Obedience 101 – Who’s Minding Who?

[gplus count=”true” size=”Medium” ]Some dog behavior is breed specific and some dog behavior is just dogs doing well and/or dogs doing badly.  All of which is tied in to what their humans are doing well or badly.  Here are some examples of what I mean.

My greyhounds always alerted to quick movements.  Think squirrels dashing up a tree trunk or one of those battery-operated toy cars that zips across the floor.  Really fast movements.   And, in a snap-your-fingers-instant-response:  ears up,  body tense, two dogs explode into chase mode.   This type of response is typical of  “sight hound behavior.”

Beagles start out nose-to-the-ground,  barely looking up to see where they’re headed.   Their instinctive attraction to smell is typical of  “scent hound behavior.”

These are breed specific behaviors and they’re very helpful to know when you find yourself starting any kind of obedience program.

That said,  here are some examples of dog behavior that aren’t breed specific – it’s just behavior that a lot of dogs do.

My husky/shepherd mix, Suzy,  was an incorrigible car chaser.   Left to her own devices,  she’d take off after every car she saw.   She was also dog-aggressive and extremely protective of her family and, by extension, our home and yard.   We fenced the yard with her in mind.  She was better behaved when she couldn’t see who or what was walking down the sidewalk that runs past our house.   So,  we had a five foot, wood fence put in across the part of your yard facing the street that the front of our house faced.   Because we have a 6 foot (very thick) privacy hedge growing along the side yard,  we didn’t feel the need to put a wood fence up there.  We strung 5-foot, wire fencing inside of the hedge and that seems to work just fine.

Except that Suzy could see what was coming.  Here’s where the human factor comes into play.  If I wanted Suzy NOT to chase cars  or NOT to run the hedge barking at whatever was on the other side,  I had to be out in the yard with her, anticipating what she’d do and figuring out a way to re-direct her using positive reinforcement.   This is the part of the equation where “the humans are doing well or badly.”

Just because you fence your yard,  doesn’t mean that your dogs are going to have acceptable dog manners when your neighbors and their dogs walk by.   The best explanation for how to handle this – no matter what breed of dog you have – was written by Marthina McClay,  CPDT over at  Our Pack dot org.  It’s called Peace At The Fence.

Peace At The Fence

Most of the time, dogs don’t do well making decisions on their own, especially when there’s something in the environment that causes arousal. It’s like how I get when there’s a big sale at a great department store! Many folks think that dogs will just make the right decisions no matter the situation. This is an unrealistic expectation for any dog.

First and foremost, we suggest that you don’t leave dogs in the yard unattended. Many things could happen. Supervise when they’re outside and check your fence regularly. Your fence can age and become less stable over time. Your fences are also a great place for things that cause a stir. For example, you’re outside enjoying the day in the yard with your dog and your neighbor’s dog who was left in his yard is bored and causes some trouble by barking or snapping at the fence. Squirrels often use the fence as an apparatus to tease your dog. As the human in charge, it’s best to not let your dog even go there: don’t let the aroused state start where your dog is charging the fence, barking etc. You need to get your dog under control BEFORE he gets aroused, regardless of what the other dog or animal is doing. Just like we wouldn’t let our 2 year olds scream and yell at neighbors, the same goes for our dogs.   Read the rest of the article.


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