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Steve Wishart
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Location: Surrey, UK
Joined: Jun 2008
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04-06-2008, 06:05 PM

3 Simple Steps to help Behavioural Problems

(The following posted are my own beliefs, which doesn't neccessarily reflect those of all professionals working in Canine Behaviour)

Almost 90% of dog problems stem from a fault of one or a mixture of the following three areas:

Diet
Mentality
Physical


Most problems can even be solved by correcting one, two or all three of these problems.

Now, I don't expect the following tips to work on all dogs, if they did, then quite frankly, people in my profession would be obsolete. However, if your dog does have some behavioural issues and you are thinking of hiring an expert (usually for vast amounts of dosh), then perhaps give this thread a read and put some tips into practice and you may save yourself a few quid and have a much healthier dog for it.

Diet
Dogs are omnivorous, which means they eat both animal meat and vegatables. A dogs digestive system has evolved to live off scraps, as well as carcasses. Not only will a dog eat the animal meat on a carcass, but also the contents of the stomach, with which the prey usually ate plants/vegatables.

A dog needs a balanced diet of both to be a balanced dog. Feeding a dog just raw meat will lead to too much protein causing the dog to intake far too much energy for it to burn off. I have also had in my experience the unbelievable task of trying to convince vegans that putting their eating beliefs on their dog is very unhealthy for their pet.

Canned dog food is quite often the source of behavioural problems, as they don't contain enough protein and their labelling system is about as complex to read as rocket science.

In my experience, the best dog food available on the market is Eukanuba as it comes with the best protein percentage (made up from white meat) along with the correct percentage of vegatables, wheat and oil. Most dogs will even eat a smaller portion of this stuff as dogs top up their energy levels based on how much they have used.

If your dog eats a lot of grass, has unbelievable flatulance or possibly even eats its own faeces, it may be a sign that the dog's current diet is not sitting well with your dog. Canned food like Pedigree contains more moisture than is actually needed, the way I see Canned Food is it's an expensive way to buy water.

A diet change can significantly help a lot of behavioural problems which are caused by too much energy or problems that are caused because of the dogs inability to digest the food.

Mentality
Dogs need to be mentally challenged, they need to also be in a secure mentality that avoids stress to the dog itself. Most dogs are not born pack leaders, most dogs are born to just follow a leader, when a follower is made leader, its like making a 10 year old run the house in absence of a father or mother who are able to do the job, this causes an unbelievable amount of stress to that individual who isn't ready for it.

A dog's natural instinct when joining with a pack is to ascertain who is leader, to find the natural order of the heirachy. If no leader is made aware, the dog will test members of the pack to await their reactions to see if they are the leader. Unfortunately, us dog owners can misinterpretate these tests as 'quirks' and 'strange habits', some may even find them cute that the dog does these things and as such, all we are telling the dog is "you're the leader, not me".

Everytime Fluffy passes you in a doorway, he is showing you that he thinks he is leader and has to lead you through the doorway, just like the alpha leader would do in the wild. When he stands up to greet you with his paws on your legs/chest (depending on size of dog) he is trying to gain your height, which is another trait of the leader (the biggest dog and strongest is most likely the alpha), fluffy is basically saying "you're taller, but I can make myself just as big", usually we'll reward this with greeting and reinforce the dog with affection for greeting us.

The dog eating food before you, the dog pulling you on the lead, the dog running upstairs before you waiting at the top are all signs that your dog is challenging you to show a sign that you are his leader. Most times we fail and the dog is left with thinking that he is the leader. On comes the stress associated with the leader and eventually, this stress can resort to behaviour problems.

Leaving the house without making a fuss of your dog, greeting everyone human before the dog when you come home and waiting 5-10 minutes when you return, when he is in a relaxed state of mind, should you then call him over to greet you. These are not harsh or unloving methods, these are the same things that an alpha dog of a pack would treat a member of its pack when leaving and returning. It's no coincidence that failure to do these leaving and greeting techniques are the biggest causes of having a dog suffering from seperation anxiety/house soiling.

Your dog needs to learn that you are leader first and foremost and these 'leader tests' or challenges will need to be consistent everyday. The dog needs to feel secure that you will be his fair leader who will take care of him. Not stressed that he is your leader, despite the fact that you are the one who takes him for walks, buys his food, gives him treats, these are immaterial things that a dog's mind can't think logically about, a dog doesn't understand that you pay the rent

He needs to be shown that you are his pack leader using methods that an alpha dog would use in the wild. Strong, Fair, Disciplined and Protective.

