On a recent episode of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” (AFV) one of the top three submissions for the $10,000 prize was a video of the aftermath of destruction a family’s pet dog had done to their home. This dog had destroyed an end table, ripped the frame off a doorway, demolished a patio door screen and frame, shredded carpeting, broken glassware, and had literally “eaten” a three foot by four foot hole in the wall – destroying sheetrock, insulation, and framing in the process. He was a one dog demolition crew! I was horrified and appalled as I watched the video and listened to the mixture of giggles and gasps from the viewing audience. It was as if the poor, unsuspecting family shrugged their shoulders and said “Bad Dog, Bad Dog, Whatcha Gonna Do?”
The more appropriate question, however, is “My dog, my dog, WHY do you do what you do?” The answer to that question is not a simple one. Entire books have been written concerning “bad dog behavior.” And the truth is that every dog is different, and therefore, there is no “pat answer” for every situation. However, a basic understanding of “Who dogs are, and How they behave” will lead us to some appropriate suggestions on how to handle difficult and domineering dogs. If you suffer from “Bad Dog Syndrome,” this article will help you understand who your dog is (Alpha Dog Mentality), and teach you how to “reprogram” and your misbehaving dog. Soon you’ll be saying “Good Dog, Good Dog, Oh how I love you!” You can find the follow-up article, “Bad Dog, Bad Dog” Part 2, in the Feature Articles section of K-9 Outfitters, A Division of Damascus Road Enterprises.
But before we proceed, if you suffer from “bad dog syndrome” with your family pet, make sure there isn’t an underlying medical condition. Take your dog to the vet, explain your problem, and ensure he/she is healthy, and doesn’t suffer from dental, intestinal, digestion, parasitic, or other problems. Once you find that your dog is healthy, the following information should prove helpful.
Dogs are, by nature, pack animals. Pack animal behavior is instinctive from before dogs were domesticated and lived in the wild. Every pack has a hierarchy, and every animal in the pack has duties, responsibilities, and expectations. Since your dog doesn’t live in the wild, he/she assumes you, your family, and other household pets make up the “pack.” Many times, “bad dog behavior” is a result of confusion over “Alpha Dog Status” or “Alpha Dog Mentality.” You must establish that you are the “Alpha” dog in the pack. You must also establish that other family members, to include the children, all rank higher in the pack than your dog does. There are many ways to effectively put your dog in his proper pack ranking. Here are a few suggestions, or rules, for handling domineering dogs, and establishing pack rankings:
1. When you enter the house, make sure your dog enters last, even if you must put her on a leash. This shows her where she ranks in the family “pack.”
2. Alpha dogs want the run of the entire house. Make sure certain areas of the home are out of bounds for the dog. That may include certain bedrooms, the laundry room, bathrooms, or the den. This helps the dog know you are master of the house, not him.
3. Alpha dogs occupy high traffic areas, like hallways and entryways. Don’t step over or go around the dog, nudge the dog and tell her to move out of your way, and make sure she does so. This lets her know who owns the space and who is in charge.
4. Don’t allow your dog to DEMAND your attention. Dogs usually do this by climbing on your lap, or by nudging your hand or arm. Make the dog sit, lie down, etc., and then give lavish praise and attention. Remember, you control when you give your dog attention, affection, and praise.
5. Exercise control over your dog’s possessions. Take away all her toys, then give her a command, and when she obeys, give her the toy as a treat. After she plays with it for awhile, take it away again.
6. When you come home, make your dog greet you first. Ignore him until he does. He must be submissive to you, not the other way around.
7. Establish dog eating times. In the pack, the Alpha dog always eats first, and then the other dogs eat. Make sure the family eats first, followed by the dog. If you must feed the dog first, pretend to eat something first, then feed your dog. Leave the dog’s food out for 10-15 minutes, then take it up, whether the dog is finished or not. She will learn quickly to eat when fed.
8. Always stroke (pet) your dog around the head, neck, and shoulders. These are vulnerable areas for the dog, and shows that you are superior. Be careful not to stroke your dog around the chest, because this puts him in the dominating position and undermines your authority as alpha dog.
9. Don’t allow your dog to sleep in your bed! I know that’s a tough one for some folks, but believe me, it’s best for all concerned. The best thing to do is provide the dog with her own cage, crate, or bed. Put it in your bedroom if that helps you, but do it. Dogs “Kennel” by nature. They like a safe, snug place they can call their own.
Your dog is your pet. Ultimately, all he/she really wants is your love and affection (i.e. time together). Hopefully, these ideas and suggestions, along with a better understanding of who your dog is and the role he plays in the family relationship, will soon move you from saying “Bad Dog, Bad Dog, Whatcha Gonna Do?” to saying, “Good Dog, Good Dog, Oh How I Love You!”
By the way, the “Destructive Dog” video did not win a prize on AFV, although I’m sure the family could have used the money for repairs. Following our guidelines would prove a lot less expensive and would make for a much more harmonious family and pet relationship. dewormer for cancer