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Understanding Why Dogs Misbehave

Even the most well-trained dog misbehaves once in a while. But don't make the mistake of interpreting your dog's actions in human terms. Vengeance and retaliation are human characteristics. What you may interpret as retaliation on the part of your dog is far more apt to be instinct or even anxiety and frustration. Although it may seem so, your dog did not diabolically plan to get back at you.

Punishment is entirely appropriate at certain times, but the punishment itself must be appropriate, as well. For example, separation anxiety can manifest itself in many ways. Dogs mildly affected will often seek out an object that is very personally "you." A shoe, an undergarment, or a glove are as close as your dog can get to you when you're gone, and your absence can best be endured through the dog's highly developed art of chewing.

For example, you come home and find your favorite (and most expensive!) shoes in shreds and assume your dog has done this to you because he is angry that you left him behind. But you have entirely misunderstood why he did what he did. He missed his lord and master, and got as close to him as he could in the best way he knew how. What you call retaliation, your dog calls devotion.

Assuming your dog has intentionally done something to spite you is a foolish error in judgment on your part. Flying off into a rage because of the behavior is both unfair and dangerous. It's unfair because dogs aren't vengeful creatures, and it's dangerous because some breeds — such as Rottweilers — aren't willing to accept that kind of treatment. There is a vast difference between punishment and abuse.

If you respond with rage when your dog acts out of anxiety, you're only compounding the problem. When punishment for an infraction of rules is warranted, you must always remember three rules:

  • Be calm
  • Be fair
  • Be consistent

A responsible pet owner should be able to interact with the pet on that basis all the time and no matter what the circumstances!

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