Tips for Managing Dog Behaviour Problems
Barking when excited or in defence of a territory is quite natural in dogs. However, dogs that are bored will bark all day and this is not healthy. This type of barking is a sign of unhappiness, loneliness and boredom. Unfortunately, consistent barking can become a behaviour pattern for the animal. Once this type of barking has become a habit, the dog will require training to control the barking. Owners should consult a veterinary expert for advice on the best training method. This training will require patience, consistency and rewards for good behaviour. Going hand in hand with this training is to deal with the reasons for the barking. Bored dogs may require a more stimulating environment and much more exercise. When a dog is tired, it is much less likely to bark when bored. Toys are also a good way to keep your dog occupied when you are not there.
Regular exercise for bigger dogs such as walking is a great way to relieve boredom. Smaller dogs do not necessarily need to be walked every day but do crave companionship. If you can take the dog with you sometimes when you go out they will benefit immensely.
Dogs will often dig when bored. They will also try to dig to escape, cool down, bury bones, following a strong scent (such as fertilizer) or to fashion a den of sorts. The best way to deal with this behaviour is to understand it and manipulate it in such a way that it does not distress the owner. Things you can do to redirect this energy is to:
• Provide a spot that they are allowed to dig in and train them to dig there. This might be a small sandpit.
• Make no-go zones more undesirable by adding scents which are unappetising (such as pepper)
• Provide more appropriate exercise such as fetch, walking and swimming to release energy
Again you will need to be consistent and patient with your training.
Dogs can be assertive or pushy but obey commands, this is not a problem. Aggressive dogs, however, display inappropriate responses to normal situations such as constantly growling, snapping or biting. There may be medical reasons for the behaviour; these can include epilepsy, arthritis, hip dysplasia or dental complaints. Or it may be due to boredom. The dog may require more exercise or diversions when you are undertaking an activity in which they usually become aggressive. Aggression in dogs is serious and should be dealt with in conjunction with a trained veterinary expert.
Thunderstorm and noise phobias are a common problem for dogs and sometimes cats. Dogs can display signs of their phobia at the beginning of a storm such as a drop in barometric pressure, lightning and even the smells associated with storms. Signs that an animal has a phobia can include:
• Urinating or defecating
• Loss of appetite
• Trying to escape
• Following owner
• Ignoring commands
• Dilated pupils
If you believe the animal has a real phobia of loud noises, it is best to seek expert veterinary advice to best treat it. Treatments will not always have the same effect on different animals. You may need to try and test a few. Some treatments include:
• Do not reward or punish the behaviour associated with the phobia
• Provide medication – there are some homeopathic remedies available. You should consult your local veterinary expert to find out which is the most appropriate for the animal.
• Reduce or mask noise level – noises from fans or air conditioners may block the noise causing the phobia.
• Increase exercise – if you are aware that a storm may be coming or fireworks are scheduled, you can exercise the animal prior to tire them out both mentally and physically.
• Behaviour modification – counter-conditioning, where the animal is taught to display the desired behaviour rather than the instinctive response.
• Desensitisation – The animal’s response to phobia triggers can be decreased by exposing it to increasing levels of the stimulus which causes the response.
What is the Right Dog for You?
If you’re thinking about buying a dog, you are most likely to have success training it and settling it into the family if you think honestly and carefully about the breed and your own commitment to it. Here we have listed some important things for you to consider when it comes to selecting the right dog.
- Firstly, do you have permission to keep a dog on your premises? This is most relevant if you rent or live in a complex where there is building management onsite and dogs are not allowed. It could be that you live in an apartment block where pets are not allowed. If this is an issue for you, find out first! It will be harder for you and the dog if you buy it and later have to give it up. Surrendering or selling a dog to a rescue centre or another owner is not easy and should not be done lightly.
- Secondly, once you’ve established you are able to keep a dog, you should think about the size of the space available for it. Does it have enough space for exercise and play? If not, is there an off-leash park nearby? Is there somewhere outside that can be dedicated to the dog as an area for defecation. Once you have established the living space you have available, think about fencing. Keeping your dog secure from other dogs or from escaping is essential to responsible ownership. Some breeds have a tendency to dig, others will jump. All fencing should be appropriate, so maybe before taking the dog home, you will need to upgrade your fencing. On your property there may be areas which are unsafe for your dog to enter – a work shed with paints and chemical storage for example, think about how you will ensure your dog cannot get access to a prohibited area.
- Thirdly, think aboutyour own experience with dogs to date. How much experience have you had? How much experience have you had with different breeds, looking after other dogs, learning about dogs, attending training classes or reading material on dogs? How fit are you? Are you strong and able to handle a dog? An active dog is a poor choice if you have mobility issues.
How committed are you to the life of being a dog owner. It is said often, dogs are a big commitment and huge responsibility. What is your lifestyle like? If you are still partying at 3am every Saturday night, you simply are not ready to be a dog owner. If you work extended hours, or shift hours (night-shift, early shift etc), or your employment takes you away from home for short trips, you cannot care effectively for a dog. If you have a new baby or a young family, how much time do you have to care for a new dog as it settles into life with you?
Finally, can you afford a dog? Do you have access to funds if something happens to the dog and it needs veterinary attention? Can you afford the ongoing costs to feed it well and provide the proper veterinarian checks, vaccinations and treatments? Can you afford to take the dog to training classes? Can you afford a behaviour consultant if the dog’s displays behavioural concerns? Do you have the funds to pay for council registration or to pay fines if the dog does escape? Dogs need to be held secure when travelling in vehicles, have you bought a car-seat harness or cage for it to travel safely (or can you afford to pay the fine if you haven’t)? Can you afford to pay for regular grooming? Can you afford to leave it with professional dog carers or in boarding kennels when you go on holiday or need to be away from home?
All of these points are just the beginning of dog ownership - there’s so much more you need to think about.
Dog Care by staff of ACS Distance Education