6 Pawsitive Tips: How to Keep Your Dog on Its Best Behavior
Lifestyle Fearful, under-socialized dogs found at rescue centers deserve intensive treatment to improve their quality of life and prepare them for adoption.
Most come from puppy mills or hoarding cases, where horrific and isolated conditions have compromised the dog’s ability to trust humans and tolerate everyday life in adoptive homes.
Not all become fearful as the result of cruelty. Some, despite plenty of socialization, develop fearful behavior as they mature. Others develop fearful behavior resulting from traumatic events. The good news is: there are ways to work with these difficult cases and find success.
With your pet in mind, here are some tips and ideas to consider if he or she has behavioral challenges.
1. Check with a veterinarian
The first thing to do, especially if you notice new fearful behavior, is to take your dog to the vet's office for a thorough exam. Conditions that cause discomfort can result in anxious behavior. Once you rule out medical causes, the next step is to seek professional help from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, a veterinary behaviorist or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. These experts can help you make a plan to reduce your dog's fear.
2. Be patient
When you first bring a fearful dog home, she may need a week or two to settle in. A successful treatment plan will slowly and gently help a fearful dog overcome her trepidation by teaching her to associate scary scenarios, like meeting strangers, with things she loves, like food and play. As in human parenting, patience in pet parenting is important.
3. Make your training consistent
When changing your dog's behavior, it’s important for the whole family to commit to it, because consistency is crucial. Always reward good behavior and never reward unwanted behavior. If you control the consequences of your dog's behavior consistently, you can effectively change how he behaves.
"At the Rehab Center, we see many overcome even extreme fear and go on to happy lives in new homes."
4. Understand your pet
Successful adoption is all about good matchmaking. If you're interested in adopting a fearful dog, speak to shelter staff who know the dog well. Ask what provokes the dog's fear before bringing her home. Also consider how the dog’s personality matches your lifestyle expectations. If you frequently host parties or attend public events, a dog who's afraid of strangers, busy environments or loud noises may not be a good fit.
5. Exercise energetic dogs
Many unruly dogs simply need an outlet for their natural energy. If your dog seems "out of control," jumping up on people and being over-exuberant, increase his daily exercise. Most healthy dogs need at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity a day. Teach your dog to fetch, take him on daily jogs or enroll him in doggie daycare or dog sports classes.
6. Give them something to chew on
Many dogs gnaw on inappropriate things simply because they don't have attractive, appropriate alternatives. So provide plenty of safe chewable choices. One idea: Stuffing tasty food inside hollow rubber puzzle toys. If your dog makes a goof, like starting to gnaw on your leather shoes instead of his chew toys, swoop in, remove the wrong choice and replace it immediately with a tasty right choice. Too often, pet owners focus on the “take away,” but not the “replace.”
When you're not around, leave your dog in a dog-proofed area filled only with his toys and chews. That will help prevent bad habits from forming. Dogs with behavioral challenges can change. At the Rehab Center, we see many overcome even extreme fear and go on to happy lives in new homes. So if your canine diamond in the rough needs a little polishing up, don’t despair. If you give him the mental and physical exercise he needs, consistent feedback and lots of rewards for good behavior, he’ll show you what a loving, loyal companion he can be.