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tdierikx

Are We Overthinking/over-reacting To Our Dogs' Behaviours?

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tdierikx   

A few other threads here have had me thinking about what goes in to raising a happy, healthy, and socially proficient dog nowadays.

We have SO much information about all sorts of things that could contribute to creating the above - or detract from same. Much of that information is or can be conflicting, is downright wrong, or may not apply to every single dog out there. Training methods, feeding, weak nerve, prey drive, etc, etc... it all gets so confusing, and I'm starting to think that maybe - just maybe - we may not actually be doing many of our dogs a favour by overthinking every single thing they do or don't do that is "perfect"...

My childhood memories are of dogs roaming the streets and playing with all of us neighbourhood kids with very few incidents - there were very few general dog training groups or "puppy kindergarten", dogs were just dogs and allowed to be dogs, and everyone treated each other with kindness and due respect. Neighbourhood dogs were our best ever playmates.

Fast forward to my early adult years and I got my first "only mine" dogs - taught them sit, stay, drop, and took them out with me whenever it was appropriate. I was blissfully unaware of any/all potential behavioural or emotional issues that could raise their ugly head at any moment (if we believe all the stuff going around nowadays) - and I managed to raise a good 8 dogs over the years who were well mannered and lovely dogs in every respect - despite the fact that they came from pet shops or BYBs. The only common thing used with each of them was common sense and a little respect for the fact that not everyone is going to instantly adore my large breed doofus dogs, so I just made sure that they had plenty of good socialisation with people and other animals, and not much else really.

Nowadays though, it seems like everyone is so focused on trying to raise the "perfect" dog, that we seem to be losing sight of the fact that they are dogs... not four-legged furry humans. The constant bombardment of TV shows regarding problem dogs and how to "fix" them, the constant media hype about dog attacks, the conflicting "advice" regarding training from so many different sources... is kinda making it seem so less rewarding an experience to live with a furry companion... instead it's a constant "am I doing the right thing" feeling, or "if I don't act on xyz right away, is Fluffy going to become one of 'those' dogs"...

T.

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hankdog   

I've also given that thought but I wonder if we live closer together nowadays so whilst our "territory" is smaller our dogs genetic wiring for territory hasn't decreased. As kids we had un neutered male dogs and yes there were a few scraps. Somehow though we sorted it, we took responsibility almost because we were aware of that potential. We didn't expect our dogs to interact with others and if someone was stupid enough to let their dog run up to ours well they'd get a scrap.

Dogs were dogs, you didn't pat strange dogs without asking, we knew they had teeth and could bite. If you got bitten the first question would be "what were you doing?" Not "what breed was it?"

I think we have to train our dogs more because we train people less. Dogs have to be better behaved to deal with the people who are less so.

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hankdog   

I've also given that thought but I wonder if we live closer together nowadays so whilst our "territory" is smaller our dogs genetic wiring for territory hasn't decreased. As kids we had un neutered male dogs and yes there were a few scraps. Somehow though we sorted it, we took responsibility almost because we were aware of that potential. We didn't expect our dogs to interact with others and if someone was stupid enough to let their dog run up to ours well they'd get a scrap.

Dogs were dogs, you didn't pat strange dogs without asking, we knew they had teeth and could bite. If you got bitten the first question would be "what were you doing?" Not "what breed was it?"

I think we have to train our dogs more because we train people less. Dogs have to be better behaved to deal with the people who are less so.

I guess back then dogs wandering around a neighborhood worked out the pecking order and suffered consequences and learned. Take the same dog and confine it to a backyard and you have to actively socialize it on a leash or not at all.

Edited by hankdog

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tdierikx   
I think we have to train our dogs more because we train people less.

I really love this summation of the issue... *grin*

T.

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I've also given that thought but I wonder if we live closer together nowadays so whilst our "territory" is smaller our dogs genetic wiring for territory hasn't decreased. As kids we had un neutered male dogs and yes there were a few scraps. Somehow though we sorted it, we took responsibility almost because we were aware of that potential. We didn't expect our dogs to interact with others and if someone was stupid enough to let their dog run up to ours well they'd get a scrap.

Dogs were dogs, you didn't pat strange dogs without asking, we knew they had teeth and could bite. If you got bitten the first question would be "what were you doing?" Not "what breed was it?"

I think we have to train our dogs more because we train people less. Dogs have to be better behaved to deal with the people who are less so.

YES YES YES :)

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Yes, a lot of the time, I believe we do. But the same goes for a lot of things: children, work places, diet, exercise. Some people see a niche and exploit it.

We all, including animals, suffer.

Edited by Dame Danny's Darling

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huski   

I think our society has changed over time and things that were previously acceptable (such as letting your dog roam the street) are no longer acceptable and in many instances against the law. So, what we require of and need our dogs to do has changed.

Many training and behaviour problems people have with their dogs are things that could have been prevented if the dog was raised differently from puppy hood. There is no question in my mind, that educating dog owners to help them raise their dogs properly would make a huge difference to the common problems many face down the track. Sometimes when people face these problems they seek professional help, sometimes they let the behaviour get out of hand and fail to manage the dog properly, sometimes they rehome or euthanise it or sometimes they just live with it (often times making themselves and their dog miserable).

