I would highly recommend checking out this article from the American Kennel Club titled, “5 Things You’re Doing To Make Your Dog Misbehave.”
Why do I recommend it? Because these five problems/scenarios are very common.
Their first point refers to a lack of exercise and their second refers to a lack of training. While both of those points are extremely valid, and sometimes separate, I would argue that these two items are actually very closely related. Until you’ve done an intense obedience “workout” with your dog, you cannot fully grasp the benefits of mental exercise. Most of the obedience problems I encounter with my clients revolve around a dog’s lack of SELF control. For a hyperactive dog, learning that you have self control and how to utilize it is absolutely exhausting. If you’re the kind of dog who is used to always getting your way, (especially when it comes to running, jumping, and general chaos) learning to hold a sit for more than a second or two requires an incredible amount of concentration. While that may not seem like “exercise” to us, it truly does wear them out! I have had multiple clients tell me that the first thing their dog does after a solid “workout” or training session is take a two hour nap.
Their third point involves reinforcing bad behavior, which we do both knowingly and unknowingly all the time. Sometimes, we let things slide out of fatigue or laziness, and the dog learns that we don’t mean what we say. Other times, we purposefully condone behavior that we don’t realize will come back to haunt us later (see the video I posted on the Facebook page about a dog “protecting” its pregnant owner).
Some might argue that the last two points, which focus on breed and age, are out of the owner’s control. I would disagree. In my opinion, part of responsible dog ownership is doing the research required to choose a breed that fits your lifestyle and being prepared for puppyhood if you choose a young dog. Our society is very much geared towards getting what we want, even if it is impractical for our current situation. I think people often forget that different breeds exist for a reason – they have different characteristics and were created for very different purposes!
Now, I will say that choosing the best breed for you becomes harder if you are adopting a rescue, especially at a young age. I recently read an article about breed identification accuracy in shelters and the percentage of incorrect identifications was staggering. DNA studies are showing us that, as the saying goes, you can’t always judge a book by its cover! Even so, make sure you get as much information from the shelter as possible, and if you have a friend in the dog world, try to bring him/her along for advice.
Finally, if you choose a puppy, be prepared! Puppies are hard work from day one, but many folks think that as soon as they are housebroken or lose their puppy teeth, all will be well with the world. Wrong! Dogs, especially those who have not been spayed or neutered, will often experience a rebellious teenage phase just like humans! I distinctly remember the day that my dog’s testosterone seemed to kick in – and boy was he fun to be around for a few months. As the article states, consistency is your best friend during this time frame just as it is when you’re working with a brand new eight week old puppy. Hold your ground and the rest of your dog’s adult life will be much more pleasant.
My last little bit of puppy advice would be this – push them to excel! Yes, you always need to mindful of the puppy’s age and what is realistic for that age, but most of us don’t realize just how much a puppy can learn at a young age.
In this photo from July of 2011, Future Leader Dog Tucker was just shy of three months old – and he was holding a sit in order to get a cup of shaved ice.
Chelsea Cutler, Certified Professional Trainer