Dog Training & Behaviour Blog

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    Oh, Just Ignore The Behaviour

    anxious dog

    I have lost count how many homes I have attended over the years (in the thousands), to find dogs totally distressed, and the dogs owner believing their dog is happy, and its current behaviour is cute. Also, therefore believing, its an indication their dog loves them so much, and missed them immensely whilst they were away from the home. They then actually encourage and continually reinforce this 'distressed' state their dog finds itself in believing the above to be true.

    In the majority of cases, ignoring a dogs unacceptable behaviour is not informing the dog that the current behaviour is in fact 'unacceptable'. If your dog turns into a raving lunatic each time you come home, and you have been informed to just ignore the behaviour until your dog calms down, because he is just happy to see you, then in all probability this is the behaviour you will be putting up with for the rest of your dogs life. You may enjoy this behaviour, however, in the vast majority of cases I come across it is not healthy for your dog to be triggered into such a chaotic state of mind.

    When a dog is triggered into a chaotic state of mind such as outlined above, there needs to be a consequence to help the dog snap out of it and refocus its attention. Allowing your dog to just go crazy running around vocalising and jumping on everyone is not being fair to your dog. Psychologically your dog is in a complete mess. It's even worse when you have 2 or more dogs that are triggered into this state, and they turn on each other.

    If you had children, and every time you came home they turned into little monsters jumping all over the furniture, tearing around the home, physically demanding your undivided attention, destroying things etc... Would you just ignore it, knowing it would stop soon?

    When your dog is triggered into this state, in all probability, it is in a very distressed state of mind, and therefore as a responsible dog owner, it is your job to help your dog snap out of this state, and help work on extinguishing these triggers for the well-being of your dogs psychological health. Simply ignoring the behaviour until it subsides is not the responsible answer in most cases.

    This is why I inform all my clients with new puppies, the importance of not immediately giving your puppy attention and making a fuss of it when you come home. Wait 15 to 20 minutes, if need be, to ensure your pup is in a stable and calm state of mind, and not in an anxious state for your immediate attention. Understanding the power of classical conditioning in dictating and triggering unhealthy psychological states in your dog should never be underestimated.

    If you have a dog that is already exhibiting these behaviours, and you find ignoring your dog has done little to improve your dogs behaviour, then you need to come up with a course of action to help your dog snap out of this state as quickly as possible, by enlisting the help of a professional dog behaviour specialist (and not one that simply informs you to ignore the behaviour as the only course of action to take, or to sit for a treat). I am not going to go into the methods to use in this article, as all situations are different, and each individual dog is different. What may help one particular dog, maybe totally counterproductive for another. A responsible dog behaviour specialist will always want to get to know your dog personally, and understand the relationship you have with your dog, before offering advice that is designed to not only modify behaviour, but also the dogs psychological state.

    To help condition your dog to not continue getting into this distressed state, it needs to understand the consequences of the accompanying behaviour. In many cases, by having your dog cognitively adjust its behaviour due to desirable or undesirable consequences, will also in fact affect your dogs psychological state of mind, as you are redirecting your dogs focus away from behaviours that were in the past reinforcing the dogs current distressed psychological state. In this article I am not going to go into the methods to use, as all situations are different, and each individual dog is different. What may help one particular dog maybe totally counterproductive for another.

    In the vast majority of cases, anxiety is a product of a dogs environment, and rarely just because of genetics. Your dog is not born anxious. Anxiety, in the vast majority of cases is the byproduct of an unhealthy environment and or relationship, that many dog owners do not realise they are creating for their dog, and usually from a very early age.

    So please, if you have a dog that is obviously displaying a distressed state of mind (for any reason), seek the help of a professional. And a professional that will not simply say, we can fix any issue with treats or by simply ignoring the behaviour, it goes so much deeper than this. We don't ignore a dripping tap until the water runs out, we take action to stop it.



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