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Can’t we all get along?

Donna Gleason on March 24, 2013

Dogs are peaceful animals. They are "hard-wired" to avoid or reduce conflicts. Next time you go to the dog park watch how the canines interact. Many times, if you see two dogs are not playing so nicely, a third dog will enter the situation essentially acting as a mediator in an attempt to "split" any potential conflict.

The dog park is not the only place for conflict; many times certain behaviors that our dogs present within the home can become a source of tension. What is interesting, is that our dogs (and humans) just want to co-habitate peacefully. So here are the top five conflict causing behaviors, offered by my canine friends as New Year Resolutions, plus some tips on how you can mediate to achieve success all year long.

I will not use the home as my toilet. In a study conducted by the National Council of Pet Populations, house training issues was one of the top ten reasons why owners surrendered their dog. I'm a firm believer of the following: If your dog hasn't earned his wings, he cannot roam the cabin. Essentially this means, if you know your dog has house training issues, his activities when with you in the home need to be supervised and his space needs to be managed when left alone. Developing scheduled feeding times and consistently taking your dog outside will assist in speeding up the house-training process. If you find an accident in your home and did not see it happen - just clean it up (Nature's Miracle works great!!). Yelling and screaming at your dog after the fact will only teach your dog to fear you.

I will not chew on items that I shouldn't. Chewing on items may have several origins. One being that your dog was given to much unsupervised freedom and developed habits because no one was there to teach him. It could also be the result of boredom. Keep your dog's environment enriched with toys which are designed to keep them entertained. Stuffing interactive toys with treats or even a frozen mixture of kibble and wet food is a great way to keep your dog's attention off of the remote. As simple as this sounds, if there are one or two objects that your dog really loves to chew, dog proof your home by removing access to those highly motivating items.

I will keep "four on the floor" when greeting guests. Typically, this behavior is the result of one of two situations. First, many owners think it's cute to have their new dog jump on them and actually encourage jumping as part of the human greeting ritual. These same owners soon realize what is cute in the beginning can turn into a nightmare as your dog gets older and bigger. Secondly, many dogs are not taught was is considered appropriate when meeting a human. One way to help your dog keep "four on the floor" is to teach him behaviors incompatible with jumping. Teaching your dog a solid sit/wait in different environments and with different levels of distractions are two cues that can be used to help your dog learn how to greet humans appropriately.

I will come back when called. This is a tricky one. Teaching your dog to come back to you, or "recall", is a skill that requires dedication from owners and lots of patience. When beginning to teach this skill do not expect your dog to come back if he is engaged in a higher motivating activity. Here are some general tips when teaching recall. High pitched short staccato sounds will pique your dog's interest. Crouching down or running away typically will get your dog to follow you. The most important tip for teaching your dog a successful recall is to never chase him - unless safety becomes an issue. Chasing your dog quickly becomes a game and your dog learns that when he is called it's "game on"...time to run in the opposite direction.

I will not dig up the yard. When beginning to address digging, it's important to look at potential motivators for the behavior. Here are some of the more common reasons as to why dogs may dig:

  1. Boredom - It could be that your dog is bored and digging offers an opportunity for mental and physical stimulation
  2. Curious - Maybe a smell has caught their attention and they are just investigating.
  3. Attentional - Maybe your dog likes the attention he gets from you when caught digging up the garden.
  4. Instinctual - I find - I dig - I bury. What more needs to be said?
  5. Temperature - What can be better on a hot day than a fresh hole and cool dirt?

Determining your dog's motivation is the first step in changing the behavior.

Bottom Line: No matter how much our dogs try to avoid conflict, they will never have that "Ah-Ha" moment and change their behavior without our intervention. Thus, the responsibility is ours to teach them what is appropriate in order to "keep the peace" when living in a human world.

Donna Gleason CDBC, CPDT - KA is owner of TLC Dog Trainer (Time Love and Commitment) resides in Sherman, CT. and has a Masters in Behavior Modification. She offers professional in-home dog training (specializing in puppy education, basic obedience and behavior modification for unruly or reactive dogs) as well as group puppy/basic obedience classes. Donna is a member of APDT, Shelter Animal Reiki Association, Pet Partners, mentor/trainer for Animal Behavior College, CGC evaluator and consulting trainer for PawSafe Animal Rescue. Donna can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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