Folks are baffled when I suggest to them, “Your behavior creates your dog’s behavior.”
On the other hand, they will jokingly say to me, “I know, it’s more about training me than my dog, right?!”
This would conclude that the dog owner actually knows they’re the ones messing up but can’t figure out exactly how to fix it.
A very common example is this: you decide to adopt a rescue dog because you feel sorry for the dog; you saved it. Every rescue dog has his story, doesn’t he?
Then the natural inclination is to give a huge part of your life and lots of love and affection to a dog that got a bum start on the road of life. That’s our compassion kicking in. That’s a nice thing.
But, it can cause problems.
See if this sounds familiar. You find it very difficult to leave your dog by itself for extended periods of time. There is constant doting, lap-time and sleeping with you; I know, that feels great.
But, this has slowly set up expectations in the dog’s mind, expectations of constant owner attention. When you leave, your dog’s world comes apart as he is unable to cope with being alone. Now your dog has separation anxiety.
Your behavior has created your dogs behavior.
I just love my dog but he has issues
What happens is you get all of your needs satisfied, but fail to give your dog what he needs to be well-balanced, confident and able to cope with his “alone-time” when you are away at work.
Behavior in people creates behavior in dogs
While separation anxiety is high on the list of serious doggie issues, there are many other behaviors that you may not even be aware of in which you create “confusion in your dog’s mind.”
Here’s a very common one: Your dog jumps up and you say “Down!” while raising your arms away from your jumping dog – Your raised arms signal UP.
Another confusing thing is using “Down!” as a correction for jumping. Then you also use “down” to get your dog to lie down on the floor.
If you are always late for work – you’re running around in a panic doing last minute things. Your dog is reading your emotional energy and at the same time winding up his emotional mainspring.
When you finally leave for work, your dog is left alone to unwind on his own. He sometimes relieves the stress of your departure by chewing, barking, digging or other destructive behaviors.
What happens next? You turn to what have always seemed to be “common sense” solutions in resolving dog behavior problems.
Most of these involve some sort of correction for the dog.
An example would be to rub your dog’s face in its own poop. Maybe he won’t poop there anymore but could poop somewhere else in the house – out of sight in a less obvious location.
Whether it’s house soiling, destructive chewing or any other behaviors when you apply these seemingly logical, “common sense” corrections to your dog, it only gets worse.
All of this snowballs and suddenly you find yourself struggling as to whether or not you are going to keep your dog because of the behavior he is doing.
You think about “giving him one more chance” or “doing everything possible” before making that fateful decision. Trust me, your dog knows you are not committed to keeping him. He can sense it.
You can always right a wrong. Fix a dog problem. Most of the time. And, it can happen way before you need to get to that fateful decision making time.
I’ve seen miraculous turn-a-rounds in dog behavior when an owner makes the commitment to keep their dog – no matter what. Improvement begins almost immediately.
Here’s the good news
Just remember, if you change, your dog will change. Depending on what behavior problem your dog has, it may take some dog training sessions with a trainer or behaviorist experienced in your problem area but you have to take the first step.