What should you do when your dog demonstrates problem behavior?
If your dog demonstrates problem behavior such as:
- jumping up
- compulsive habits
- separation anxiety
- persistent barking
- fears and phobias
- toileting problems
- pulling on the lead
- poor recall
- general naughtiness and disobedience
then you probably have a dog who is confused about his or her place in your pack (i.e. your family or household). It is a dog’s natural instinct to live in a pack and every pack needs leadership.
But if there is no clear leadership and decision-making coming from the humans (in the dog’s eyes), he or she will take on that task themselves. This is a very big responsibility and a very stressful job, leading to some or all of the problems listed above. Swapping roles with your dog means that he or she can relax, chill out and enjoy life and therefore, the unwanted behavior stops too.
I can teach you the principles of a method of canine communication and understanding developed by Jan Fennell, author of several books including The Dog Listener and The Seven Ages of Your Dog. She has also made TV programs and a DVD called The Dog Listener.
Jan’s inspiration came from Monty Roberts, The Man Who Listens To Horses. He learned to communicate and work with horses by copying aspects of their behavior in the wild. Jan then learned the same could be done with dogs by copying some of the ways wolves communicate with each other. This can already be practiced when you’re house training your dog.
From there, she created a method which, when followed correctly, can revolutionize the human-dog relationship and allow the dog to be a dog again one of the pack rather than trying to be the leader and getting in a muddle.
This method involves understanding the way your dog thinks and their instincts, then learning how to communicate with and react to your dog(s) in a way they will understand and which demonstrates that you are the leader of your pack.
Contrary to popular belief, being a good leader doesn’t revolve around domination and submission but is about creating an atmosphere of co-operation and mutual respect. It relies on body language, gestures, eye contact, calm reactions and tone of voice – no need for gadgets or physical punishments. It can very well be trained when recalling your dog. You can easily reduce stress – yours and the dog’s!
There are 4 key areas where you need to demonstrate good leadership: feeding time, going for a walk (or as the dog sees it, going on a hunt), dealing with danger and establishing status within the pack at home.
You will need to permanently change some of the everyday things you do with your dog and some of these may be hard habits to replace but with patience, persistence, and consistency, you will have a happier relationship with your dog, sometimes within a matter of days. This will continue for the rest of their life and can also be applied to any other dogs you are involved with, or any dogs you have in the future. But, most importantly, the dog’s individual personality and character won’t change, they will still be the dog you love!
Once you have applied the basic steps and built the foundation so that your dog accepts and chooses you as the leader, there is no reason why you couldn’t go on to other activities with your dog – the possibilities are endless but it all starts with wanting to make that change.