If the biggest problem dog owners had were over thinking or overreacting to problems I don't think you would see so many people struggle with dogs that have behaviour and training problems.

I also think DOL is not necessarily representative of the entire dog population, people on DOL are generally more invested in their dogs and learning about dogs than the average pet owner.

Personally I would much rather see a dog owner 'overreact' and get professional help with a potential problem, than a dog owner who brushes over potential issues until the problem becomes so bad they can't ignore it any longer.

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Yes, yes, yes and yes some more.

Nowadays though, it seems like everyone is so focused on trying to raise the "perfect" dog, that we seem to be losing sight of the fact that they are dogs... not four-legged furry humans. The constant bombardment of TV shows regarding problem dogs and how to "fix" them, the constant media hype about dog attacks, the conflicting "advice" regarding training from so many different sources... is kinda making it seem so less rewarding an experience to live with a furry companion... instead it's a constant "am I doing the right thing" feeling, or "if I don't act on xyz right away, is Fluffy going to become one of 'those' dogs"...

This is so true.

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juice   

I often think I was happier when I had no clue.

I do watch people with other dogs , the dog park for example, and I'm sure I have become far more wary of situations that I wouldn't have cared about before.

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Snook   

I agree with both hankdog and huski. Another element to the issue as I see it, is that while dogs were allowed to be dogs in the past and people respected them, they were exposed to a lot of different dogs and people in a more open and relaxed setting. These days, the average dog owner seems to only socialise their dogs by dumping them in a dog park with a bunch of other unsocialised dogs and that's how they learn to interact. It's a bit like 3 year olds teaching each other how to behave.

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Completely agree with all the above posts. I think as society changes, everything about owning dogs gets more confusing! In the days when dogs roamed the street, they were treated as 'dogs' a lot of the time. These days there is so much conflicting advice it gets so confusing. Use a prong collar they're a great tool, no they're cruel lets ban them, let dogs on the furniture, don't. As houses get smaller, and people communicate less, it becomes so important to keep an eye on our dogs at all times. Heaven forbid that Rover tells Fluffy off for being 'rude', these days Rover's owner can recieve a nasty repercussion for that. It seems to me that as dogs are no longer 'just dogs', we are becoming more aware, and people are working longer hours, that the dogs have to adapt to this new lifestyle. Basically what I'm trying to say is that, while society changes, dogs as a species don't. And they are quickly adapting to being treated less like dogs and having more 'human' expectations set upon them. I hope this has come across ok, my head hurts :laugh:

But as huski mentioned in this day and age I would much rather see someone 'overreact' than not at all - it's annoying being rushed by under socialised off lead dogs because people want to go back to the good-old days, if you get what I mean.

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huski   

But as huski mentioned in this day and age I would much rather see someone 'overreact' than not at all - it's annoying being rushed by under socialised off lead dogs because people want to go back to the good-old days, if you get what I mean.

I think for every owner that overreacts, there are also many that just don't care and won't do anything even if they know their dog has a serious behaviour problem.

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tdierikx   

To be fair huski, I'd say that you would probably see more of the problem dogs than the average person - being that dog training is your line of work... *grin*

The worst thing for me is when I take any of my dogs out in public, there are so many "experts" out there trying to analyse the slightest little thing each and every dog is doing - rather than focusing on their own bloody dogs and enjoying their outing... *sigh*

I have a weak nerved failed foster pup that I wouldn't dream of taking to a dog park - not because she isn't good with other dogs, but because she's terrified of people she doesn't know. I know she won't bite anyone, and if left to just happily play with another dog, she's completely unaware of strangers that may be around her - but it's that initial stupid barking and cowering thing (with humans only) that tends to make people very leery of letting her play. The thing is that at home, and at places she's been before, she's a normal cheeky overgrown puppy - she just doesn't cope with meeting strangers in strange environments. I've had her meet other dogs just fine in public, and she acts appropriately with them... and she's fine if people ignore her fear display and give her a gentle pat, it's as though she only then realises that they are fine to be around.

Huski - how would you approach rectifying the above issue?

I have another failed foster pup who has neurological issues which manifest in a mobility disablity - her body language isn't easily read by others (dog or human), so she doesn't go to dog parks either - even though she'd enjoy it immensely. She does go to dog days where all dogs are leashed, and laps up all of the attention she gets with complete relish...

My other 2 dogs are fine in public.

T.

Edited by tdierikx

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Back in the day 'bad' dogs were culled. Where I grew up no one would try to fix a dog that displayed inappropriate behaviour it was just put down. This meant that the dogs that roamed were normally well-adjusted and nice dogs. There are a lot of dogs around today that would never have made it this long back when I was a child.

The above coupled with a change in social practices, more congested living and the law makes dogs more confined and dogs that used to get their exercise and socialisation by roaming the street or playing in huge backyards are now confined and isolated in much smaller areas which can lead to issues.

