Pawsability by Anna Patfield
Dog owners often wonder why their pets behave in certain ways. The answer to this question is truly simple. Dogs do things to make themselves feel better. That’s it! Nothing more to it!
If they are scared they will react by either running away, fighting, freezing or perhaps fooling around. If they are feeling bored they may well demand your attention.
If they continue to be annoyed at people walking by the house, then they will chase them away. If they want pats when another dog – or person – is getting a cuddle, then they will push in and demand attention.
Of course. there are many other behaviours that dogs may choose, but the motivation is the same: I am feeling this emotion and if I behave in this way, it will make me feel happier, less anxious, less frustrated, calmer and so on.
So dogs pull on the lead, to get somewhere faster. They bark to get your attention or to get someone to go away.
They pee in the house because they are anxious. They bark at doorbells to get your attention – after all if we hear the door bell we do tend to rush to the door!
So why do dogs do things when we’ve told them time and time again that it’s wrong?
Again, the answer is simple and that is because they haven’t been in the situation where they can actually learn different behaviours.
Usually we try to teach “in the moment”. We try to teach not barking, or not pulling or not jumping etc, when they are “in that zone”.
Just try to imagine learning some new task yourself when you’re nervous or angry, or sitting in the middle of a Strip the Willow! Not easy is it?
Well, just like us, dogs need a calm and relaxed environment to learn something new. And they need practise.
Training our dogs is like rehearsing for a play or a musical performance: practise, practise, practise.
Start with really simple, short tasks and gradually build up the length of time and separately build up the distractions.
Set up scenarios with, for example, a friend walking past the house or coming to the door so that both you and your dog can get really familiar with the behaviour you want.
Of course, it can be hard to figure this out and there are frequently multiple issues going on.
So please don’t struggle with your dog or puppy’s behaviour. Just get in touch with Pawsability.co.uk for help.
Anna Patfield of Ardgay, a dog behaviourist and trainer, runs regular workshops and talks.
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