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Trouble Shooting


Dogs are pack animals. Your family is its pack, and your dog needs to know its place – at the bottom!

Even the best trained dog can sometimes misbehave but if your dog is constantly disobeying you or misbehaving you need to act to get your dog under control and comfortable with its position in the family.

If you are not sure what to do or despite all your best efforts your dog is still misbehaving, then you might need to enrol both of you in obedience classes or seek other professional help. Taking your dog to 'puppy pre-school' or 'dog obedience' classes has a number of benefits for both of you. Your dog will experience being trained with you and enjoy socialising with other dogs and you get to socialise with other owners. You can find out about classes from your vet, local SPCA, or contact your Local Council dog control officer.

If your dog seems to have suddenly changed you should take it to vet to have it checked out. A sore tooth or something else wrong can cause a personality change in an otherwise well trained, gentle dog.

Problem: dog not obeying commands

To regain control over your dog, make it pay attention to you. Call its name and get it to look at you then give a command such as ‘Sit’ before you feed or pat it. Ignore the dog and don’t feed or pat it until it obeys you and sits. Make your dog sit before putting on its leash or opening the door to let it outside. Be consistent. Don’t let the dog take control – by letting your dog dictate when it should be fed, walked, let in and so on, it will think it is the boss.

Reduce the number of commands you give and only give a command you know will be obeyed. Reward your dog when it obeys (treat, food, toy, pat). These measures help reinforce the habit of obedience, rather than disobedience.

There are many ways to praise a dog - some live for food and others for attention. Still others just want you to throw the ball or Frisbee after they have done the right thing. It is up to you to figure out what gets your dog excited, and use that for reward.

Try these things for a couple of weeks. If there is no difference in behaviour, look for an obedience school or other professional help.

Problem: aggression towards other dogs

Dogs that go to puppy pre-school are socialised with other dogs at an early age, and so are less likely to fight. Obedience training can help older dogs too, and will give you more control over your dog. If your dog is not already sterilised, having it neutered or spayed might reduce aggressive behaviour.

Be aware of what makes your dog aggressive to other dogs – is it territorial based – response to a stress situation – a guard response to perceived threat to his pack (you and your family). Once you have identified the trigger you will be in a better position to take avoiding action, desensitise the dog if needed and to reward non aggressive behaviour.

For example if you are walking your dog and another dog is in the vicinity don’t let your dog pull on the leash to try and get at the other dog. Say ‘No’ firmly and immediately turn around and walk in the other direction. Reward your dog when it turns away from the other dog and looks at you when you call its name.

Problem: pulling when on the leash

Stop still as soon as your dog pulls, immediately not a few seconds later. Stop, say ‘easy’ and just wait. Keep saying ‘easy’ and hold your ground. After a little while your dog will turn around and see what is going on. As soon as the leash is slack, start walking again.

Teach your dog the ‘heel’ command. This teaches your dog to walk beside you. This should only be used a couple of times on the walk, as it is a bit boring (for both of you).

Problem: escaping your property and roaming

Check out your fence. Is there a ledge, compost bin or shed that helps your dog get over the fence? Additional height may need to be added. Can your dog get under the fence? Do you need need a contained area for your dog so that people can get to your front door? This could also prevent your dog escaping from through a gate left open. A dog will give up escaping if its attempts fail.

A dog will escape and wander because of:

  • anxiety – due to separation from its owner or because something has frightened it at home, like a storm
  • plain curiosity, opportunity and boredom
  • search for a mate – if it hasn’t been de-sexed
  • hunger
  • a lack of training
  • a lack of exercise
  • a change in routine - such as a new home.

Problem: persistent barking

Try to identify why your dog barks persistently. It might need more exercise or it could be hungry, bored, anxious, lonely or uncomfortable, irritated by fleas or flies. Children might be teasing it through the fence. Make some changes to fix what you think could be the problem, and see if the behaviour changes. If your dog continues to bark, seek advice from your vet, the SPCA or animal control officer at your Your Council.

Problem: You can’t keep your dog any longer

Why might you feel that you can no longer keep your dog? Common reasons include money problems, accommodation changes, allergies, uncontrollable or nuisance behaviour.

First, seek advice. Your vet, obedience school, or SPCA can often provide helpful advice, especially about behavioural or health issues.

If you do decide you really cannot keep your dog any longer, (or for the foreseeable future) try finding a new temporary or permanent home for it by talking to other family members, friends and neighbours. Advertise in your local paper, or community notice boards. Provide realistic information about your dog to help a prospective owner make a good decision.

If you cannot find a new home for your dog, you can surrender it to the SPCA. The SPCA will try to find it a new home, but if unable to do so may have to humanely put the dog down.

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