Ch 6: Behavior Problems
Why do dogs misbehave? Or, perhaps we should ask, do dogs misbehave? Certainly, dogs are dogs, and unless given appropriate guidance, puppies will grow up to behave like dogs. However, most behavior problems that irritate owners are, in fact, perfectly normal, natural and necessary canine behaviors. From a dog’s point of view, it is as normal to bark, chew, dig and urine-mark as it is to wag a tail or bury a bone. Moreover, just as it is a physiological necessity for dogs to urinate and defecate, it is a psychological necessity for dogs occasionally to bark, howl, chew, sniff, dig, run, jump, chase and play. Obviously, dogs have an inherent need, desire, drive, or motivation to act like dogs. So, the dog's behaviors per se are quite normal and utterly necessary, rather it is their manner of expression that is inappropriate. Well, here again, dogs might disagree. I am lucky to be fluent in several canine languages — including Labradorian, Malamutian and Yorkiese — and Labradors have convinced me that they consider it perfectly appropriate to jump-up, knock over folding chairs, pounce in mud puddles, and socialize with a fallen leaf, just as Malamutes and Yorkies have taught me that it is entirely acceptable and even expected to howl in the middle of the night and to pee on carpets (so as not to get one’s feet wet). So, dogs consider their behavior to be both appropriate and acceptable, rather it is owners who consider some dog behaviors to be inappropriate and unacceptable. Since people have invited dogs into their human homes, and since people (and not dogs) consider some dog behaviors to be inappropriate and unacceptable, then people should do their best to understand and respect dogs as dogs and to try and understand their point of view, yet to teach them how to express their natural dogginess in a manner that does not frustrate or offend their human housemates. It is unrealistic to expect all dogs to grow up automatically to behave like Lassie. (“Lassie” was in fact several highly trained dogs.) If owners understandably have rules and regulations as to how they would like their dog to behave, they should not keep these rules a secret from the dog. Otherwise, the poor dog will predictably break rules that he didn't even know existed and no doubt, be punished for these inevitable “transgressions.” Owners must teach dogs how to express their basic doggy nature in a manner that is both acceptable and appropriate within the domestic setting. The owner must at least meet the dog halfway and establish a mutually agreeable arrangement vis a vis the dog's conduct in urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods. Otherwise, the dog will be left to improvise in his endless quest for some kind of occupational therapy to pass the time of day and most likely, the owners will take considerable exception to the dog's selection of activities and entertainment. Specifically, owners should teach their dogs what to chew, where to eliminate, where to dig, when and for how long to bark, how to enjoy spending time at home alone, when to pull on leash, when and how to be hyperdog, and especially how to greet, socialize and play with other dogs and people.