THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN OVER EXCITEMENT AND AGGRESSION
Having an aggressive dog can be a scary thing and I have been in the company of many. Not all dogs that may appear aggressive, actually are aggressive. In many cases it is a matter of over-excitement or fear in the dog. A dog may see another dog and become aroused wanting to go to them. Sometimes this can seem like aggressive behavior because of the barking and pulling that takes place.
I met someone recently with a 7 month old golden doddle while I was on a walk in the Lehigh Valley. As we talked briefly he mentioned something about his dogs’ aggression. Clearly this dog was a pretty typical 7 month old adolescent, he was large and easily excitable. He was pulling to get to my dogs and the owner was having a tough time controlling him. He was not barking but just wanted to get to me and my dogs. This young pup just needed some leash manners and training, it was not aggression. The intent on getting to me and my dogs and doing harm was clearly not the intention at all. That is not to say an over excited dog cannot do some serious damage, because they can. They can pull the handlers down or jump on them out of excitement. They can at times redirect their excitement and frustration on to the handler, biting at their hands or leash. This is still not aggression. However, you do want to get this over excitement under control because in times like this, the dogs behavior can lead to bigger issues. A dog approaching another in this extreme state of excitement can often lead to a fight that really shouldn’t have happened. Not all dogs are going to be tolerant of your over excited dog, it doesn’t matter how friendly you say they are. One of my own dogs does not like when a strange dog comes rushing up to her unexpectedly and sticking their face in hers. An loose overexcited dog has left a permanent memory on her.
If your dog is showing signs of the above behavior mentioned, you need to address your dog’s excitement through training and proper leash manners. Teaching a proper heel and come when called will help to establish rules and boundaries for your dog on a walk, creating a calmer dog.
Now if you think your dog is aggressive then you should have them professionally evaluated. A truly aggressive dog can be a threat to other dogs, humans or sometimes both. When your dog is barking, are they rushing towards the dog or person or barking and moving backwards? These can be symptoms of serious issues. Excitement or aggression are both issues that need to be addressed but understand they are different.
THE HOUSE BREAKING DILEMMA
So often new dog owners struggle with the task of housebreaking. It may be a puppy that has just come home or a young dog that has been adopted from a shelter. It can be a daunting job getting through to a dog that previously has been allowed to pee in its crate or dog pen. The dog will naturally be confused in the beginning.
So often new dog owners when bringing their puppy home will put pee pads all over so the puppy can go on them. Sometimes also putting them in a larger crate to provide a potty area. Ask yourself one question, where do you ultimately want your dog to potty? If the answer is outside then you want to pick up those pee pads and get rid of them. Get yourself on a schedule by jotting down when the dog goes out and goes potty. You should start to see a pattern in the dogs potty habits. i.e. The dog eats, then goes out 10-15 minutes later and potties. The dog wakes up from a nap……outside. Drinks a lot of water…outside. Plays hard … outside. I generally don’t leave unlimited access to water for my new dog but rather offer water. That way I know what goes in and will have to come out.
New dog and puppy owners give too much freedom to their untrustworthy new additions. Dogs or puppies that are not housebroken need to be confined in a crate if they can’t be watched or tethered to someone in the house who can watch them.
Now about that crate, they are not cruel, in fact dogs if crate trained properly will view the crate as a safe haven and place to relax. If it is a puppy you are housebreaking make sure the crate has a divider that can make the large crate smaller. Why? Dogs like to be clean and generally don’t want to sleep where they potty. Use that to your advantage, give the puppy enough room to sleep comfortably, stand up and turn around to re position. This will teach the puppy to strengthen those muscles and hold what they need to eliminate until they are taken out.
When you take your dog out to go potty don’t spend all kinds of time walking around. Give your dog a potty word that everyone uses and spend 5-10 minutes. If the dog doesn’t go, it is back in the house and in the crate to try again in a short amount of time.
There are going to be accidents, and moments of frustration. Some dogs get the whole process better than others. Having another dog that goes out can sometimes help in creating clarity for a new dog. Is this everything you need to know about housebreaking……no but this should help get the process under way and on the right track.
You can hire a trainer to come into your home and train your dog or you can go to classes for training, but you still may not be successful with your dog’s training. Why?…… It takes commitment to want change and make change happen. If you are allowing your dog to make too many decisions on their own and giving them too many privileges then behaviors will probably not change. You can complete all kinds of classes, have a dog who does well in class but goes home and growls at its owner when asked to move off a bed.
To change behavior the norm that you live with now must become different. Providing structure and rules that your dog expects and lives by. When you eat in the evening and you put your dog in “Place” or a “Down-Stay”, they learn quickly this is the routine or what is expected. I think there is confusion by what it means to provide structure. It is the privileges you allow your dog to have. Is your dog allowed to push through doorways to exit his crate or go outside? Structure would be you asking your dog to wait before exiting. A dog will do much better and behave appropriately when the rules are established and they know what is expected.
It takes commitment and willingness to change – it can be done! Change doesn’t have to be unpleasant, just different.
THE WORD DOESN’T MATTER
In this age of political correctness some words we use in dog training now have a negative inference.
The word dominant for example is one of these words, it is now often mentioned as a terrible thing. Yet isn’t it just a natural development in the canine world? Just as people are different and have their own personalities, so do dogs. Some dogs will develop as shy, some fearful some as submissive and some as dominant. If you watch a litter of puppies on numerous occasions you will begin to see which puppies fall into which category.
There is an excellent YouTube video by Leerburg: (https://youtu.be/rNQuqY1oXpE) demonstrating the pack mentality within a litter of puppies. So many so called experts discount the idea that there is a hierarchy in a dog pack. A dominant dog is not the same as an aggressive dog but these terms are sometimes used interchangeably. A dominant dog can perhaps move more quickly than a less excitable dog into aggression but is not naturally aggressive. Of course dogs are not just products of nature either. How a dog is trained or not trained makes a huge impact on their development.
I don’t think we have to be ashamed for being the dominant one in our canine relationship. You can be your dogs “friend” but still be the one in charge. Some people think if you love your dog you can get the behavior you desire. I’ve seen way too many dogs who rule the household and their owners “love them”. Just because you love your dog doesn’t mean you can control them.
Do my dogs know I am in charge? …yes, they do. Does that make me dominate? …probably. You only need to look at them to see they live happy lives. The rules are in place, yes you can do that, or no you cannot. Are my dogs perfect? ….no, they are not, but, no dog is. I don’t shy away from being in charge and I don’t negotiate. Call me dominate, alpha, the pack leader or mom. The word doesn’t matter, what does matter is do they listen, can you stop them from continuing a behavior you find undesirable? Don’t get hung up on the words but rather concentrate on the behavior.