The American Dog Trainers Network


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How We Help Cause Our Dogs To Misbehave

Often, dog owners inadvertantly cause or exacerbate their dogs'  behavioral problems.
Here are five primary examples:


  1. Insufficient daily exercise, stimulation and play

    Exercise is so important, not only for our dogs health and well-being, but  in in the prevention of numerous behavioral problems.

    Problem behaviors resulting from lack of aerobic exercise include:

    •  Hyperactivity

    •  Destructive chewing

    •  Hole digging

    •  Excessive barking, howling, and vocalizing

    •  An extreme neediness for constant attention, petting, etc.

    •  Getting into mischief a lot (ie: garbage raiding, picking up or "stealing" owner's things,  jumping up on counters, getting into "stuff", playing "catch me if you can", etc.)

       The solution is constructive outlets for the dog's natural energies:

    •  1+ hours of leash walks daily (backyard exercise is NOT enough!)

    •  30+ minutes of aerobic exercise every day (except during extreme weather/temperatures)

    •  Play dates with other friendly dogs

    •  Playing fetch, retrieving a ball or toy.

    •  Games (such as "go find", "hide 'n' seek")

    •  Sports and activities (Frisbee, Agility, Flyball, Schutzhund, SAR, etc.)

    •  Obedience training

    •  Trick training

    •  Swimming, hiking

  2. Lack of early and on-going socialization

    Please see our article on "Socialization".

    Problem behaviors resulting from under-socialization include:

    •  Shyness and timidity

    •  Fears, phobias and "spookiness"

    •  Fear-based aggression

      Preventive steps:

    •  Begin interactive socialization with a variety of unfamiliar people (children too) very early on.

    •  Expose immunized puppies to a variety of environments and locations, including urban areas.

    •  Socialize fully immunized puppies with other appropriate (easy-going, friendly) puppies and dogs

  3. Isolation, and insufficient companionship, interaction and affection

    Dogs are both social animals and pack animals. Most dogs living in isolation most  of the time, whether in a garage, basement, junkyard, or outside one's home in the  backyard, experience extreme boredom and loneliness. These unfortunate dogs are  subjected to a virtual jail sentence. A life of isolation and neglect is no life for man's  (and woman's) best friend.

    Problem behaviors resulting from lengthy periods of isolation include:

    •  Hyperactivity

    •  Destructive chewing

    •  Hole digging

    •  Excessive barking, howling, and vocalizing

    •  Garbage raiding, jumping up on counters, getting into "stuff"

    • Trying to escape from home, property or backyard

    •  Extreme neediness for attention (nudging, pawing, jumping, whining, and misbehaving  in order to get noticed)

  4. Failure to provide their dogs with obedience training

    1. All dogs, like all people, deserve an education. Obedience training helps to strengthen  the bond between a dog and its owner, and develops communication, trust, teamwork,  and mutual respect. Humane obedience training is in fact one of the kindest things we can  do for our best buddies.  Please see our article "Why Train Your Dog?"

  6. Inadvertantly reinforcing undesirable behavior

    1.  When I do an in-home behavior consultation, I get to see the behind-the-scenes  interactions between a dog and their human family. One of the most commons things  many dog owners do to make their dogs problem behaviors worse, is to inadvertently  reinforce undesirable behaviors with lots of attention (even negative attention), while  often overlooking their dog's good behavior (ie: dog lies down quietly and gets ignored...  dog jumps up on owner and suddenly gets lots of attention and interaction). While we've  probably all heard the saying "Catch your dog in the act of doing something wrong", few  dog owners realize how much more effective our training would be if we would just do  a better job of catching our dogs in the act of doing something RIGHT (and instantly  rewarding the behavior)!

  7. Problem behaviors resulting from inadvertantly reinforcing undesirable behavior include:

    •  Barking at owner

    •  Jumping up on people

    •  Picking up owner's things (such as socks, shoes, etc.) and playing "keep away".

  8. Harsh handling and physical abuse

    Problem behaviors resulting from abuse and harsh handling include:

    •  Distrust of owner

    •  Hand-shyness

    •  Defensive biting

    •  A cowering animal with a broken spirit

Copyright 1995 - 1999,  Robin Kovary

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Robin Kovary is the American Dog Trainers Network helpline director
 and canine behavioral consultant.