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How To Encourage Good Dog Behavior

By Edited Apr 21, 2014 2 2

Photo of a long-haired labrador retriever dog outside a house

A Simple Guide To Preventing Behavioral Problems At Home

Are you experiencing increasing signs of problem dog behavior? If the answer is "yes", then maybe it's time to start taking steps to correct it. 

While it might involve the services of a canine behavior trainer (depending on how serious it has become to manage your dog), changing your pet's behavior doesn't have to be that hard, if you can understand what the root cause is.

Generally, when we pick up on incidents of problem dog behavior, we tend to judge it from a limited perspective and react out of anger for them to stop. Unfortunately, this does little for an animal whose actions might be driven by fear, recollections of abuse or emotional stress of some kind. 

In these types of circumstances, it is impossible to know what to make of the 'irrational' behavior, whether it results in indoor urination, chronic anxiety or incessant barking. There is something going on inside the dog's head that we cannot feel or comprehend when this is occurring. 

That is why it's beneficial to develop a personal awareness of how our pets think and interact in the world. What may seem unimportant to us may, in fact, be making a greater impact on them than we realize, especially in emergency situations

Canines operate from a completely different mindset than ours, and if you are seeking to establish a sound, trusting relationship with your animal, it's worth learning about how their inner mind works.

Dogs at play on a lawn and snarling

1)  Understanding How Our Dogs Think

Dogs are essentially animals that are only too pleased to obey when trained correctly. They find true contentment living in a group and are all too ready to express their loyalty towards their owners. 

Dogs originated from the wolf, and are very much pack-oriented animals. They are instinctual by nature and live according to a hierarchical order. Canines always look to a strong leader to ensure their survival in the world and to give them direction. If your instructions are neither clear or direct, then it is impossible to expect your dog/s to give you clear, direct action in return.

Canines are sensitive, highly aware animals that readily make use of body language and sound to communicate. This not only applies to their communication with fellow dogs but also us, humans too. Any dog can immediately identify submissive and dominant behaviors in other dogs and people, and this innate ability can sometimes lead them into having aggressive behavioral patterns.  

If not kept in check from an early age, major issues can arise, such as growling, biting and jumping up. "All dogs need education and discipline in order for them to develop into well adjusted pets. They will develop behavioral problems if this need for discipline is not met." [4616] Backing up your actions with respect and loving authority every day will speak to your pet's heart. Often these two factors will decide whether a dog will obey you or not.

Young black dog under wooden furniture

2)  Becoming Aware of Your Emotions

Some destructive behavior problems in dogs are the result of emotional disturbances related to fear. Separation anxiety is one specific fear-based problem that arises from insecurities a dog has about its owner, and it will panic once left alone for any period of time. 

As an owner, you can learn to take active responsibility for your emotional well-being and this lessens the chance of your dog picking up on feelings of uncertainty or worry you may have. However, if your emotions are regularly out of control, it is incorrect to assume that your dog is going to ignore your behavior – it can't.

Dogs are naturally hard-wired to sense emotional and physical changes in their living environment which may threaten their safety and survival. Negative or positive, emotions have a great influence over a dog's behavior. Wilson states, "a weak, indecisive owner will make their dog feel fearful and vulnerable." [4616] 

Non-socialization is another problem dog behavior that needs to be correctly managed and is also related to fear. "Socialized dogs are normally friendly dogs, but isolated dogs can become fearful which may lead to aggressive behaviour ... often when a dog bites, it is reacting from instinct." [4616]

A pair of two fluffy toy dogs beside a log

3)  Rewarding Your Dog with Treats

Dogs, for the most part, have lost their instinctual desire to hunt as they would in the wild, yet have a high tendency to eat quickly and gorge their meals. This is due to the lingering influence of feeding habits from their distant ancestors. 

With dogs strongly associating food with survival, edible treats can be an effective way of rewarding your animal for good behavior. The giving of food reinforces the positive aspects of its training sessions, and strengthens a dog's desire to listen and obey its owner's commands.

Food is a powerful symbol of reward for your dog. Treats, such as pieces of chicken jerky, small dog biscuits or cheese, can be used to effectively teach a dog to recognize the difference between its acceptable and non-acceptable behaviors.

A lasting and distinct contrast is made when a loud “no!” command is expressed which draws the dog's attention towards changing its inappropriate behavior. Dogs are more proactive when receiving enthusiasm, pats and an edible reward. 

A pair of happy dogs taking a walk in the countryside

Happy Endings

By approaching your dog from their perspective, rather than your own, you can gain a bigger picture as to what drives their behaviors. Their way of being in the world comes down to having a unique psychology that differs from your own. 

Games and a bit of stick chasing might be fun to start out with, but in the long run, what I find a dog really thrives on is an emotionally stable life and good leadership from its owner.

With the right amount of awareness and discipline, and a few rewards thrown in for good measure, your dog will not only seek to behave well on a daily basis, but teach you how understanding is the most fundamental key of all.

Next article: How To Transport A Dog To Canada From New Zealand




Feb 9, 2013 7:53pm
Great information on controlling and improving your dogs behavior. In many cases it is the owner that creates aggressive or bad behavior in their dog.

All dogs should be trained correctly or if they cannot do it on there own then enroll in an obedience training school. This will help the owner and give the dog a chance to meet other dogs and learn not to be aggressive. I have just written a small ebook on training your dog originally it was a booklet. Thanks for sharing this.
Aug 7, 2013 3:19am
Hi Eileen, thanks for leaving a comment on my article about dog behavior. Yes, I think owners have a responsible role to play. I agree, obedience training is the best thing a person can do. It benefits the dog as well as the owner, and is excellent for socialization.
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  1. Wilson, S. The Bark Busters Guide to Dog Behavior and Training. East Roseville: Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2002.

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