I didn’t know that about my dog…

Understanding our dogs in how they think and why they do the things they do is invaluable in developing a successful lifelong relationship with them. It helps us to communicate better with them and make better decisions with them. The following is information that will be very helpful in helping all of us to get off to the best start possible in our training.

Why does my dog behave that way?

A dog’s behavior is primarily derived from their environment. Certainly, their breed and their reinforced history with current behaviors plays a part but the beginning of any behavior begins with a clear and consistent process. Any time your dog encounters something, a visitor in your home, a person pushing a stroller, a loud noise or another dog for example, your dog’s brain immediately evaluates these things as either safe, unsafe, or neutral. Based on this instant evaluation is a resulting behavior that occurs just as fast right after the evaluation. If your dog sees something as “safe” they may want to engage it such as play with a new toy or wanting to get a greeting from a visitor. If something is seen as “unsafe” they may retreat or cower from the item or activity. They may even become fear reactive and bark to make the scary thing stay away. They may even become fear aggressive over time and want to engage the scary thing with a bite or worse. If something is seen as ‘neutral” your dog will pretty much have no reaction at all.

When repeatedly presented with these same circumstances and they repeat these behaviors, and the behaviors reliably give them the preferred result that they want then the behavior is seen as reliable and is now established through repetition and reward over time. Repeated behaviors become regular behaviors. What this means for us is to understand that any behavior your dog gives us he is doing because it works for him. If this is a behavior that we like, then we want to reward that behavior so that your dog will value that behavior and want to repeat it. If a particular behavior is not acceptable then WE must realize that WE have to do something different to get the behavior that WE do want and then reward that preferred behavior. In time your dog will want to provide the preferred behavior instead of the unwanted behavior because he is being rewarded for it repeatedly over time. Remember, that any behavior your dog gives us is because it works for him, so he has no incentive to do anything different. Your dog is also incapable of making right or wrong decisions and so is incapable of realizing that a particular behavior is good or bad. If we see a behavior that your dog is doing as unacceptable realize that your dog does not know that and can’t. We have a moral imperative and can make right or wrong decisions, but your dog can’t and never will.

Your dog’s intellectual age plays a big part in behavior as well. When your dog is a puppy between age 0 to 6 months, he has the intellectual level of a one-year-old child. When your puppy arrives at 6 months old and through 18 months old, he is now an adolescent teenager. He is a teenager in his physical body only. Intellectually he has the capacity of a two-year-old child. When your dog finally arrives at 2 to 3 years old, he is now an adult dog. Again, this is in his physical body only. Intellectually he will be a three or four-year-old child the rest of his life. So, when you see your four-year-old adult dog doing a behavior that you do not like, don’t think he should know better because he is an “adult dog” when in fact he is a toddler in his mind.

I hope this bit of insight in how your dog thinks and why he behaves the way he does will allow you to better understand him and his actions. This will also allow you to communicate better with him. As a result you will spend the kind of loving, confidant and memorable life together that you both deserve.

For more information about help in training your dog please contact Chris Takacs either by phone at 269-612-7424 or by email at chris@takacsdogtraining.com.

A quick introduction to Takacs Dog Training video

Takacs Dog Training LLC is a force free, positive reinforcement dog training experience. Serving Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana. Evening and weekend training sessions available.

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