5 Ways to Tell if Your Dog Needs Additional Training
July 6, 2019
In the best-case scenario, an untrained dog can be embarrassing when we invite our friends and family over. In the worst-case scenario, they can be incredibly dangerous to other people and animals.
Dogs have a lot to learn when they are our pets, and it can be tricky to have the ‘perfect’ dog who won’t steal food from unattended plates, have barking competitions with the other dogs in your neighbourhood, or chasing after an ice cream van. When you get a dog as a puppy, you will have a much greater chance of making sure that they are well behaved, people who own rescue dogs may struggle considerably more to make them unlearn the bad habits which they have picked up. But that’s not to say that it is impossible. However, you should be prepared to bring in an expert if you are inexperienced with dog training; especially if your dog is showing signs of aggression.
If your dog is poorly trained and badly behaved, it’s time to accept the fact that it is not the dog’s fault, it is your own; after all, dogs only know what they have been told! Many new dog owners fail to recognise the importance of socialising and obedience, the importance only becomes evident when the destructive behaviours start to manifest in untrained dogs.
Lack of training and socialisation with dogs can be a serious issue, did you know that over 1000 people go to the emergency room due to a dog bite every year in America? These aren’t just dogs which are considered as dangerous such as boxers, mastiffs, Rottweilers and pit bulls, they are dogs of all sizes and typical temperaments. Larger dogs may be responsible for more deaths and permanent disfigurements, but smaller dogs such as Jack Russell Terriers and Chihuahuas are often found guilty of sinking their teeth into people. In fact, you’re just as likely to get bitten by a Jack Russell Terrier or a Chihuahua as you are a Pit Bull.
It’s never too late to start training your dog, however, the longer you leave your dog’s training, the harder it will be to completely see the end of some of the behaviours. Obedience training won’t guarantee that you’ll be left with a perfectly well-behaved dog at the end of it, but it will make them less aggressive and safer around people.
Below, we’ve outlined the most common signs that your dog requires some more training, then we’ll follow on with some guidance on how to ensure your pooch is more even-tempered and well behaved both in the home and the territory which lies beyond.
- Your Dog is Showing Signs of Aggression
There are multiple types of aggression which your dog can exhibit, aggression to other dogs, aggression to strangers, and aggression to you. If your dog has started to become aggressive with you, this is a serious problem which should never, ever be tolerated.
If your dog has been aggressive with you once, chances are it will happen again. This is most likely to happen over food, however, potentially anything can trigger aggression with a dog. Naturally, aggression in dogs is a huge sign that your dog needs some additional obedience training, as we said before, if you have no experience in obedience training, you’ll want to ask for professional help.
If your dog’s aggression happens while you are walking them, you will want to take preventative measures to protect other dogs and other members of the public. They may not thank you for putting them in a muzzle to start off with, but they will quickly learn to accept that the muzzle is part of their routine. Never respond to aggression with physical punishment, this will only serve to exacerbate the problem. Instead, you will need to learn the triggers of your dogs' aggression and make sure that you do the best to prevent the behaviour being repeated. Always remain as calm as possible.
- Barking and Other Excessive Vocalisations
Even though barking and other loud vocalisations may not be as serious as aggression, it is still a problematic behaviour which you will need to keep in check. So, if your dog barks while you are out of the home, or aggressively barks at strangers or other dogs, you should never accept this as part of your dog’s character. Excessive barking is the sign of an underlying behavioural issue that you’ll want to get to the root of sooner rather than later.
However, you must also understand that dogs bark to communicate, they aren’t just making noises for the sake of it. There is a myriad of things which can trigger a barking response for a dog, even the sound of leaves rustling can do it! Dogs can bark because they’re lonely, anxious, or being territorial. You will need to watch their body language to try and figure out which emotion they are feeling.
Obedience training is incredibly effective in preventing excessive barking in untrained dogs, however, you should never look at the barking as the primary issue or problem.
- Jumping Up
While you may appreciate a warm welcome when you come home from work, you shouldn’t be encouraging this behaviour with your dog. Allowing your dog to jump up at you is telling them that it is okay for them to jump up at everyone that they come across. People who visit your home may insist that it’s fine when your dog jumps up, but it’s extremely unlikely that everyone will appreciate it. If you’ve been receiving fewer visitors after getting a particularly bouncy dog, it is not hard to figure out why. Small dogs don’t get away with this behaviour due to their size! If your dog doesn’t know how to greet you without putting their front paws on you, this is a sure sign that your dog needs some training.
- Ignoring Commands
Your dog is ultimately your responsibility, and responsible owners will want to ensure that their dogs listen to their commands, not just some of the time, but all of the time. Sometimes this can be a massive issue if your dog has an incredibly strong prey drive or any other characteristics from their breed. If you can’t call your dog back when they shoot off into the distance, you know that your dog could benefit from some formal obedience training. Suitably trained dogs should respond to the first command every time.
- Leash Control Issues
If your dog doesn’t behave on a lead, this is a sure sign that they could benefit from leash training. It doesn’t matter how large your dog is, if they don’t recognise you as their master and the one that is in control when you go on a walk, this will tell you that their obedience levels aren’t what they should be. While you are out on a walk, your dog should be happy for you to lead the way and stay under your heel. So, if you find yourself having to wrap the led around your hand to keep control of your dog, or your dog is constantly getting you tangled up in the lead, you will know that you have an issue.
How to Reinforce Positive Behaviour in Your Dog
The first step you will need to take is accepting that there’s a problem, that may sound silly, but many dog owners are incredibly unwilling to admit that their dog has a problem. There’s no shame in it, but it is irresponsible to deny the existence of the issue.
The second step is to seek professional help. If you can’t afford to take your dog to obedience classes there is always help available online, however, the professional’s experience will help you to achieve positive results faster, and it will be a much more positive experience for your pet.
Each dog’s behavioural problems will be different, therefore, it would be impossible for us to write a complete guide on reversing your dog’s negative behaviour patterns. But below, you will find a list of top tips for the most common issues.
- Remember that it is not just about creating a happy environment in your home when it comes to owning an untrained dog, it is about creating a safe environment – especially if you have children.
- If you’re taking on your dog’s training yourself, make sure you plan ahead with the training. Allocate controlled and quiet space in your home where the training will take place. Keep to a strict routine with the training, this will mean setting different times and days. However, this will only work if you are training them commands such as sit and stay. If your dog’s problem behaviours include aggression you will always need professional help with them to play out these experiences and reinforce positive behaviours.
- Reinforce the good patterns – this positive reinforcement will need to happen right from the start of your dog’s obedience training.
- Recognise that every day is a learning day for your dog, however, an untrained dog will always be inclined to do what it wants to do. If this is a negative behaviour, make sure that you are never reinforcing it.