And how we can help
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that there is trouble in paradise with our dogs.
One barks like crazy when he has to stay home alone, the other goes nuts on leash when he sees other dogs (or people) and many live extremely restricted lives due to fear.
For us humans, every problem with the dog is an emotional story. Very quickly we feel helpless or wonder if we are even the right person for this dog or if we are doing something wrong and thus trigger the behavior.
It doesn’t help that (especially in social media) people often claim that the problem is always at the other end of the leash.
That way, we not only blame ourselves but also become the victim of hostility or ridicule from those around us.
There is nothing more needed than quick solutions to eliminate problems and finally enjoy life together.
But for this, we need to understand why our four-legged friends actually become “problem dogs”.
Fortunately, there are quite simply only 2 major causes.
1 The breed/the breeding goal
There is hardly any animal in the world where humans have interfered with nature as much as they have with dogs.
Over centuries, certain breeds or groups were created by breeding selectively, all of which had a very specific purpose.
Today, however, very few dogs are used for these original purposes of their breed.
They live as family dogs by our side.
Now, when a dog feels a particularly strong need to fulfill the breed predisposition that he cannot live out in everyday life, he becomes increasingly unhappy and may exhibit problematic behavior.
We can think of this as something like what happened to us during the lockdowns of the past few years.
Suddenly not being able to carry out our everyday activities has made us feel uneasy.
Our dogs feel the same way.
Yet, we can’t just allow our dogs to do what they were made to do either. And this does not only refer to various hunting dogs.
For example, a Cane Corso is also not allowed to chase away every person who strays onto his own property (poor mailman/visitor).
2 The dog does not feel well
This point also picks up on the inner conflict from point 1 but goes much further.
There are incredibly many reasons why a dog might feel unwell.
That’s why I’m always glad when the health aspects are clarified at the beginning of a behavioral training. They are often not so easy to spot and don’t even have to be super obvious.
So a dog doesn’t have to walk on 3 legs to have a problem. All it takes is food intolerance and resulting itching or constant heartburn.
Surely you can put yourself in the dog’s shoes here because it drives us crazy too when it itches all the time (welcome to the mosquito season).
So it’s worth taking a close look here.
But even aside from health, there are many reasons for our dogs to be uncomfortable.
The most obvious is fear. It comes in all shapes and colors, and it’s always a huge limitation to quality of life.
Imagine you are afraid of loud noises, but you live on a main street downtown. The constant stress level, which is kept nice and high by fear, not only affects behavior but also health.
Likewise, many dogs live with the constant fear of their humans or conspecifics.
And even if there is no other dog in the household, and their own humans have been recognized as safe, the situation looks quite different again on walks.
And then the question is whether we recognize this fear.
If the dog tries to escape, it is quite easy. But if he lunges barking his head off as soon as he notices people or dogs at a certain distance, often completely different motivations are suspected and the fear remains unrecognized.
And even if this behavior has not fear but frustration as a background (also occurs very often together), it is uncomfortable for the dog.
No dog goes on a rampage on leash, runs away, destroys the furniture, or bites because he is so happy.
He is stuck in a situation where he feels massively uncomfortable and he doesn’t know any other way to help himself.
So what can we do, no matter what problem is troubling us?
In my opinion, the fairest way is to help our dogs feel more comfortable. After all, we put them in these situations (whether the whole day is difficult or just certain moments).
So we have to see that we satisfy needs as best we can and make sure that situations in everyday life are as pleasant as possible.
This can happen by simply giving our dogs the time to assess a situation at a sufficient distance.
It can also mean actively working on alternative strategies for the situation.
And it definitely means species-appropriate, need-based activities that improve both confidence and the human-canine bond.
How that all looks in detail then totally depends on the dog and determining that is exactly what I support my teams with.
So it is not about making the dog obey at all costs. It’s about him feeling so comfortable that he doesn’t see the need to misbehave.
And that is exactly what we can give him.
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