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Understanding your Dog

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Many people often ask me, “Dan, what does it mean when my dog does this?”-Here are the 11 most common questions that I have been  given as a Dog Trainer.   

 Why is my dog always jumping on people?

“Usually, dogs will jump because they are needy or anxious at the time. Jumping gets their owners attention about how they’re feeling and if it works, the dog will continue to do it.The golden rule to dog training is to be consistent. If your dog has a habit of jumping up and sometimes gets ignored but other times gets rewarded, you get a confused dog who will continue to jump up. Consistently ignore and walk away. Then, give your dog the chance to do the right thing and consistently reward that behavior. In.In general is important to practice only rewarding relaxed and calm behavior, even when playing. If we reward our dog when they jump, we are telling them that we want that behavior and that we are also needy and anxious. To a dog, that shows poor leadership.In general is important to practice only rewarding relaxed and calm behaviors, even when playing. If we reward our dog when they jump, we are telling them that we want that behavior and that we are also needy and anxious. To a dog, that shows poor leadership.

 Why is my dog so aggressive?

People tend to define aggression in many ways; from anxiety, to fear, frustration and prey drive. With anxiety being the main cause of aggression, dogs generally do not want to attack and hurt if they don’t feel they have to. Attacks usually occur because the dog has tried in their best way to communicate their mental state, but has not succeeded.It is important that you look for the signs in your dog’s body language and respect their needs as much as your own. Through applying consistent leadership, the dog will soon learn to trust and respect you, feeling safer when in unpredictable or uncontrollable environments. You want the dog to look to you for guidance rather than take it into their own hands!In addition, conditioning your dog to associate dogs or people positively is important and is done through desensitization. Set your dog up to win and realize that your dog is behaving this way because he is trying to tell you he feels he has no other choice, not because he is trying to be tough or dangerous!Please consult a professional before attempting to modify aggression in your dog. The drivers behind aggression vary and although anxiety is the main cause, predatory aggression has a different motivation behind it. Therefore, it is important you have a professional at hand to help.

 Why does he get anxious when he is alone?

“In general, dogs who lack a consistent leader and do not lead fulfilling lives, tend to panic when left to their own devices. This is because they lack self control, confidence and are almost entirely emotionally dependent on their owners. Owners who make a big fuss of departures and arrivals and who reward unwanted, needy behavior contribute to a dog’s anxious state of mind.

Remember to reward independent behaviors and show your dog that being alone is not the end of the world, rather it is a time for calm relaxation and positive associations. Although it may make us feel good to have a dog who constantly needs to be by our side, if we find that they panic when left alone, are we really doing what is best for them? Understand your dog’s perspective and realize that their needs may be different to yours.

 I can’t stand my dogs barking! What can I do?

Dogs need to talk, but they don’t speak English, so they bark. It is when a dog barks excessively to the point where it bothers the owner that it becomes an issue. Excessive barking is usually a sign of one of three issues, all of which can be interlinked:


Barking can become a way to release their pent up energy.Have you asked yourself lately ‘does my dog have a fulfilled life?’

Demanding attention

Remember to only reward wanted behaviors and consistently do not reward unwanted behaviors such as attention seeking barking.

Separation Anxiety
A dog that panics when left alone may start to show destructive behaviors soon after you leave the house.
Anxiety is one of the most common issues dogs face. Dogs are thrust upon a human world and expected to be able to predict and control their environment. If the human can’t do this for them, then that makes for a very stressed dog. Often, these are the sorts of dogs that are most prone to Separation anxiety. Have you accidentally rewarded anxious behaviors? Sometimes, we mistake a dog’s anxiety for happiness and reward it. Try to think from your dog’s perspective

 My dog is always getting out-how can I stop this?

If your dog escapes whilst you are home, perhaps you should ask yourself how close your relationship is with your dog Do you spend time together developing a bond through exercise, obedience club, play, displaying affection at appropriate times etc? Are you predictable around your dog? The first step to encouraging your dog to stay within the boundaries is to start to improve your relationship as a consistent Leader that your dog trusts and respects.

If your dog escapes whilst you are away, then it is likely your dog is escaping to find a safer location, preferably wherever you are… wherever that may be.

Do you have an intact male dog? This can also cause a dog to ‘wander’ in search for a female. It can be very dangerous and irresponsible to own a dog that escapes. Unless you are a responsible, registered breeder, your dog may be happier and healthier being neutered.

 I call my dog and he will not come to me! 

