Dog Training Fundamentals - Preventing Problem Behaviors
Preventing problem behaviors is the heart of dog training even when we are trying to fix an existing bad habit. So many things can be circumvented with a bit of prevention and it’s not as complex as you might think!
Fear based problems, overexcitement, destructive issues, separation anxiety, and more can be nipped in the bud before they start and take hold. At the same time there are ways we can lessen the severity of existing issues, which can be very similar to preventing them.
Prevention is ALWAYS easier than fixing an existing issue. It doesn’t have to be hard, and usually it’s a matter of figuring out what has to be done that’s the most difficult part. When we’re fixing an existing issue that can be another story, which is why it’s best to get training BEFORE you have a problem that needs fixing.
If you’re dealing with problem behaviors there’s only 3 reasons why your dog isn’t listening to you, which does make the task of training less of an obstacle, but still is more difficult than prevention.
Preventing Problem Behaviors - Mangagement
Too much freedom too soon is the bane of having a well mannered dog. It is inevitable that your puppy or new dog is going to stick their nose right into trouble. Having good boundaries is key to having a good dog. Trust that your dog will do the right thing has to be built, and that’s not by letting them have free range. The goal of having a dog you can have loose in the house isn’t one that is somehow automatically reached by plopping them into your home and hoping for the best.
A dog that is new to your life, regardless of age, doesn’t know you or your lifestyle. They have zero clue what is expected of them and will naturally try different things. Some of these things will be just due to exploring or curiosity, some because of habits already grown. Having a good management strategy early on will help with preventing problem behaviors from developing. As an added bonus it also give you and your dog a bit of a breather, so that you can both adjust to the new situation and make plans for your future, like goals for your dog training.
Meeting Your Dog's Needs
Right now I want you to take a moment and list out all the things that you think are needs for your dog. The things that they must have in their lives in order to be mentally balanced, and fulfilled so that they don’t make their own fun. How many things did you come up with? What type of activities?
The Walk - How much is enough?
Dogs fall into the scavenger niche in nature. This means they are forever on the lookout for opportunities for the things they want. They must actively search for food or hunt it down if they are able. Their lives are not meant to be filled with endless days of resting on the couch or confinement in the yard. But that’s the reality of many dogs nowadays. There is no work for them to do, and the best that they have is a walk.
For the lucky dogs this is a daily occurrence. For the extremely lucky ones it might also be long enough for them to destress, which typically is an hour or more. But for many, this just isn’t happening with regularity. So we see a lot of disfunction as a result. Dogs with behavior issues aren’t happy. They’re trying to cope as best they can in situations that are impossible for them to succeed in.
Walks that are the proper length of time for your dog and that are stimulating for them are vital for the long-term mental and physical health of your furry family member. Preventing problem behaviors begins with having this kind of stimulation, fulfilling a natural need that the dog has.
Mental Stimulation - Epidemic of Boredom
Another piece of the puzzle is mental stimulation. There is an epidemic of boredom happening rather silently with today’s dogs. They have yards, toys, owners even get dogs for their dogs, and it doesn’t solve the underlying issue. Boredom!!
Think about the habitat of a scavenger. There are things happening pretty much every moment of the day. The world is not static like the inside of a house or apartment. Whether in the wilderness or living at the edge of humanity, the world is shifting, dynamic, day by day.
Our house pets have been robbed of this. Their days are mundane; they have a walk or two to break up the boredom, have very brief periods of excitement when there is a meal, and have no real outlet for their energy overall. That energy has to go somewhere. It’s probably getting expended in places you don’t like, such as barking, reactivity, digging, counter surfing, chewing, etc.
These are all a symptom of needs not being met. Dog training alone can’t solve these issues. Making sure you have a good wellness plan and are meeting your dog’s needs go hand in hand with good training. The type of life you have with your dog, and their life as well is totally under your control. You can change it, for better or worse. The power you need is there. It’s a matter of knowing how to use it.