If your dog has a beahvior issues like fear, anxiety, or aggression, start here first!
There are four questions I always ask if a dog has a behavior issue.
Is your dog physically healthy?
Meaning, when is the last time your dog had a vet checkup? Is there a history of any medical problems that could affect behavior (i.e. chronic pain)? Is there any possible current medical explanation for your dog’s problem behavior?
Before you wast your time and energy training, I always recommend ruling out any medical causes first by touching base with your vet.
Is your dog getting enough exercise?
If you’re like me, this one can be really challenging. Life gets so busy and it seems so easy to skip a walk here or there to help make time for everything else. This is definitely not a problem to do once in long while, but if you are skipping walks weekly, you may start to see some behavioral consequences to all that pent up energy.
The amount of exercise needed highly depends on the individual dog. Here are some rough guidelines:
This exercise can be done in a variety of ways, but generally a walk around the neighborhood is great. For added variety, you could mix in walks in different neighborhoods, hikes, fetch, a romp at the local park, swimming, or pulling something.
Is your dog bored?
Luckily, if you are walking your dog to exercise him and you are exercising him for a sufficient amount of time, boredom should not be an issue!
This question more comes up if your dog is not being walked outside. Some dogs are not walked outside because of extreme temperatures, bedrest for medical issues, or an unsafe environment to exercise.
If your dog is not able to be walked outside, boredom can be alleviated through training, activity toys, and various games.
Are you setting your dog up for success?
This is the final question I usually have, and often where we can implement some easy tweaks to vastly improve a dog’s chances of success.
For example, if your dog pulls on walks, do you have a no-pull harness or head collar? Could you bring some of your dog’s favorite treats on your walk to reward him any time he happens to not pull?
Another term for this question is management. Are you managing your dog appropriately?
For dogs under the age of 7 years, this often involves things like crates, baby gates, walking equipment, strategically placed treats, etc.
Only after all of these questions are addressed will I start a behavior program. If needed.
I say if needed because, often, when these four questions are satisfied, a behavior modification plan is no longer needed. The problem behaviors are eliminated!