Ignoring Your Primitive Dog’s Challenges Won’t Make Them Go Away
Out of sight, out of mind, or at least we think that till all hell breaks loose. It is a myth that problems your primitive dog is exhibiting will work themselves out. No behavior problem magically goes away. It takes time, effort, patience, and methods that are designed to help while not causing further harm.
It’s easy as a dog owner, to “just want a dog” and not the baggage that can come with it. But primitive dogs come with plenty of challenges that not every owner is prepared for. Resource guarding, fear of strangers, reactions to household objects, and dog aggression are not uncommon and it is easy to feel equipped on how to deal. When we don’t know what to do, our first instinct is to avoid the problem and hope that it will go away. This is usually a guarantee that it will only get worse or you will live in a perpetual state of management with risk of failure looming.
Today let’s turn the tide and create a proactive lifestyle when it comes to dealing with our primitive dog’s behavior problems. This starts with admitting your dog has a problem behavior. It can be small, like not being comfortable with nail trimmings, to large, like lunging at other dogs. We don’t need to apply labels such as “aggressive”, “fearful”, “reactive”, “dominant”, “submissive”, etc, but instead use language that describes the behavior. Your dog may greet guests too enthusiastically, might growl when you approach them when they are eating, or may have bitten someone who was petting them. All of those are descriptions of a problem behavior and will do much more to assist in correcting it, than a label will. If anyone including a professional labels your dog and focuses more on what that label means than the behaviors exhibited, seek assistance elsewhere.
Once you can acknowledge your dog’s problems, try not to assume what deep dark reason is causing them. It is easy to over complicate a behavior with elements that likely are not involved. Behavior is usually rather simple in its causes. Ignore complicated ideas like spite, jealousy, dominance, and instead focus on things like discomfort, stress, fear, etc. It is too easy to fall into the habit of thinking that a cause is a reason and leaving the behavior unchanged. There are too many dogs labeled and then corrected without understanding cause and the dog’s needs for performing a behavior.
Yes you read that right, the dog’s need to perform a behavior. Behavior doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Your dog believes they have a reason for what they are doing and regardless of how you feel about it, they feel correct in reacting the way they are. The only appropriate solution is to figure out your dog’s needs and either find a more appropriate outlet, to help the dog feel more comfortable with the situation. Forcing a dog to “suck it up” especially a primitive dog, is begging for an escalated response.
Looking at a behavior problem like a behaviorist can help. We need three pieces of information: the environment the behavior is present in and it’s direct trigger, the behavior exhibited, and the end result of the performed behavior. Those pieces tell us the true story behind a behavior and what can be affected to change it. Simple correcting the behavior with confrontation does little to solve the problem because none of the elements have been addressed and the behavior will either escalate or migrate to a new trigger.
Now that you’re ready to remove unhelpful labels, and see behavior for what it is, we can make change. Change of course isn’t easy. We humans are just as self-interested as our dogs and we seek routines and outcomes the please us with the least amount of effort. When addressing behavior problems, we have to make an effort to understand and change behavior in a positive manner and that takes a lot of work and patience. This will mean changing routines, creating scenarios to practice, and keeping training at a pace that works for our dogs and not necessarily us. That means taking time out of your week to create scenarios inside or outside your home. It means networking with friends and family to help you. And finally it means taking responsibility for the outcome. If you can’t put in the time and effort to help your dog, than their behavior is your fault and so is the discomfort they are feeling to express those behaviors. You have the power to change them, it’s just a matter of putting in the time and effort.
So next time your primitive dog is acting in a way you don’t like, it is your responsibility to help them get it right. Help is out there to create a plan for success. It just takes reaching out and committing to change. The trainers at CouchWolves are always eager to help owners committed to helping their dogs. If you need help with a problem behavior, contact us and we can help you through in person training, remote video chat sessions or referrals to other qualified professionals.