Worldwide dogs are by far the most popular companion animal. In Australia 40% of households own one or more dogs. Their intelligence, loyalty and will to please are a few of the many qualities that make dogs so desirable as pets.
Modern life can be challenging for pet dogs. For example, many spend the majority of their day confined to our homes and/or backyards with little stimulation; we leave them home alone for hours at a time; we expect them to be friendly to every person and dog they meet and some of us find normal canine behaviour, such as barking, digging and chewing, unacceptable. Behaviour problems often occur when a dogs physical, emotional and social needs are not being met.
Common Behaviour Problems:
The most common behavioural problems seen in dogs are:
- Separation Anxiety
- Aggression towards people
- Aggression towards other dogs
- Resource guarding
- Coprophagia (eating stools)
- Destructive behaviour
- Pulling on lead/lead reactivity
- Toileting problems
- Jumping up
- Excessive barking
- Fears and phobias
Dogs are highly intelligent and social animals and still retain the instincts and behavioural characteristics they were originally bred for. Dogs need companionship, opportunities to engage in natural behaviours, ongoing training and socialisation, a nutritious diet and regular check ups at the vet to remain physically and behaviourally healthy.
The Importance of Training:
Dogs are learning 24/7 and training should begin on the first day you bring your new puppy (or adult dog) home. Dogs are not born knowing how to live within our society and how we want them to behave. Rather, these are skills we need to teach our dogs. It’s up to you to teach your dog desired behaviour. When dog owners fail to do this behaviour problems often result and a subsequent weakening of the bond between owner and dog can lead to relinquishment or abandonment.
Current science supports the use of positive reinforcement training as the most effective method for teaching desired behaviour and maintaining optimal welfare. When researching obedience training schools it is important to choose one that advocates using positive reinforcement. This involves using something the dog likes, usually a combination of food treats, praise and play as a reward for desired behaviour. Choosing reinforcers (rewards) your dog really values will help you get the best result from training.