Teaching a dog tricks and commands a couple of times per day for 15 mins max each day is just as tiring for a dog as is running round the park for an hour. If you're gonna teach your dog tricks and commands, do so in a fun way and for short 15 min periods, if you find it boring, so will your dog and I can assure you that he'll lose interest very quickly, so make training fun!

Physical
This is probably one of the biggest reasons and causes for behavioural problems and I cant underline how important it is for a healthy dog to have two proper 45-60 minute workouts per day. One in the morning, one in the evening avoiding the hottest part of the day to avoid sunstroke. Fish need to swim, birds need to fly, dogs need to walk.

If a dog isn't getting enough exercise, he'll be bored crapless and will only store that energy for the next day.

Young dogs and old dogs don't need as much exercise as well as dogs with short noses with difficult breathing, such as bulldogs and pugs, but they still need that exercise.

Too many dogs that I have consulted seemed to show a much more improved behaviour after they started getting decent exercise and it seems as if this is one of the biggest problem for today's dog with our ever increasing hectic lifestyles.

Many owners tell me that the dog has a massive yard to play in everyday, to which my answer is sometimes quite blunt, to quote John Fisher, "the size of his prison doesn't impress him, nor me, one bit. If you can't devote the time to give him proper exercise, then you shouldn't have a dog".

These are the three most common problems that us behaviourists face and whilst some are easier to get through to owners, some are still quite hard for the average dog owner to get to grips with as it can go against some things that they already been taught. However, if your dog is showing some behavioural problems, I would seriously recommend you try to improve in one, if not all, of these areas.

If your dog is still showing some problems a week after you have enforced these methods, then I suggest a behaviourist expert to see if he can locate the problem or the trigger that sets your dog off, and work at training you, the owner, how to work with him to improve his behaviour, or to discourage unwanted behaviour.

But as I said, there's a scary amount of dogs that we consult who simply suffer from a lack in one of these areas and it should be made more publically known for us owners, so, I hope it helps some of you, even if it helps one person, I'll feel that this post was worth my time writing.

Best of luck all!
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Shona
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04-06-2008, 06:17 PM
Hi Steve. {welcome to dogsey }

Would you say, a vast amount of dogs that go on to have training problems is in part due to people buying the wrong breed, I so often hear people say things like " I bought a collie as they are so trainable!, I had no idea they needed to be walked that much"
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Steve Wishart
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04-06-2008, 06:24 PM
I usually find that people picking the wrong breed is the biggest cause of dogs being sent to animal shelters. I am currently looking at spending a couple of days per week at the local dog shelter. Even if I can help prospective owners picking the right breeds and trying to deter them from the 'much more cuter' wrong breed for them, would be worth my time.

With regards to training problems, can't say I have been called out by many of these problems as such. Although I have helped teach a couple to train their Beagle at sniffing, which seems to burn off some of his more excess energy. They certainly had trouble with his hyperactivity.

Many owners do pick the wrong breeds, but I can't remember a client who wanted a sheepdog to be made out of his Chihuahua
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Jackie
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04-06-2008, 06:37 PM
Originally Posted by Steve Wishart View Post
(The following posted are my own beliefs, which doesn't necessarily reflect those of all professionals working in Canine Behaviour)

Almost 90% of dog problems stem from a fault of one or a mixture of the following three areas:

Diet
Mentality
Physical


Most problems can even be solved by correcting one, two or all three of these problems.

Now, I don't expect the following tips to work on all dogs, if they did, then quite frankly, people in my profession would be obsolete. However, if your dog does have some behavioural issues and you are thinking of hiring an expert (usually for vast amounts of dosh), then perhaps give this thread a read and put some tips into practice and you may save yourself a few quid and have a much healthier dog for it.

Diet
Dogs are omnivorous, which means they eat both animal meat and vegatables. A dogs digestive system has evolved to live off scraps, as well as carcasses. Not only will a dog eat the animal meat on a carcass, but also the contents of the stomach, with which the prey usually ate plants/vegatables.

A dog needs a balanced diet of both to be a balanced dog. Feeding a dog just raw meat will lead to too much protein causing the dog to intake far too much energy for it to burn off. I have also had in my experience the unbelievable task of trying to convince vegans that putting their eating beliefs on their dog is very unhealthy for their pet.

