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Dog Aggression Isn’t Mean, It’s Mental

When you take an afternoon stroll at one of Knoxville's wonderful parks, you are likely to see all sorts of dogs! Some may be happy and eager to greet people and dogs, others may be lunging, growling, snapping, and might have everyone taking a step back. What makes the difference between the two dogs? Is one dog nice and while the other is simply mean? Dog aggression is usually a symptom of a bigger underlying problem called stress. Stress can make even the nicest of dogs turn into Kugo under the certain circumstances. It's not mean, it's mental. But dogs live the life of luxury; cushy beds, trips to the dog park, a basket full of dog toys. They don't have to work, pay bills, or manage a household, what in the world do they have to be stressed about?

Stressors That Lead To Aggression

  • Rough Past Sometimes it a simple as reflecting on your dog's past experience. Were they ever abused or have they previously experienced a dog fight? That past experience has probably trained them react aggressively to similar stimuli.
  • Lack of Experience Maybe your dog hasn't had a bad experience with another dog or person, actually maybe they haven't had many experiences at all now that you think about it. With this type of scenario the dog may be experiencing stress because they aren't socialized enough and don't know what to expect out of other people and dogs
  • Boredom Every single dog, big or small, lazy or energetic needs mental stimulation and purpose in their life. If they aren't getting what they need, they may seek out entrainment and purpose in the form of guarding. Whether that means they are guarding their owner, food, or other dogs in their group through acts of aggression.
  • Fear Not every dog is a social butterfly dying for attention and interaction. So when an off leash dog runs up in their face or a person screams with glee and reaches out to pet them, some dogs may react aggressively out of fear.

Punishment Isn't A Solution

Have you heard of Pavlov Dogs? Pavlov would ring a bell and then feed his dogs a bowl of food. After many repetitions, he rang the bell and observed the dogs salivate as an immediate response to the bell. Dogs are hyper observant and extreme creatures of routine. So let's imagine this scenario, let's say a dog sees another dog and has a reaction their owner doesn't like, the owner applies a punishment the dog doesn't like and this causes stress. After so many repetitions how do you think the dog will instantly feel when seeing a dog down the street? The hope with punishment based techniques is that the dog learns to associate the punishment with the behavior. But after so many zaps, pinches, and yanks any dog would be just as likely to learn it only happens around certain stimuli.

There is Hope

These dogs aren't doomed to be aggressive and feared forever. With a positive reinforcement training approach, these types of dog's have a chance at rehabilitation, no matter what stressor is causing the aggression. A positive reinforcement dog trainer can work to create good experiences for the dog with the rough past or the dog lacking experience all together. They can also give dogs a new purpose in life besides guarding and, believe it or not, they can even build up a dog's confidence to eliminate fear. Positive Reinforcement Dog Training is such a great way for dog owners to learn how to understand their dog's behavior and how to use gentle techniques that rely on communication and teaching, never punishment.

Do you need help addressing aggression with your dog? Schedule a FREE Meet and Greet with a My Curious Canine dog trainer today to discuss what is causing your dog's aggression and how we can help!

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Leash Reactive Dogs

Take a quick jog or walk through any suburban neighborhood around dusk and you’ll likely see this common sight: Leash reactive dogs lunging at each other from opposite sides of the street, pulling and embarrassing the human walking with them.

What is Leash Reactivity?

Leash reactivity in dogs can manifest itself in many ways: Think lunging, jumping, snarling, rearing up like a stallion, growling, barking and overexcitement when walking on a leash. Simply put, a leash-reactive dog is one that is especially sensitive and reactive while on a leash. Leash reactive dogs aren’t bad dogs – many are well-behaved off-leash and even play well with other dogs at dog parks and at home.

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Here are 3 things you need to know about leash reactivity in dogs and what you can do to manage your dog’s behavior when walking on a leash.

Natural Interactions

When off-leash and in their own natural environment, dogs usually greet from the side and then sniff each other’s genitals. They don’t approach head-on and make hard eye contact unless a fight is about to start. Additionally, dogs generally only greet each other for a few seconds. Dogs who meet on a leash usually meet head first, and when neighbors stop and chat, tensions can rise. Dog owners need to be aware of how dogs behave on their own and need to create as natural interactions as possible, even during leashed walks.

Use Your Manners

Dog owners also don’t often recognize rude behavior from other dogs. If one leashed dog greets another leashed dog during a walk by running up and jumping on him, this isn’t cute or playful, it’s downright rude in dog society and could be the result of a poorly socialized dog.

[img src="/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/pulling-leash.jpg"]

Positive Reinforcement

Leash reactivity can be corrected with positive reinforcement dog training. You can start curbing this unwanted behavior by teaching your dog to focus on you, not other dogs, during walks. You can start working on this lesson by starting leashed walks in areas without distractions, like in your living room or fenced yard.

For more information about curbing leash reactivity with positive reinforcement dog training, read about My Curious Canine's training style or schedule a free meet and greet or ask about our mastering the walk mini-course.

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Ten Signs That Your Dog Is Bored

If most dogs had their way, life would be one long visit to the dog park. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. Most human dog owners have to work 8 or more hours a day, leaving your dog alone and up to his own devices. In many cases, dogs left alone get bored and that can lead to trouble. Here are 10 signs that your dog might be bored.

Chewing

It doesn’t matter how many toys Fido has at his disposal. A bored dog might seek out other things to satisfy his need to chew if he’s feeling bored. This can be detrimental to your shoe collections, furniture and even the walls of your home.

Digging

A bored dog can try to create her own fun by engaging in digging behavior, which can be destructive to your home and lawn.

Over excitement

Your dog is always happy to see you, but if his greeting is over the top, this could mean he’s bored at home when you’re not around.

Excessive licking

If your dog is constantly licking himself or you, you might think he’s just being clean or affectionate. But in some cases, excessive licking can indicate boredom.

Escaping and running away.

If your dog makes a run for it every chance he gets, chances are this means he’s bored with his surroundings.

Pacing

Humans might pace when their feeling fidgety and the same goes for dogs. A dog who is bored with extra energy to burn might pace the halls, fence or room.

Panting without physical exertion

There are a number of reasons why your dog may pant. Heat, physical exertion, pain or even just breed disposition. If you’ve been able to rule these out but still find your dog panting, boredom or anxiety might be to blame.

Scratching without physical explanation

Scratching, biting or chewing can be a sign of boredom in dogs. If you find your pooch engaging in these behaviors after ruling out allergies, boredom might be the culprit.

Pulling the stuffing from toys

Destructive play can be fun for your dog. If you come home to find a trail of fluff leading down the hall, you might have a dog who is bored when you’re away.

Barking

Many things might inspire your dog to bark. The mailman. A bird in a tree outside the window. The wind. But if your dog’s barking becomes a nuisance to you or your neighbors, chances are he is bored and looking for ways to entertain himself.

How to combat doggie boredom

Keep your dog healthy and engaged and avoid boredom-related behaviors by letting your dog channel his energy into healthier outlets. Ways to fight doggie boredom can include the following.

  • Positive reinforcement training
  • Making good use of daily interactions
  • Using the puzzle toys to add mental stimulation, which can be purchased through MyCuriousCanine
  • Playing obedience games
  • Engaging sports such as agility, barn hunt etc.
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A well-trained and mentally stimulated dog is a joy to have in your home. Every minute of each day can’t always be exciting for you or your dog, but making a plan to keep boredom at bay when your dog is home alone can help you have a more meaningful relationship with your dog. For more information about combating your dog’s boredom or stop destructive dog behavior, learn more about our dog training style or book an appointment today.

Keep Reading The Knoxville Dog Training Blog