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Worst of the Worst – How to Manage Your Pet's Frustrating Habits!

By Laura V, Dognitive Therapy

We might have spent tens of thousands of years getting to know each other, but until recently, the relationship between man and dog has been one sided.

We have brought dogs into our lives for many reasons, but the common thread is that dogs are brought into this world to meet our needs, with their needs coming a distant second.

When the relationship is one sided, it can’t be mutual and this is when we tend to see the worst behaviours in our dogs; set someone up for failure and they generally never disappoint.

The worst behaviours that draw my attention are usually behaviours that result in some sort of destruction, whether that be emotional or physical damage. Examples include separation anxiety, hyper-reactive behaviours and excessive and compulsive behaviours such as digging, licking, pacing and barking.

When a dog feels damaged on the inside, they express this on the outside. This is why I always describe dog training as being about people, not dogs. We as their guardians are responsible for our dog’s welfare, health and happiness. They completely and utterly depend on us.

Perhaps the most important message to take away about dog behaviour is to ask yourself, ‘how is my dog feeling right now?’, when they are behaving in an unwanted way.

Invariably, your answer will be either ‘my dog is frustrated’ or ‘my dog is anxious’. Once we understand how our dog is feeling, we can understand why they are behaving that way. Next, we can manage the behaviour by changing their environment and re-building a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

Here are 6 essential starters to get you on track and get the best out of your dog and yourself.

  1. Stop, listen and learn. There is always a reason for your dog’s behaviour.
  2. Create positive focus. Challenge your dog, play and engage with them in thinking games
  3. Increase your dog’s exercise routine. The more safe, physical exercise your dog gets, the less frustrated they are
  4. Avoid punishing your dog. Instead, reward them for the good things they do every day. If you’re looking for good behaviours you will see them at least 50 times a day.
  5. Be consistent, patient and respectful. I call this CPR. These are the three pillars of leadership and essentials in any positive relationship.
  6. Set up a safe place. This is a cosy place your dog chooses to sleep in – away from any threat or harm. This is where they are most comfortable, and a place THEY chose to be.

Whilst these starters may not immediately change your lunging Labrador, they will provide a foundation for leadership, which is essential to any behaviour change with your dog.

Once you master these, you will begin to see changes in not just your dog’s behaviour but in their outlook on life. You will start to see a more confident and trusting dog. You will see a dog who listens and respects you. You will see a dog who is truly happy. All dogs deserve this.