I swear if I come across another dog owner whose pet is growling, showing its teeth and jumping at me, while his owner smiles lamely and says “he’s just so playful…” I will commit manslaughter. What’s with these people??
Seriously – with all the information available about elementary dog psychology, how can you miss out on the fact that it’s not normal for a dog to lash out at strangers, dogs or humans. If your dog does that, you have a problem and you need to DEAL WITH IT. Nine times out of ten, an aggressive dog is a dog in lack of firm leadership. Lack of leadership means your dog thinks it’s up to him to defend you against any intruders (meaning anyone who gets close enough). By working on your leadership abilities, you’ll get rid of this totally unnecessary anxiety in you dog.
Another pet-hate of mine is dog owners who are actually being led by their dogs. Quite aside from it being extremely annoying to walk a dog that’s pulling it’s leash continuously – with these temperatures (and subsequently icy roads) we’ve been seeing lately, it’s downright lethal. If your dog is pulling you and not the other way around – get help!
There are plenty of tricks to try – and again: it’s not a normal state for any dog to take the lead – that’s your job (and your dog knows it too). The fastest way of getting a dog to behave while walking is simply not to let him go past you at any point. If he tries to get ahead, just throw out your leg in front of him and firmly push him back. You might have to repeat this for a while (the longest time it took me with a particularly stubborn individual was 30 minutes) but eventually he’ll get the hang of it. Dogs are smart – smart enough to outsmart you if you let them!
And while your at it (demonstrating actual leadership that is) you should also make sure your dog NEVER walks through any door before you do. If you let him do that, what you’re saying is he’s the leader. Because in a dog pack the leader always goes first. This simple rule also goes for food – the pack leader (that’s you!) always eats first AND he also controls what and when the other pack members satisfy their appetites. So make sure your dog only goes to his food bowl when his been given permission to do so.
Many dog experts claim that you should always be consistent with your dog. Meaning that if you’ve let them jump up on your bed once, they need to be allowed to do so always. That’s actually only partly true. Because once you’ve established your leadership, your dog will accept the fact that you know what’s best – every time. In our household, the dog sleeps by the bed, but is allowed up for a cuddle in the mornings – when we feel like it. And to him that makes perfect sense, since he trusts his leader to know best.
So is a dog’s life then all about control and submissiveness? In a way: yes. Because if your dog knows its place, you’ll have a much happier dog and a dog who’s fulfilling his inner need. What every dog owner needs to understand is that in a dog’s world only two kinds of individuals exist: leaders and followers. This is deeply embedded in their DNA and if you fail to show leadership your dog will follow its natural instincts and try to become the leader, because that’s what he thinks your pack needs in order to survive! And if you happen to be a tiny chihuahua, it goes without saying that you’ve bit off a bit more than you can chew… Hence one so often encounters tiny dogs barking like mad trying their best to be leaders and defend their pack (when the humans have failed the job). Don’t put that strain on your dog – or your fellow dog walkers…
For more tips about how to cope with problem behaviour – and how to have more fun with your dog – go check out Cesar Millan’s website. Really useful tips – simply a must for any responsible dog owner: http://www.cesarsway.com/