for her behavior, like a reward for listening. Otherwise, the positive behavior loses strength. In addition, the management of unwanted behaviors, like pulling on the leash and jumping up, need to remain unrewarded by all people by never allowing the dog to move forward on the leash while pulling or never greeting the dog when she's jumping. If the behavior is rewarded by even one person in the dog’s life, the dog will be resistant to change. The infrequent reward increases persistence in the dog.

Unfortunately, I’ve found people within the same home will use different styles of teaching: one with intimidation-based training and others with rewards. That is extremely confusing to the dog. Expectations, consequences and structure need to be as consistent as possible among everyone in the family.

Human behavior 3:Expecting too much of your dog without doing your part to help her

Just as a child may benefit from schooling from preschool to high school and college, dogs can also benefit from increasing levels of training and practice to be prepared for what is expected of them. A dog may need training that progressively gets her skilled enough, through practice, to handle higher-level expectations, like responding to "Come!" in high-distraction environments. A dog may respond when the situation is low-key and minimally distracting, but in a high-intensity situation, the dog may be less likely to obey. Depending on the dog's capabilities, training should progress to the level of what the person requires. That means preparing the dog through success at easier levels and gradually training to a more demanding level.


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