Canned dog food is quite often the source of behavioural problems, as they don't contain enough protein and their labelling system is about as complex to read as rocket science.

In my experience, the best dog food available on the market is Eukanuba as it comes with the best protein percentage (made up from white meat) along with the correct percentage of vegatables, wheat and oil. Most dogs will even eat a smaller portion of this stuff as dogs top up their energy levels based on how much they have used.

If your dog eats a lot of grass, has unbelievable flatulance or possibly even eats its own faeces, it may be a sign that the dog's current diet is not sitting well with your dog. Canned food like Pedigree contains more moisture than is actually needed, the way I see Canned Food is it's an expensive way to buy water.

A diet change can significantly help a lot of behavioural problems which are caused by too much energy or problems that are caused because of the dogs inability to digest the food.

Mentality
Dogs need to be mentally challenged, they need to also be in a secure mentality that avoids stress to the dog itself. Most dogs are not born pack leaders, most dogs are born to just follow a leader, when a follower is made leader, its like making a 10 year old run the house in absence of a father or mother who are able to do the job, this causes an unbelievable amount of stress to that individual who isn't ready for it.

A dog's natural instinct when joining with a pack is to ascertain who is leader, to find the natural order of the heirachy. If no leader is made aware, the dog will test members of the pack to await their reactions to see if they are the leader. Unfortunately, us dog owners can misinterpretate these tests as 'quirks' and 'strange habits', some may even find them cute that the dog does these things and as such, all we are telling the dog is "you're the leader, not me".

Everytime Fluffy passes you in a doorway, he is showing you that he thinks he is leader and has to lead you through the doorway, just like the alpha leader would do in the wild. When he stands up to greet you with his paws on your legs/chest (depending on size of dog) he is trying to gain your height, which is another trait of the leader (the biggest dog and strongest is most likely the alpha), fluffy is basically saying "you're taller, but I can make myself just as big", usually we'll reward this with greeting and reinforce the dog with affection for greeting us.
The dog eating food before you, the dog pulling you on the lead, the dog running upstairs before you waiting at the top are all signs that your dog is challenging you to show a sign that you are his leader. Most times we fail and the dog is left with thinking that he is the leader. On comes the stress associated with the leader and eventually, this stress can resort to behaviour problems.

Leaving the house without making a fuss of your dog, greeting everyone human before the dog when you come home and waiting 5-10 minutes when you return, when he is in a relaxed state of mind, should you then call him over to greet you. These are not harsh or unloving methods, these are the same things that an alpha dog of a pack would treat a member of its pack when leaving and returning. It's no coincidence that failure to do these leaving and greeting techniques are the biggest causes of having a dog suffering from seperation anxiety/house soiling.

Your dog needs to learn that you are leader first and foremost and these 'leader tests' or challenges will need to be consistent everyday. The dog needs to feel secure that you will be his fair leader who will take care of him. Not stressed that he is your leader, despite the fact that you are the one who takes him for walks, buys his food, gives him treats, these are immaterial things that a dog's mind can't think logically about, a dog doesn't understand that you pay the rent

He needs to be shown that you are his pack leader using methods that an alpha dog would use in the wild. Strong, Fair, Disciplined and Protective.

Teaching a dog tricks and commands a couple of times per day for 15 mins max each day is just as tiring for a dog as is running round the park for an hour. If you're gonna teach your dog tricks and commands, do so in a fun way and for short 15 min periods, if you find it boring, so will your dog and I can assure you that he'll lose interest very quickly, so make training fun!

Physical
This is probably one of the biggest reasons and causes for behavioural problems and I cant underline how important it is for a healthy dog to have two proper 45-60 minute workouts per day. One in the morning, one in the evening avoiding the hottest part of the day to avoid sunstroke. Fish need to swim, birds need to fly, dogs need to walk.

If a dog isn't getting enough exercise, he'll be bored crapless and will only store that energy for the next day.

Young dogs and old dogs don't need as much exercise as well as dogs with short noses with difficult breathing, such as bulldogs and pugs, but they still need that exercise.

Too many dogs that I have consulted seemed to show a much more improved behaviour after they started getting decent exercise and it seems as if this is one of the biggest problem for today's dog with our ever increasing hectic lifestyles.

Many owners tell me that the dog has a massive yard to play in everyday, to which my answer is sometimes quite blunt, to quote John Fisher, "the size of his prison doesn't impress him, nor me, one bit. If you can't devote the time to give him proper exercise, then you shouldn't have a dog".

