As dog owners, we all try our very best to ensure that our dogs are happy, healthy and well behaved, but how each owner goes about this tends to be rather different! One thing that all dog owners have in common, however, is that whenever they face a minor issue or challenge with their dog, all of their friends and the internet-at-large too tend to be full of “good advice” and comments on how to deal with the issue and what to do about it, whether you were actually asking for help or not!
When you are faced with a challenging situation, it can be rather confusing to know how to proceed, and asking for advice is often one of the best ways to get a new angle on an old problem. However, there are several nuggets of training and behavioural wisdom that continually do the rounds and that many people firmly believe in, but that have been proven time and time again to be poor ways of tackling the problem at hand, and which will actually lead to a lack of understanding, breach of trust, and unhappiness in the dogs that are subjected to them.
In this article, we will look at six big mistakes that dog owners sometimes make, which lead to unhappy dogs without doing anything to solve the initial problem. Read on to learn more.
If your dog is being a pain, chewing on things that they shouldn’t be or has done something naughty, many dog owners will banish their dogs to their crate, bed or kennel for a while. Whilst it is fine to use crate time as a time out to allow your dog to calm down and relax, crate time should never be used as a punishment or negative reinforcement of behaviour, as this will soon cause your dog to make negative associations with their crate, and become unhappy within it and reluctant to use it.
So you come home from a hard day’s work to find out that your dog has chewed up your shoes, possibly several hours ago… Your dog seems to know that they have done something wrong as they are acting very guilty, and so it seems very natural to tell your dog off and let them know that they are a bad dog! This pattern is another negative one, however, as even if you are standing right in front of the results of your dog’s misbehaviour, your dog’s mind still won’t be able to make the connection with what they did some time ago, and why you are telling them off now!
That guilty expression is related to the fact that your dog knows that you are displeased with them and that they have been bad, but your dog does not know why, and so this form of punishment is totally counterproductive. You may as well just be telling your dog off for being a dog!
If your dog toilets in an inappropriate place such as within the home, it used to be accepted wisdom that rubbing the dog’s nose in it would both punish them, and discourage them from doing it again. However, this is a terrible way to go about things; you would not do the same thing with a child, lest you receive a visit from social services! Again, your dog will not know why on earth you are punishing them, and will simply learn to fear you and the unpleasant consequences that come with interacting with you. This in turn can make the initial problem worse, as your dog will feel progressively more insecure and unhappy.
Your dog’s meals should be sacrosanct; they should never be withheld, reduced, or taken away as a punishment, nor rationed as a training tool. This is tantamount to cruelty, and is also one of the worst ways to try to teach your dog anything too. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar!
If your dog jumps up at you or does something bad, up until a few decades ago, a smack on the nose would have been considered the normal response. However, we are now well aware that negative reinforcement and physical punishment are hugely ineffective dog training tools, and all you will achieve is making your dog fear you, and become head shy.
No dog should be expected to remain alone for more than four hours at a time as an absolute maximum, and if you cannot accommodate this in combination with your working life, you are not at the right stage in your life to get a dog! While all dogs should be trained and conditioned to accept being left alone for a while, leaving your dog alone for too long has a huge range of negative effects on them, which may manifest as behavioural problems, or simply serve to make your dog unhappy.