Most pet owners have a pretty good idea of what it takes to be considered a good pet owner! The list generally includes: proper vet care, appropriate licensing, providing food and housing needs, basic training, picking up after your pet in public places, and providing plenty of mental and physical exercise for your pet. And while this is a great list of must do’s when it comes to owning a pet, things are not always so simple when it comes to problem behaviors.
As a trainer who works with behavioral issues, I see plenty of dogs that need a little more help than just learning how to “sit” or “not jump”. Many of these dogs have severe fears: of strangers, novel experiences, thunderstorms, being left alone. Other dogs have developed aggression due to issues with leash reactivity, resource guarding, or fence fighting. If your dog struggles with any of these issues, your list of “being a good pet owner” becomes a bit more difficult.
With any type of behavioral issue, the first item on the list is always proper and safe management. This is to ensure that anyone who may encounter your dog will be safe and your dog will be safe from anyone who encounters him. Crates, gates, closed doors, and puppy pens all provide safe measures to ensure limited and controlled access while in your home. Appropriate leashing when outside: Easy Walk Harnesses, Head Harnesses, a muzzle, multiple leashes, and proper holding of leashes for security, will provide management when in public.
Beyond proper management an owner must make certain that their dog’s life is not one of excessive stress. Many dogs are nervous around new situations or strangers. If you have a dog with this type of issue, you should have a plan set in place when someone new comes into your home. Have you set your dog up for successful interactions? Are you able to practice these interactions when you can control the environment? Desensitizing and counterconditioning a dog to scary things can help immensely. However, changing a dog’s mind about something takes time, patience, and practice.
If your dog has severe anxiety or stress, have you contacted a trainer who works with behavior or a veterinarian behaviorist? Your pet may need additional medication to help relieve severe stress along with behavioral modification. Living with acute stress and anxiety takes its toll on the body……this is true for our 4 legged friends as well. Finding answers and solutions to your dog’s stress is the first step in behavioral modification.
Is your dog a fence fighter or nuisance barker in the back yard? Have you researched ways to diffuse these issues before they become dangerous or before a neighbor decides to contact animal services?
If your dog is an escape artist, have you invested in whatever it takes to keep him safe and in your care. Proper fencing (not electric), enough mental and physical stimulus, and proper human management (redirecting him and/or bringing him inside) when needed, are the actions of a responsible owner.
Pet ownership can prove to be time consuming, expensive, and emotionally taxing. However, there is help available and many of these problem behaviors can be fixed with the proper direction and a little time. Good pet owners find that taking those extra steps can help solve problem behaviors, or at the very least, find solutions to help their pet find comfort in difficult situations. Not all answers to problem behaviors are simple, and they are not usually quick fixes. However, every great pet owner knows that the end result will be worth the work. After all, a happy dog equals a happy owner!