Are Behavior Problems and Issues in Dogs Increasing?
I've been involved in helping people train and care for their dogs in some capacity for the past 25+ years. Despite all the guidance, advice and information currently available via books, online, on TV, from trainers, behavior experts and veterinarians covering early socialization, the importance of training, behavior modification, proper nutrition, health care, etc, is it just me, or does it seem like behavior issues in dogs continue to increase? Or at the very least, it seems like we haven't made the headway in the area of prevention that we should have. Simply put, as a general rule, for trainers and behavior modification counselors, it seems that business is booming, which from a business and financial standpoint is a good thing, but at the same time, it's a little sad, too. I've thought long and hard about this and have come to several conclusions as to some possible reasons for the steady increase. Undoubtedly, much of this can probably be attributed to the fact that dogs are in our homes more than back in the day, and thus, their behavior issues affect us more. When dogs were primarily kept outdoors, our interaction was limited and we weren't affected by any they had. Most of the time, people probably didn't even know the dog had a problem to begin with! Don't all dogs chained outside bark incessantly? Don't most of them bark and growl when another dog (or a stranger) approaches? However, take that same dog, put him in your house, and when he charges the door scaring the Domino's guy half to death, that's a different story, isn't it? Today, because dogs are treated more like family members, people are more willing to seek professional help for them, which is definitely a good thing. If nothing else, all the information has prompted people to pay more attention to their dogs' behavior. However, as the saying goes, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Has all this abundance of information prompted people to make more out of things that are really just normal dog behavior in certain circumstances? I've received multiple calls from concerned puppy parents about their aggressive 12 week old puppy, only to determine the puppy was exhibiting normal puppy behavior and learning bite inhibition. Or the the dog with separation anxiety, who pulled up the living room carpet, ate the sofa, and chewed the crown molding when left alone and free inside the house all day for over 9 hours. Not to mention the the hyper or ADHD dog that is home alone all day and is out of control when the owners come home. Not counting the aggression cases, whether dog to dog and/or dog to human, I've found a good many of my behavior consults end up not being nearly as bad as the owners had believed. Very often, it's just dogs being dogs without structure, limits, proper supervision, training, or enough exercise. Like the rest of the kids, their behavior has been greatly influenced by our harried and hectic American lifestyle. I suppose this is still better than the alternative or removing them from our homes again.
*Note: for some reason we've lost formating on the blog portion of this site, sorry the post is one big paragraph! Working to get this fixed.