There is no such thing as bad behaviour in dogs, there is only behaviour.
Dogs are a different species to humans and when we bring them into our home we are essentially adopting a baby or child and entering into an unwritten contract that we are now this baby’s guardian.
What many don’t understand, still today in 2023. We need to adopt this understanding that there is no “nipping” behaviour in the bud, “stopping” behaviour, “punishing” behaviour etc.
We have to understand and accept that we have chosen to bring a different species into our home to become a member of our family. We are responsible for their welfare, medical needs, emotions and care.
Behaviours many deem as bad are behaviours such as: barking, chewing, stealing items, worktop surfing, running off, no recall, digging, animal chasing, not engaging, humping, rough play, showing emotions, fights with other dogs, expression of behaviour that show that they are not feeling OK, which can escalate to a bite. This isn’t an exhaustive list but a general summary of what we see.
We have to understand their needs as a species. All of the behaviour ls above are normal for dogs to express.
It is important to understand that there are biological needs which means a dog may exhibit behaviours such as digging, opportunistic behaviours of worktop surfing, pulling on the lead, sniffing, not engaging, barking, no recall etc.
Then there are behaviours which are a communication of emotion, such as anxiety, separation anxiety, resource guarding – anxiety that the item they have will be taken, growling – needing space, anxious, unsure, frightened. Lunging, barking or trying to attack other dogs, an expression of an emotion and normally because they have been put over threshold and their space invaded with lack of advocacy from their human. (Or in a lousy position because of irresponsible guardians and off lead dogs or arrogance).
Behaviour is fluid, there is no simple answer to any of the above because so much has to be considered and taken into consideration to help the dog if the behaviour could be further affecting them in an adverse way and teaching you the guardian alternative behaviours for an outlet which doesn’t bother you or give you the understanding of your dogs behaviour.
It is important to heal a dog’s emotions instead of focusing on fixing their behaviour because behaviour is often a symptom of an underlying emotional issue. If a dog is exhibiting unwanted behaviour, it usually means they are feeling anxious, stressed, frustrated, or fearful.
It can also mean there is pain, many people say that their dog is fine, however pain is fluid and dogs are stoic, boosters are not a full health check at the Vets, and many guardians find within a health check the vet is only seeking isolation pain and not looking for chronic pain or setting up exams where the dog is addressed as an individual, working with you the guardian to rule out or address medical causes of changes of behaviour. There are many ways that a full vet check can be fully encompassing of your dog as an individual.
Simply correcting the behaviour without addressing the emotional or medical root cause may lead to temporary improvement, but the underlying emotional issue will remain. This could result in the dog developing other unwanted behaviours or the original behaviour resurfacing in the future. This is also like someone correcting you for a fear of spiders or feeling anxious about a situation. It isn’t humane, so it isn’t right to do this to a dog.
When you do this, your dog will either go into shut down, learn you are not a support system and feel that they have to escalate themselves. Leaving them in a state of learned helplessness.
Healing a dog’s emotions involves identifying and addressing the underlying emotional issue. This can be done through learning about healing the emotions, desensitisation and counterconditioning, creating a positive and safe environment, and providing the dog with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. By addressing the emotional issue, the dog will naturally begin to exhibit positive and desirable behaviours.
Ultimately, healing a dog’s emotions not only helps them feel better and lead happier lives, but it also creates a stronger bond between the dog and you.
When a dog becomes over threshold, it means that they have surpassed their threshold for stress and arousal. At this point, their emotional state has taken over, and they are no longer able to process information and respond to cues.
From a holistic perspective, this can be explained by the complex interactions between a dog’s physical, emotional, mental, and overall welfare and biological needs. When a dog becomes over threshold, their sympathetic nervous system takes over, triggering the “fight or flight” response. At this point, the dog’s body is flooded with stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which can impair their cognitive function, cause physical changes such as increased heart rate and blood pressure, and limit their ability to focus and learn.
