When Your Dog Has A Behavior Problem

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When Your Dog Has A Behavior Problem

by Valerie Slaughter

While you might not be thrilled at some of the behaviors your faithful companion has taken on? you need to realize that your dog isn?t at all bothered by digging, barking, chewing, jumping, begging for table scraps, chasing cars, getting into the garbage, being aggressive toward other dogs ?these behaviors are a part of who he is, and has been through the centuries. They are behaviors he (or she) would have used out in the wild. Your dog isn?t digging up your garden or chewing on your new shoes to spite you? he?s not barking because he?s angry or feeling neglected ? he does these things because they come naturally to him. There?s nothing more to it than that.

Once you understand and accept this, you?ll be in the right frame of mind to change the bothersome behavior once and for all. The trick to being successful isn?t at all about brute force or intimidation ? it?s all about using your dog?s natural inclinations to help you correct the behaviors you don?t like while still keeping the warm, loving relationship you want to have with your best friend. It can be done, but it takes time and a consistent effort to turn those behaviors around.

As you work to change your dog?s bad habits, keep in mind that?

? Your dog needs enough exercise for his age and breed. Too little exercise gives him endless energy to dig, to chew, or to pursue other problem habits. But, if his energy is spent on walks or runs in the park he isn?t likely to have anything left over for bad behavior.

? Your dog needs your time and attention ? you?ve heard it before, dogs are social animals. You and the members of your household are your dog?s pack and he wants to be with you as much as he can. Many bad behaviors stem from the dog not having enough time, attention and guidance about what?s expected and what?s not.

? A visit to the vet might be in order so you can talk about what?s going on; sometimes bad behavior can stem from pain, an infection, hormone imbalance or other physical problem ? all of which need to be ruled out first. Other times behavior problems come from an inborn tendency of the breed. In either case, an honest talk with your vet can give you a clue about what you?re up against.

? You need to catch your dog in the act so that your displeasure can be clearly linked with the act. Reprimand your dog while he?s nose deep in the hole, not when you find your garden overturned. A dog just can?t connect your screaming (or punishment) now with what he?s done in the past ? to him your temper is not in any way connected to that chewed-up pair of shoes. Over time dogs deal with what they see as unpredictable anger by loosing trust in you, which brings on even more problems.

? You need to look for the source of the behavior ? consider things other than not enough exercise or time with the family as reasons for what?s happening. Some dogs tolerate being alone all day, others don?t. A recent move or the arrival of a new pet (or baby) in the home are other sources of upset you should think about.

If you?re struggling with problem behaviors that go beyond what can be handled by these suggestions, you may want to consider seeking professional help, which comes in one of two varieties. A dog trainer will help you handle more straightforward obedience issues (jumping up on people or furniture, chewing or housetraining problems) so that you establish the communication needed to get your dog to understand what?s expected of him.

In cases where a dog?s behavior is motivated by fear, aggression or anxiety an animal behaviorist may be your only hope of handling the problem. These pros have advanced training and will work with you and your dog to get at the root of the problem, and then help you change the behavior to something more acceptable. In some cases, intervention by an animal behaviorist is the only hope of keeping the dog with the family.

The good news is that even the worst behaviors can be changed, so long as you stay consistent and keep working on the problem. Talk with other dog owners to see what worked for them. Learn all you can.

Valerie Slaughter is a veteran marathoner and author of "You Want To Do What!?" who trained for marathons with her dog, Sam. For more articles, information and tips about caring for pets (dogs, cats) visit: doghealthynews.wordpress.com

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