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The Dog Ate My Homework

So the dog ate your homework? Really? Don't blame the dog, let's face it, we all want a well behaved dog but we can't blame them for all of their bad behaviors. Dogs are pack animals so they are good at blending into the family unit by nature. When a dog reacts in instinctual yet non-domestic manners then typically something is triggering that behavior. Not always but sometimes you might be to blame, so take a deeper look at yourself and don't blame the dog for eating your homework just yet.

Meet and Greet

Let's look at the sporadic and hyper “meet and greet.” Let's say you come home and Spike is down the driveway with tongue hanging out and probably doing a-buck-twenty heading right for you. Then it begins up-and-down up-and-down, nipping, barking, and running amok. This is typical dog behavior when they meet and greet other dogs in the pack. When another dog approaches the pack all of the dogs will meet and greet so as to establish the relationship of the other dog. Friend or foe? The alpha male that is left in charge of the pack, whether female or male, will typically calm the pack down. So what do you do? Are you the Alpha that redirects the behavior, or do you allow it because you like being treated as if you are the top dog? But then…. when guests arrive and your dog repeats the behavior you reprimand and say “no, and down?” Before you blame the dog you have to establish what behavior you want from your dog, correcting this is just a matter of having the dog do an alternate behavior when triggered by company. If the dog barks and anticipates a guest then redirect that behavior. Use the doorbell or a car in the driveway as a trigger to sit or lay down in a designated spot. Use the dog's favorite toy to get him to “stay in his or her bed” until the guest is settled in and then reward them with a treat. Don't blame the dog because this meet and greet behavior is instinctive and you should still allow them to meet and greet...just on your terms.

Tug of War

How does your dog do when walking on a leash? Is it a tug of war constantly with no apparent winner? You could be influencing your dog's behavior. When you pull back on the leash the tightness of the leash instinctively tells the dog to pull. Keep treats in your pocket and a squeaky toy that your dog responds to, when your dog starts to walk forward to lead you squeak the toy and when the dog comes back reward him with a treat. Don't forget to reinforce with a trigger word so you can eventually wean off of the squeaky toy. Don't blame the dog for reacting with his natural instincts; train the dog to do what you, the alpha of the pack, expect from him.

It's important, and I say it all the time; you have to know your breed, know instinctual pack behavior, and understand your dog's own personality to predict behaviors and the best way to redirect good behaviors. Become the alpha of the relationship and correct the behaviors you see as unacceptable. But most of all don't blame the dog for eating your homework if you never did the homework in the first place.

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