Understanding Your Dog's Behaviour
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Understanding Your Dog's Behaviour

To effectively train your pet dog, you have to understand their ancestry and their instincts. This is a vital first step in the process of effectively training your dog. All dogs, regardless of the breed or genetic make up, descend, ultimately, from wolves. Many of the natural instincts of the wolf are still present in your pet. As a puppy, your dog will attempt to follow these instincts, and, unless properly and effectively trained, he or she will continue to do so. Although any dog can be trained at any age, it is much easier to teach them to curb, focus, and direct their natural instincts while they are under two years old, before the unwanted behaviour becomes a set habit. The first step in directing their behaviour is to understand it. Your role is to be the pack leader, and focus his or her instincts a little at a time, by setting achievable training goals, and teaching your new companion his or her place in the pack, and in the world. Researching the breed is also a useful tool in understanding your dog, because, although many natural behaviours are common to all dogs, some breeds have specific traits which are exaggerated, and some are particularly stubborn, or one aspect, such as toilet training, is very difficult to train in some breeds. Being well informed makes training much easier, and far less frustrating for both you and the dog.

Unwanted Behaviour

Behaviour such as barking for no obvious reason, or at everyday things, while perfectly rational to your dog, can be very annoying for you and your neighbours. But, the dog isn't barking to wind you up, he is performing his role and protecting his pack. A dog will bark when it feels threatened, or is wary of something or someone. He will also bark when someone comes to the door or walk past the window, because a stranger is walking into the territory of his pack. The barking warns the intruder that the dog will defend his pack, and also draws the attention of the pack to the intrusion, and warns them that danger may be present. This is natural behaviour. His job is to protect his territory and his pack. This type of unwanted behaviour should not be punished, certainly not by shouting at him, or with physical punishment. You should remain calm and teach him to be quiet on command. Another option to reduce unwanted barking is to expose the dog as much as possible to things which he perceives as a threat, talk to him in a soothing manner, and show him that these things aren't actually very threatening.

Pack Instinct

Understanding that your new companion is a pack animal is critical. Dogs are naturally social creatures, and their ancestry instills in them the need to be part of a pack with a clear social hierarchy. If you do not correctly fill the role of the pack leader, your dog will attempt to fill the vacant role. This is not because he is naturally dominant, but because dogs need the confines of a distinct hierarchy, and require structure. The dog needs to know his or her place in the pack hierarchy. The pack consists of everyone and everything in the household, including adults, children, and other pets. By letting him know his place within the pack, you give him happiness, stability, comfort and security. Without proper structure and leadership, the world is a confusing, frightening place for a dog. A pack leader is responsible for almost everything, so, without this leadership, who will provide food? Who will be responsible for the safety and security of the pack? Who will give comfort? Who will provide direction and purpose? These are some of the many things you, as pack leader, have to provide for your dog, and why hierarchy is vital to a harmonious relationship with your companion. You should show your pet that you are his pack leader from the very first day you bring him home. The old adage "start as you mean to go on" is very apt in this situation, because if you allow the dog to get away with unwanted behaviour for a few days or weeks, it is incredibly difficult to stop it, because the dog will not understand why things are changing. Encourage your puppy to submit to you. This teaches him that you are in charge, and can be done successfully with positive, praise and reward based training. Training should be a high energy, enjoyable experience for both you and the dog, and can be used to teach submissive activities, such as shake paws, kiss, roll over, play dead, or lay down. These are all submissive gestures which your puppy will perform eagerly for a reward.You have to be consistent to be an effective pack leader. If you allow your dog to occasionally get away with behaviour you do not normally tolerate, you may think that you are being kind, finding yourself saying "but he's had a bad day," or, "it won't hurt just this once - it is her birthday." In actual fact, you are not being kind. All you are doing by this lack of consistency is confusing your dog, making him unsettled and unsure of his place in the world. You also make it more difficult to stop him performing the unwanted actions again, because you send mixed messages. You must be strong and firm, and never let him get away with something you do not want him to do.Understanding your dog helps to produce a happy, well adjusted pet, and makes life better for the whole pack. Regular and consistent training is the key to a well mannered pack member. Training should be fun, and only ever based on praise and reward. There should be no manhandling, beating, or shouting involved, and training should always end on a positive. All family members should treat the dog in the exact same way, so that he does not become confused. Remember, be the leader and take charge. Make life stress free for both you and your dog, and enjoy the special bond you will create.

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