How many times have you dealt with dog behavior that is out of control, but they are yelling ‘It’s okay, he is friendly.’ In most cases this ‘out of control’ behaviour is not okay. What I find most interesting is that this apparently friendly behavior is not accepted by dogs.
Just this weekend a puppy jumped into Carlo’s face and he gently placed his muzzle over the puppy’s muzzle. The incident lasted less than a second. The puppy didn’t scream or back up in fear. It just sat down and remained sitting down while the owner’s drama flared.
I have to admit I wasn’t very interested in the drama. What caught my attention is how this small demand for ‘deference behavior’ taught the puppy a lesson that it may never have learned. The puppy wasn’t afraid of Carlos, it learned that if it wanted to greet Carlos then it needed to do it politely.
Learned Behaviors – Unnatural Dog Behavior
Many people who feel that their dog needs a ‘childhood’ inadvertently teach a dog this inappropriate greeting behavior. It is simple. Your puppy is excited to see you. This fills an emotional void, or triggers an emotional response in you. Your response is to smile, spend time with the puppy, comfort the puppy, and reinforce the behavior.
What happens is that you ‘imprint’ over the dog’s normal behavior teaching it a new behavior. What you’ve done is taught the puppy a new behavior. You’ve taught your puppy a new way to greet, and you’ve taught the puppy it is acceptable.
Unfortunately, in dogs, over-arousal becomes anxiety, anxiety becomes reactivity, reactivity becomes aggression. Dog’s temperament never stays stagnant. It is always becoming more or becoming less.
Now let’s move forward a few months. Your puppy is bigger. It’s overt and hyper/play attempts to greet you are no longer pleased with this greeting and become frustrated or angry. The puppy knows this but doesn’t know why. This increases the dog’s anxiety level.
You try to teach the dog to stop jumping on you, and the problem gets worse. This is really easy to understand. Your puppy knows how to appease you and make you happy. It learned how to make you happy when it was young.
You changed the rules. The dog didn’t. The dog will continue to exhibit the same behaviors it did when it was young trying to elicit the same response from you. This will increase the anxiety level on both sides which, increases the appeasement behaviors. It becomes a vicious circle until one day you have a ‘reactive dog.’
Can you fix this? Yes and no. There is no quick fix. You may need to learn some calming protocols. Your dog may need therapy to overcome the high emotional response, and chemical response, to over-arousal/anxiety. The fact is, I can’t give you a 1-2-3 cure strategy because each dog’s problem is based on different emotions and chemical responses to stimuli.
- Hyper is a dog behavior
- Calm is a dog behavior
- Your dog will exhibit the one that earns it attention and rewards
Your dog also needs to learn Deference Behaviors. They need to learn to wait for attention. They need to ‘learn’ a new behavior. You do not teach a new behavior by punishing the old. You teach a new behavior by setting up the dog to do the new ‘action’ and then rewarding it. Just like when you taught your puppy to be over the top aroused and crazy when meeting someone.
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