Evaluating Your Dog’s Behavior

When dealing with doggie behavior there are a few things to take into consideration before writing your dog off as “dog aggressive” or “ human aggressive”.  First off take into consideration the scenarios and settings you are putting your dog in. A lot of times there are outside factors that contribute to your dog’s behavior that may not be a true reading of the dog’s nature. For instance you take your under socialized dog to the dog park and set him loose. Instantly a pack of five dogs come running over to him and he cowers down with his tail tucked between his legs, teeth bared. The other dogs either turn away or attack him. You now label your dog as dog aggressive and completely shut down any and all interaction with other dogs. Instead take a step back to reevaluate YOUR actions that put your dog in a precarious situation that was clearly a bad idea to start. You took your timid/fearful, possibly under socialized or shy dog to a place where there are lots of excited dogs that are meeting and greeting all the dogs entering the park. Some dogs can handle these types of settings but not all dogs are hardwired to deal with such doggie socials. In human terms think of it like taking an introverted shy person to a party shoving them in the door and expecting them to mix and mingle comfortably with random people they don’t know.  Not every person is socially equipped to deal with these interactions just like not every dog would be. So when dealing with shy, introverted dogs a doggie day care or dog park may not be the best type of setting for you to socialize your dog. Try a controlled obedience class or a group on leash walk where your dog will be around other dogs in a controlled situation. They will learn to feel comfortable and confident in social doggie settings.  Also consider a smaller doggie day care that understands the special needs of your pup or a friendly dog loving neighbor who you can share puppy play dates with.

The opposite end of the spectrum is a dog who is over socialized, confident or excited at the sight of other dogs. Again you may see some behaviors that are not true to your dogs real nature. Your dog may think every dog they see wants to be their best friend and although their intentions are nothing but good they may get their face in trouble by their forward approach. They may bum rush the dog walking by and get a growl or flash of teeth and in an instant you are in the middle of a dog fight. Your dog’s forward invasive approach may leave the unassuming passerby feeling threatened and defensive, resulting in a dog fight. Try teaching your over exuberant dog some self restraint by not letting them say hello to every single dog they see on the street or at the park. This may keep them from sticking their nose where it does not belong quite literally.

Another thing to consider in the environmental stressors of the situtations your dog is facing. Dealing with a lot of rescues and shelter dogs I see dogs that are labeled “dog aggressive” or “human aggressive” that are truly neither. They find themselves in an incredibly stressful and chaotic environment surrounded by strangers and barking frustrated dogs and are expected to behave as if none of this is going on around them. A lot of times perfectly adoptable dogs are killed in the United States due to their behavior at the shelter. Taking the dog out of that environment may quite literally save their life.

 Groomers and veterinarian’s offices are other good examples of environmental stressors that may not show the true nature of your dog. I don’t know about you but I get nervous going to the doctor and getting a shot imagine how stressful it must be not being told what’s going on! Having a person your dog generally sees once a year touch them, examine them and sometimes doing uncomfortable things to them can be pretty stressful for your pup. Your dog may react out of fear and a true belief that they need to defend themselves.

So the next time you put your dog in a stressful situation and see a completely different dog from the one you know and love at home, think about how your actions and decisions may have contributed to stressing your dog over his threshold. Now take a step back, reevaluate and get on the road to enriching your dog’s life the right way by creating a well balanced confident canine that can handle anything life throws at them.