These are the three most common problems that us behaviourists face and whilst some are easier to get through to owners, some are still quite hard for the average dog owner to get to grips with as it can go against some things that they already been taught. However, if your dog is showing some behavioural problems, I would seriously recommend you try to improve in one, if not all, of these areas.

If your dog is still showing some problems a week after you have enforced these methods, then I suggest a behaviourist expert to see if he can locate the problem or the trigger that sets your dog off, and work at training you, the owner, how to work with him to improve his behaviour, or to discourage unwanted behaviour.

But as I said, there's a scary amount of dogs that we consult who simply suffer from a lack in one of these areas and it should be made more publically known for us owners, so, I hope it helps some of you, even if it helps one person, I'll feel that this post was worth my time writing.

Best of luck all!
Hi Steve, some very good reading there.

But for me, I dont buy into the alpha dominance theories, of dogs trying to take over if we dont put into practice the ...eat first/go out of doors/ up stairs/ put the paws on shoulder to try and be bigger than me.

For me, it is down to respect, it is down to me making rules, and expecting my dogs to have manners...

They dont pull me out the door, because I dont want to fall over them, they dont rush up or down stairs in from of me for the same reason.

I feed my dogs before, we eat.... because it suits my routine....

But my dogs know who is boss.... I dont believe dogs look at us as another canine... I believe my dogs look at me (and family) as their providers ,but another species, we give them all they need, . walks/food/love.... they live by my routine... not theirs...by allowing a few privileges, we are not setting in motion the opportunity for them to fight us for hierarchy.
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Berger
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04-06-2008, 06:39 PM
Great post Steve. I agree and practice all of the above. Keep up the good work xx
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hectorsmum
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04-06-2008, 06:47 PM
yes parts are good, but i dont agree one size fits all.

each breed needs different levels of training at different speeds. the same with exercise.

food is contentious and needs to suit the dog.
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Steve Wishart
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04-06-2008, 06:52 PM
No probs Jackie, as I have said to Minihaha in the other thread, a lot of people don't buy into the theory itself and often go by different ones, which is fair enough.

I wouldn't go as far as saying that every dog goes by the same theory, but most with behavioural problems that I have dealt with have been done so with my understanding of the dog's natural instinct of socialising in a pack. Respect/Affection would go down as the same sort of thing in my book, you have given your dog boundaries and you have taught your dog to stay within those boundaries, the same sort of boundaries that an alpha dog may set?

The examples I gave, were merely just examples of possible dominence (heck, it could even be down to a phobia or a compulsive disorder), and the thread on a whole, was just giving examples and possible solutions, as I said, I expect many different replies and not everyone will conform, which is completely understandable.

The main thing in your post that I noticed is that none of your dogs display any behavioural problems, in which case, your dogs know their boundaries that have been set. Which is ultimately just as much of a mental exercise (along with teaching a dog commands) as the theory of pack leadership
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Steve Wishart
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04-06-2008, 06:57 PM
Originally Posted by hectorsmum View Post
yes parts are good, but i dont agree one size fits all.

each breed needs different levels of training at different speeds. the same with exercise.

food is contentious and needs to suit the dog.
I couldn't agree more hectorsmum, all dogs have different learning curves when being trained, just the same as each dog has different exercise routines. A pug may only require a 20 min walk in the morning and afternoon, whereas my Mal still has energy to burn after an intense hour of pulling me around on my skates, so again, that's agreed.

The post was more sort of a general rule of thumb, if I was to write up an article like that based on 200+ breeds, I'd be here for hours, lol.
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hectorsmum
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04-06-2008, 07:11 PM
Originally Posted by Steve Wishart View Post
I couldn't agree more hectorsmum, all dogs have different learning curves when being trained, just the same as each dog has different exercise routines. A pug may only require a 20 min walk in the morning and afternoon, whereas my Mal still has energy to burn after an intense hour of pulling me around on my skates, so again, that's agreed.

The post was more sort of a general rule of thumb, if I was to write up an article like that based on 200+ breeds, I'd be here for hours, lol.
thank you

having 2 dogs that are opposites on the scale in every way, i know how difficult it is to lump all dogs in one category.
its all about education and dog watching, as i think they themselves can teach you an awful lot.

welcome to dogsey, i hope you enjoy it here
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Malady
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05-06-2008, 12:41 AM
Great reading Steve, and you have a Mal too ,....... what more could we ask for
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