Dog Training and Behaviour

Author: Alison Laurie, Crown Vets Inverness

Training has to be more than just a foundation, especially if undesirable behaviour is noted. Understanding the common underlying reasons for behavioural problems, is the first step in preventing them arising in the first place.

Dogs need plenty of regular physical exercise. One walk around the block each day is not enough. Plenty of physical activity, off -lead exercise, practising recall, running alongside you, plenty of “seek and fetch” physical games and also socialising and exercise with other dogs are important.

Regular mental stimulation is essential for a well-balanced, happy dog and can be just as important as physical exercise. Something as simple as using puzzle -feeders or, using part of the daily food ration as a reward for “seek and find” games, is an enriching activity.

Health problems can cause behavioural issues. These include: arthritis, dental disease, ear infections, digestive issues, skin disease, eyesight loss and heart disease. If behavioural changes show up suddenly, do contact us. A health problem could be causing your dog to be unwell or painful and explain the change in behaviour.

If you want your dog not to do something, be consistent by making that clear to him in a firm, clear manner. If your dog jumps up constantly, then take time to train him to practice sitting with some positive reinforcement training. Provide treats or play, immediately after any positive behaviour and ignore your dog completely if he continues to jump up. Ignoring means no talking, touching, or eye contact, as all are forms of some kind of positive attention and can further reinforce the behaviour that you don't want. Having a consistent set of boundaries and rules helps your dog understand that his environment is predictable. It also shows your dog that you provide guidance and leadership and you allow access to the positive rewards:  training treats, walks and play!

Changing any set routine can be stressful for your dog, and can cause unwanted behaviours. Dogs do need a sense of security and any change can upset them and causing anxiety. Moving to a new house often causes a lapse in house training. A change in schedule can confuse your dog, and a new pet, baby, child or adult joining the family group can be stressful.  Be patient with your dog and guide him through any changes with kindness and positive training while he adjusts.

Socialisation is the process of providing your puppy with positive, controlled exposure to other dogs and new experiences. 3-16 weeks of age is the most critical socialisation period. This time lays the foundation for a well-balanced dog. If a puppy doesn't get proper socialisation during this critical period, it may grow up into a shy, fearful, aggressive adult. Puppy classes can be a fun way to start your dog's socialisation skills.

Adolescence starts at about 6 months of age and can be a period when puppies start testing their world and their boundaries. Continued, consistent, reinforced obedience training is essential during this tricky phase.

Understanding the common potential causes of problem behaviour in dogs can make it easier to try to work with and train your dog. With patience and consistency you will have a better chance of eliminating any frustrating behaviour quickly.
Contact the practice if you have any concerns with regard to sudden changes in your dog's behaviour, or for any advice and guidance on where to acquire good Behavioural Training.