One of the common queries I get is whether owners NEED dog training, or whether it’s possible that their dog will just grow out of their behaviour. As always, the answer isn’t that straight forward. There are a few different things to think about before I’m able to give a response.
Is it just puppy behaviour?
There are certain behaviours that can be put down to puppy mischief. So in theory, a pup could just grow out of this behaviour as they become an adult. We often liken this to things like terrible twos and toddler tantrums – childhood behaviours that many children will just grow out of.
In either case, whether we are thinking of a child or a dog (though I am only qualified to give advice on dogs 😀 ) they are pushing the boundaries. They are testing to see how we handle it. How we handle it will shape their understanding of their relationship with us. Whilst they might then ‘grow out of’ the current behaviour (although there are no guarantees that they will) – they may grow into something worse!
So while your puppy may just be being mischievious, its important to handle it in the right way. The vast majority of people don’t I’m afraid to say. Simply because we are thinking of things as humans, rather than as dogs, so we don’t do the dog version of leadership when we try to deal with it!
Is it just my new rescue dog settling in?
If you bring a new dog into your home who has been elsewhere, there in an inevitable settling in period. During this time your new dog will be working out: what’s safe, is there food, are there dangers, who’s in charge here, what’s my job…? While they are establishing this you may identify some interesting behaviour, including – but not limited to:
- Aggression towards (or from) other dogs in your pack
- Scent marking (peeing indoors)
- Nervousness – this can take many forms
- Separation anxiety (destruction, barking or toiletting while separated from you)
- Following you around/neediness
- Mischievious boundary pushing type behaviour
- Stubbornness/refusal to respond to your requests
- Guarding food/toys/beds
Again as with the puppy scenario, this can just be a short lived behaviour that they ‘grow out of’. However, as with the puppy scenario, they way that you respond to any of their behaviour is telling them something with regard to their relationship with you. They will be using this setlling in period to ascertain whether you are looking after them, or they are looking after you. If they get the message that they are looking after you (very easily done) then the behaviour is likely to continue, or possibly worsen without the input of a good Dog Listener.
It’s a new behaviour your dog has never done before…
If your dog is doing something new, it’s very unlikely that this is just a flash in the pan one-off. The chances are much more likely that it has been brewing beneath the surface for some time. There’s either been a catalyst that has brought it to the surface, or they just can’t hold back anymore.
It’s very common for me to help people who have had their dogs for many years and they’ve just started a new difficult behaviour, which to them has come out of the blue. With all of these people, when we go through their dog’s historic behaviour there are always indicators – which once understood – show that the dog had been heading down this path for a long while.
Even if you dog could grow out of it, YES you do need dog training…
… Or at least a really good understanding of what’s going on for your dog.
I’ve been in this game for 10 years now, and I have never come across someone who has called me in unnecessarily. In every situation there is something the owners are doing which is giving mixed messages to their dogs, and the dogs think that they are in charge, rather than knowing that the owners are. I have written countless blogs on this subject of which I have listed a few of here if you fancy a browse.
- Dogs think differently to humans
- 21 Dog Behaviour myths explained
- Think you’ve got an untrainable dog
- Obedience training Vs Owner training for dogs
- Access the full list of blogs and search via this link or use the seach icon in the menu bar.
In short, the answer to the original question is “Do you want your dog to be happy and relaxed?” If your answer to that question is yes, then your dog needs to know that you are in charge. Over the years I would say that about 40% of the people I have helped have thought that their dog saw them as being in charge already. I can tell you that 100% of these dogs did NOT think that their owners were in charge. Simply because it’s a different language, and we don’t know everything they need to see from us.
If you want to find out more about how to speak your dog’s language then your first port of call is to read “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell. If you are based in Essex, East London, Suffolk or Kent then I can personally come and help you and your household to address your dog’s behaviour, and (possibly more importantly) establish a relationship where your dog understands his/her place in the pack and can therefore live a happy and relaxed life, knowing that everything is being taken care of. A worthwhile investment I think, even if your dog could grow out of their current behaviour.