Remember, it is important to understand your dog’s motivations. If your dog is off lead and prefers to play with another dog instead of coming to you, there is very little you can do about it.Ensure you always start training the recall when your dog is on lead, with few distractions; gradually working your way to a longer lead and more distractions. Once you are 100% certain your dog will come to you in the park off lead, then that is the only time you can trust your dog to come when called.The most important part of this training is having a bond with your dog so that they WANT to come to you. Make the recall into a game, calling them over, rewarding them and then releasing them back to whatever they were doing prior.A dog won’t want to come if the only time you call them is to punish them or to take them away from having fun. Remember, understand their motivations and give them what they want when they give you what you want. It’s all about cooperating and being part of the fun.

 I can’t stand my dogs barking! What can I do?

From loud noises to inanimate objects, dogs can develop a phobia of anything. It’s all about association. If a dog’s first experience of a thunderstorm is when they are home alone, outside and can’t find safety from the monstrous noise, then of course the association of thunderstorms becomes life threatening.

To overcome a phobia, your dog needs to have gradual positive experiences, giving them control of their environment without avoidance of the phobia. It is important you don’t push your dog into facing their fear before they are ready. This results in a breakdown of trust and respect for you and heightens the phobia. Watch your dog closely and they will tell you when they are ready for the next step. Soon, the phobia turns into something great in your dogs life instead of something perceived to be life threatening.

 Should I bring my dog to the dog park? 

People often associate the word socialization with running around at a dog park. Although dog parks can be fantastic for releasing a dog’s physical energy, please be mindful that it is not always a good social outing for a dog! Do you like everyone’s company? Dogs don’t either and this can cause a range of socialization issues, particularly if your dog has a bad experience with a poorly socialized dog. The first 16 weeks of a dog’s life shape much of who they become. If you have a puppy, you have a great chance to help them lead a healthy, happy life, through teaching them good social skills and confidence in the company of other dogs. If you have an adult dog who lacks social skills, ensure her social outings are always positive or non eventful and that you read her body language to understand how she is feeling. This will tell you a lot about how and when to take the next step. Remember, pushing an anxious dog into an uncomfortable social situation is setting that dog up for failure.

Contact your local reputable Puppy School or Dog Club and catch up with friends who have dogs that share a similar energy level to your dog and are well socialized. Good social skills are perhaps the most important skill your dog will ever learn! Make sure you do it properly. Your dog should have a positive social experience every day.

 I want to let my kids walk the dog but he/she pulls too hard. What can I do? 

It is because at some point, your dog has been able to get what they want through pulling. They have learned to pull from you. What you need to do is reverse this training. When they pull, stop immediately, bring them back to you and wait for them to settle. Then, move on. Initially, you may not get far but if you’re consistent, patient and repeat the training daily, it will happen in no time! Remember their motivations. They want to walk, sniff and explore. Show them that they can have that but only if they walk beside you. Once they understand that the only way they can have what they want is by walking beside you (or simply not pulling if you’re not after a Heel), then you will have a cooperative and enjoyable walk together. It might sound strange, but start training inside the house with the lead attached to your waist. Encourage your dog to enjoy being by your side by rewarding them each time. Gradually work to bigger and bigger distractions and then eventually to your first street walk. Good luck!

 I feel like my dog is always trying to be more dominant than me. What can I do?

Research evidence shows that dominance is not a behavioral trait in a dog. Rather, it is a function of their relationship with the person. This means that if a dog shows signs of pushy behavior, doesn’t listen tothe person, demands things from the person etc, then this does not mean the dog is dominant. Instead, it is a sign that the person hafailed to take a consistent leadership role and so the dog feels that they have to take control of their environment. Often owners inadvertently reward these behaviors and reinforce the dog’s controlling state of mind. If you’re not proving to be a good leader, then someone has to keep things in order.

Dognitive Therapy is about working together as a part of a cooperative team, not an alpha – subordinate relationship. Some people make the mistake of thinking they need to dominate every aspect of their dogs choices including when to eat, when to go through a door, who they should socialize with, even when to sleep. That sort of relationship is not cooperative, can be stressful and dis-empowers the dog. Often the dog may only behave well because they are avoiding punishment, rather than because they want to cooperate with the human leader. This is not a healthy relationship for either. Dogs that feel it necessary to take control of their environment are generally very stressed and are set up to fail regularly as they simply cannot successfully take on a leadership role in a human world. That’s your job!