Your News: Humans and hounds in harmony

Karen Wild column EMN-140228-152551001
Karen Wild column EMN-140228-152551001

In my behaviour work, I am often asked to assess dogs that are doing the ‘wrong thing’.

This can range from pulling on the lead or stealing food right up to dogs that have bitten and severely injured other dogs or people.

Most of the time, the dog is also very intelligent and has powerful instincts; often fear, but also social or predatory. In other words, these dogs are brilliant at doing what they were bred for. They don’t understand the human rules and are using their skills in the wrong place. How is it possible to help these dogs, and help your own dog not to develop these issues?

Dogs that chase: Dogs were bred to use this instinct as a means to help us with hunting, or controlling vermin. This means the slightest movement , scent or sound can set them off. Teach your chasing dog to only chase his toys instead. Adding rules to the game mean that chasing is only allowed when your dog hears the magic word ‘fetch’.

Dogs that jump up: A strong social instinct whereby most dogs are simply trying to reach our faces. Did you know that dogs can read human expressions, even upside down? Don;t look or pay attention to your dog until he is sitting. If he is demanding attention, teach him to sit, and use a lead to make sure he is guided into staying there

Dogs that are afraid: This is extremely common. Specialist help from a registered behaviourist, not just a trainer, is needed. Your sensitive dog needs you to act as confident guide. Never force him to ‘face his demons’. This leads to panic and aggression.

Next time your dog does something you dislike, plan ahead. Which skills does he have? You will probably find that they are two sides of the same coin.