In the past we have thought of ourselves as "Owners" rather than "Partners” with our dogs. Partnership implies commitment and caring. Too often, as "Owners," we think of dogs as property. Therefore, when our dog develops a problem, often because of our own ineptness and lack of understanding, we get rid of him instead of getting rid of the problem. When we choose to become a Partner to a dog, we are making a commitment to that dog’s lifetime, which, with some dogs, can be well into their late teens. Giving up or getting rid of a dog because of a behavior problem shows that the Owner is not willing or able to take the time to learn why or what caused the problem in the first place. No Partnership for that dog!

Most dog problems are really people problems, even if we don’t want to admit it. Making a lifetime commitment to a dog is understanding that natural dog behaviors, such as barking, digging, and chewing, can be changed with patient consistency in establishing your Leadership. Many misbehaviors are caused by boredom, overabundance of energy, loneliness, stress, lack of leadership, or medical problems. By being a true Partner to your dog, you can help your dog overcome these causes.

Bonding involves building a trust between you and your dog. This trust can be built only by establishing your leadership, showing or telling your dog what behavior you expect, and giving lots of praise for good behavior. Having a Leader is essential to a dog’s security, whether a domesticated dog or a wild canine. Wolves, in fact all wild dogs have a “Leader Of The Pack”. With domesticated dogs, us humans have simply replaced other dogs in the pack. A dog can love his human but if he does not RESPECT his human, then he will not consider the human to be his much needed Leader for him to feel secure.

Before any of this can be done, your must choose the right dog for you and your family. A dog which may be a problem for you might be a pleasure for someone else, even though his behavior is the same for both. You must be aware of his activity level and his ability to get along with humans. It does not matter whether you choose a purebred or mixed breed dog. It is more important to know how well he can adapt to stress in your lifestyle. This will determine whether or not he will have a behavior problem.

Stress can be caused by being left alone at home all day, NOT ENOUGH EXERCISE, tied up, ignored or punished. On the other hand, SPOILING a dog is one of the worst things you can do. He may love you for it but will have no RESPECT for you. These are the ones that will literally bite the hand that feeds them.

You can inadvertently teach your dog to misbehave. For example, your puppy runs barking to the door upon hearing the doorbell ring You pick him up, cuddle him and sweetly say, "That’s okay, that’s okay, it’s only the neighbor”. You don’t need to bark." You have just told your puppy that his behavior is OKAY. By picking him up, talking to him in soothing tones, you have reinforced his behavior. Instead, the pup should have heard a firm verbal "NO!" followed by a ‘SIT" command and then, "GOOD DOG!" when he sat and stopped barking.

PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT SHOULD NEVER BE USED ON A DOG. Hitting, kicking, and screaming are forms of punishment which do not help to establish a bond, the trust needed for a dog to see you as a fair but firm Leader. Verbal praise and a good gentle petting is all a dog really needs to know that he’s receiving approval. Training a dog to Sit, Stay, Come, Heel and Down is important in establishing your role as Leader. No established Leader and a dog will naturally assume leadership. These are the ones who may become aggressive to you or other people. Or will generally ignore all attempts at training or won’t listen to commands unless they feel like it on that particular day.

Food tidbits can be used as rewards during training sessions. After learning has taken place, then you must only occasionally reward with food, but keep up the praise to maintain the learning level. Be sure to be consistent in your commands and corrections, using the same ones each time. If you must reprimand your dog, do it with a firm, "NO!" always followed by a simple command, such as "Sit," then, "Good Dog!" This praise, following a reprimand, maintains the bond. Use a quiet, steady voice in giving commands. Dogs have an excellent sense of hearing. Raising the volume and repeating the command numerous times will not help. Say it once, use the food tidbit reward system, expect the correct behavior, and wait. Then repeat. Your dog will eventually perform, and then you can praise and reward him with the food tidbit.

Do not give commands to your dog in sentences. Always use one or two word commands that he can learn quickly. Jabbering whole sentences to him means he has to try and figure out which one or two words your trying to teach him.

Try to understand the motivation for your dog’s behavior. If your dog is digging, ask yourself why and try to eliminate the cause. Is it Boredom, Lack of Exercise, or figure out what else it might be. Striking or screaming at the dog will only increase the dog’s stress thus creating more behavior problems. Locking him in a kennel or the garage for misbehavior is also guaranteed to create even more behavioral problems. Dogs do not understand the concept of being put in jail, like a human does. They are not humans, they are dogs!!!

Many behavior problems are medically based, so if your dog suddenly starts messing in the house, whining, or chewing, see your veterinarian for a thorough check-up.

To bring a dog into your home is to make a commitment to care for his health, solve his behavior problems, give him praise, and provide leadership. To reduce his stress, give him plenty of exercise, good food (no table scraps), and do not physically or emotionally abuse him for behaving badly. If need be, take him to an obedience training class to help establish your leadership. A good Obedience Class will not only teach the dog, but will teach you, his Partner, how and when to discipline a dog and when to give rewards.

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