Their body is also becoming physically drained at this point and something not often considered or widely known is that your dog can become poorly and need medical care due to being in situations which cause their body to go through so much stress. Which is why it is so important to move away from the ideology of fixing the dog and instead healing the dog.
To prevent a dog from becoming over threshold, it is important to understand their individual triggers and manage their environment and emotional state. This can involve creating a calm and predictable routine, providing plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, using positive reinforcement training methods, and avoiding situations or stimuli that are known to trigger stress and anxiety.
Overall, holistic approaches to understanding and managing your dog’s behaviour includes considering their physical, emotional, mental, and welfare as interconnected and vital to their overall health and happiness. By addressing all aspects of a dog’s well-being, it may be possible to prevent over threshold responses and help them learn and respond to cues more effectively.
Guardians, listen to your dog’s communications because it is the only way to truly understand your dog’s needs and emotions. Dogs communicate in a variety of ways, including body language, vocalisations, and behaviour. By paying attention to these communications, guardians can develop a deeper understanding of their dog’s personality, likes and dislikes, and needs.
Some common dog communication signals include tail wagging, barking, growling, displaying teeth, licking, yawning, and avoiding eye contact. For example, a dog that is wagging their tail while their ears are pressed back and their body is stiff may be communicating anxiety or fear, rather than happiness. Similarly, a dog that is growling or displaying their teeth may be communicating discomfort or aggression, rather than being “mean”.
By learning to read your dog’s communication signals, you can better meet your dog’s needs and avoid situations that may be overwhelming or stressful for your dog. This can help build a stronger bond between you and your dog, and lead to a happier and healthier relationship.
Additionally, listening to a dog’s communications can help reduce the risk of dog bites or other aggressive behaviours. By recognizing when a dog is uncomfortable or anxious, you can take steps to prevent a situation from escalating and avoid putting yourself, them or others in danger.
If you don’t like species appropriate behaviours such as digging, chewing, destruction, stealing items, lack of engagement it’s time to work with your dog and address these needs rather than working against them or punishing. Provide a dig pit and an area dedicated to their digging needs, provide natural chews as an outlet for their chewing needs, set up destruction boxes and enrichment that is mentally stimulating, play with your dog, train them through games and become exciting to them. Use high value treats. High value toys. Be interesting to them, help them to want to communicate with you rather than going self employed.
Begin to understand your dog and their needs to enjoy your dog for the amazing species and individual that they are.
For further reading on meeting your dogs needs as an individual and understanding the Importance of an holistic doctrine you can read previous blogs here:
Importance of keeping journals https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=pfbid02Fygmws8SALEge3QME5JhjiKoh2hBaMFj8mYAbiVaT3eoUxSXs5SyuWRf1rf5UJ55l&id=100057373879884
Image description: A six window comic strip. The first left hand window has a blue background and a grey and cream Wolfdog holding a purple ear torn teddy in his mouth. A star label text says:stealing items.
The left bottom window has a grey Wolf Dog play bowing, dragging a purple blanket with a brown half eaten shoe. With a green background. A star label text box reads: chewing. There is also a cloud with thunderbolts. The text inside reads: There are only needs: biological, emotional, social,cognitive & force free needs. Linda Michaels MA.
The top centre window is red with a cream and grey Wolfdog digging in soil and the soil is flying everywhere. The spiky text box reads: digging.
The next window on the final column, has a green background and a cream and grey Wolfdog with her back to the screen and her head turned over her shoulder. The spiky text box says: ignoring.
The window underneath this has a pink background and a grey and cream Wolfdog with piloerection, growling, facing into the centre. The spiky text box reads: growling.
The final window on the bottom right hand side is a blue background with a cream and grey Wolfdog lying in a submissive position with ears back and a grey Wolfdog over her in a playful stance on grass. The spiky text box reads: rough play.
For Mutts & Mischief
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