Edited by mixeduppup

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BC Crazy   

I've also given that thought but I wonder if we live closer together nowadays so whilst our "territory" is smaller our dogs genetic wiring for territory hasn't decreased. As kids we had un neutered male dogs and yes there were a few scraps. Somehow though we sorted it, we took responsibility almost because we were aware of that potential. We didn't expect our dogs to interact with others and if someone was stupid enough to let their dog run up to ours well they'd get a scrap.

Dogs were dogs, you didn't pat strange dogs without asking, we knew they had teeth and could bite. If you got bitten the first question would be "what were you doing?" Not "what breed was it?"

I think we have to train our dogs more because we train people less. Dogs have to be better behaved to deal with the people who are less so.

So very true hankdog... Couldn't agree more :thumbsup:

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huski   

To be fair huski, I'd say that you would probably see more of the problem dogs than the average person - being that dog training is your line of work... *grin*

Yes, obviously we see a lot of dogs with behaviour problems, but we also see many owners that just want to learn how to build a better relationship with their dog and don't actually have any real problems with their dog. The people who seek professional advice are the owners who are already quite dedicated to their dogs, the owners we don't see are the ones who aren't motivated enough to get professional help and there's no question there are many people out there who let their dogs behaviour get worse and worse, or just have it euthanised or rehomed.

The worst thing for me is when I take any of my dogs out in public, there are so many "experts" out there trying to analyse the slightest little thing each and every dog is doing - rather than focusing on their own bloody dogs and enjoying their outing... *sigh*

I can't say I run into all that many people like that when I take my dogs out, but when I do, I usually just nod and smile and carry on with what I'm doing.

I have a weak nerved failed foster pup that I wouldn't dream of taking to a dog park - not because she isn't good with other dogs, but because she's terrified of people she doesn't know. I know she won't bite anyone, and if left to just happily play with another dog, she's completely unaware of strangers that may be around her - but it's that initial stupid barking and cowering thing (with humans only) that tends to make people very leery of letting her play. The thing is that at home, and at places she's been before, she's a normal cheeky overgrown puppy - she just doesn't cope with meeting strangers in strange environments. I've had her meet other dogs just fine in public, and she acts appropriately with them... and she's fine if people ignore her fear display and give her a gentle pat, it's as though she only then realises that they are fine to be around.

Huski - how would you approach rectifying the above issue?

By telling you to book a consult so we could see her in person and pinpoint what is going on :) ;)

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tdierikx   

If only I could afford you huski... lol!

She's usually fine once she's been patted by a stranger - dog help you if you come to my house and get past her initial backing up barking and shaking... she has a nasty habit of turning into a 30kg lap dog pretty quickly... *sigh*

T.

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dididog   

I assume my thread probably acted as a bit of inspiration for this and I agree with the sentiment that society in general views dogs less and less like the animals they are and the respect and understanding for less than perfect behaviour doggy behaviour that existed in days gone by is severely lacking. I remember being 5 or 6 and at a crowded market and I lent over a dachshund to pat it and it snapped at me. Bother the owner and my parents placed the blame on my shoulders since I knew not to pat dogs without asking and you know what I never did it again and have never been bitten. Fast forward to now and I'm fairly sure the same dachshund owner would be apologising profusely while being berated by the parents while the child learns it's the dog's fault and not theirs.

But because this sort of understanding with the general public is lacking, that's exactly why I think it's well worth it to 'over react'. If I didn't live in inner city suburbia surrounded by people who don't get dogs then maybe I'd be less concerned about Didi's recent behavior but the fact is I don't live somewhere else.

I don't think being hyper vigilant of the fact my dog is large and potentially dangerous will make owning her less rewarding... I think ignoring her behaviour, having her bite a stranger (even if they provoked it) and potentially having a dog slapped with a Dangerous Dog order or worst euthanised will be a marginally less rewarding experience.

So yup while it would be nice if people just didn't pat my dog without asking or backed off when she showed she was uncomfortable, I can't and won't rely on that to happen and will try my best to 'fix' her fear, or at least how to manage it.

Edited by Terri S.

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tdierikx   

It wasn't your thread in particular that prompted this discussion Terri... just that there have been quite a few similar ones - and it got me thinking about why we are reacting so strongly about what would have once been construed as "normal" doggy behaviour when placed in a stressful or frightening situation... as though NO dog should ever react at all to a stressful or frightening situation it may find itself in.

I have 2 dogs here that are about as "bombproof" as it comes - but I'd still expect them to let me or anyone else know that what was being done to them hurts or is stressful. I also know it's MY job to ensure that they aren't subjected to unnecesaary stress or pain if at all possible. If one of my dogs was backing up from some stranger in a vet clinic leaning over it with a strange object, I'd not be asking what the dog was doing wrong, but why the hell someone who is supposed to have more sense when handling animals was being such a dick.

I hear you loud and clear about the fear thing, as I'm pretty sure one of my other dogs has a worse case of that than your Didi... funnily enough she is also part Dane...

T.

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