There are many theories in the dog world about certain types of breeds of dogs, and what dogs naturally do and what they need. Dogs do of course have natural instincts and are likely to do certain things – however many of the things that we think that they need, as a result of their actions, are actually conditioned dog behaviour. For instance, dogs need exercise just as much as we do. This does not mean that the exercise has to be in the form of a walk. It could be playing ball in the garden! People will say to me that their dog needs a walk, and asks for it if they don’t go. A dog doesn’t need the walk. A dog expects a walk because it’s what they’ve got used to. So them asking for it is conditioned dog behaviour.
On a recent walk around a reservoir I noticed that every set of ducks that we walked past swam in our direction as quickly as they could and turned to follow us if we walked past. I found myself thinking that surely they should be a bit scared of humans, as they could see us as potential predators (and I’m sure many of you reading this have eaten duck). So why would they all swim over? Simply because they have been conditioned to understand that humans might feed them. If we’d never fed them, they probably wouldn’t approach us.
The same can be said for a dog asking for food from its owners. If you give your dog food when it asks for it, then it has been conditioned to understand that asking for food sometimes gets you food, so it’s always worth asking. Fortunately any conditioned dog behaviour which you no longer want, can also be unlearned. Stop reacting to your dog’s request, or doing the thing he/she expects and see what happens…
Any dog behaviour problems can be resolved with consistent right action. Need help from a dog behaviourist to find out what that right action is? Then I can help. I am a Dog Listener based in Essex, covering all of the county, plus parts of London, Kent, Herts and Ipswich. Just get in touch if you want help with Dog Training.