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Canine University 71 Clinton St. Malden, MA


Canine Behavior

Disciplining your dog

Many dog owners are concerned about the amount and type of discipline needed to get their dog to stop displaying unwanted behavior. They wonder how loud they should yell, what exactly they should say and where exactly to grab, scruff, push or poke the dog. My advice is always the same and is often met by a disappointed sigh...usually one of disbelief !!! I tell them quite simply to save their breath and keep their hands to themselves. Dogs unlike humans are not embarrassed or phased by loud voices or slapping...in fact most dogs when hit or yelled at stare at the owner blankly, then immediately return to what brought on the slap in the first place. These dogs are not defiant or stupid, they simply have no idea that they are supposed to be mortified and apologetic because you've lost your temper. Quite frankly, you probably look more amusing than menacing with your exaggerated gestures and frantic attempts to "make" the dog understand. If you don't believe me then start observing people around you in restaurants, stores and public places. Take a seat far enough away so that you can't hear what they are saying . Watch their face and body language. I noticed this once at an airport while waiting for a flight. A woman was speaking to her traveling partner as though she were telling the funniest of jokes, as I got closer and listened however, she was actually having a very heated argument and was on the verge of tears. I was amazed and taken aback for I fully anticipated the other person to burst out laughing.

So you might be wondering, how do we stop unwanted behavior without hitting slapping and yelling? The simplest solution to most behavior problems is prevention. If a dog is not able to get to the couch, he can't chew it or defecate on it. Well, you might say that's great but what about a year from now -- is he doomed to the kitchen, baby gates and crates forever. My response is "that depends". If you are willing to put in the time to train your dog and set limits on his behavior, at some point crates and gates won't be necessary.

However, if you're not willing to work with the dog, either limit his freedom or don't complain. Often times people will say crates and confinement are cruel -- 'I can't do it...'- to which I respond, "then don't use them, but don't complain about the problems". There is no magical wand to be waved to eliminate problem behavior. The solution is training and training takes time and is based on a relationship. Those who are committed to dog ownership and enjoy its benefits take the time to train their dogs.