Behaviour problems are often about perception. After all, whilst you might not like your dog barking and jumping up at guests - your dog probably doesn't have a problem with it!
And what might be unacceptable behaviour from your dog for you, might be completely okay for another owner. We're all individuals, both dogs & people, and have our own unique outlook on the world.
But this can be difficult for us to get our heads around. And if we're very fixed in our viewpoint, it can be hard to see it from the other side.
Benefit of the doubt
Mostly, I'd like to give dogs the benefit of the doubt.
Just this morning I was doing some agility training with Jade. She's special in all sorts of ways, but particularly because of how successful she's been despite a diagnosis of EOD (Early Onset Deafness).
Not being able to use words has really had me paying attention to my body language in order to direct her around an agility course. And guess what? When I'm on my game, she's on hers.
She doesn't go the wrong way to spite me or because she's deliberately ignoring me. She can't do better than the best information she's given.
How to 'fix' a behaviour problem
So when people ask me what I consider acceptable or non-acceptable behaviour, I'll reply with this rather infuriating answer..
Because here's the thing.. behaviour is influenced by so many factors - here's just a few that spring to mind:
- Training history
- Consistency of owners
What need isn't being met?
I captured these little video clips to give you an idea of what I mean. This is Impact, my 5 month old Working Cocker Spaniel puppy, first thing in the morning.
She is always a happy, bubbly little person - but there are times where she can be a little wired.. by which I mean she's there in body, but her brain is elsewhere.
This is often an indicator to me that she needs something.. and it's up to me to play Detective Poirot (I do love a bit of Agatha Christie!) to work out what it is.
Until her needs are met she will find it difficult to be her best self. Just the same as you or I would find it difficult too.
This need is pretty easy to work out because it's first thing in the morning - she's hungry! And you see after that need is met, I have a calmer, more relaxed little person as a result.
But what if I can't meet their need right then?
Sure there will be times I ask my dogs to do things they'd rather not. Like holding still at the vets if something is uncomfortable or when I'm trimming the hair on their feet.
But I've earned the right to ask difficult questions because I'm fair in meeting their needs the majority of the time.
Sadly though, I often meet dogs and owners where a lack of communication has resulted in misunderstanding and mistrust at both ends of the lead.
Fortunately dogs are very forgiving of our human imperfections! And if we set to work on understanding them better and commit to meeting their needs to the best of our abilities, great things ARE possible.
Today I'm grateful for the amount of forgiveness dogs have graced me with as I learned to be a better guardian.