We were in Gainesville late last week visiting some friends who had just been transferred here from Tennessee. While we were there, he told us that when they were still in Tennessee, they and their neighbor down the street had adopted puppies from the same litter from a breeder in Nashville.
They had gone to pick out the puppies together and both chose puppies that appeared to have the same characteristics. He is now over a year old and their puppy has turned out to be very calm and well behaved. They talk with their friend in Tennessee on a regular basis and he has told them that his puppy is nuts. They were wondering why this would happen.
Robin and I have observed this over and over again in our time as dog trainers. In fact, this seemingly weird occurrence is pretty simple to explain. Most dog owners often try to blame the dogs by saying “Oh, I just got a bad puppy”. To put it bluntly, unlike cars, there is almost never such a thing as a “lemon puppy”. Robin and I have constantly observed that a puppy’s (and dog’s) temperament and behavior is highly driven by the family dynamics in which that dog is placed. Family dynamics is critical in the development of a dog’s behavior, overall temperament, and social nature.
Let’s first think about a dog who has been placed in a family that consists of older adults. An example of such a family would be one containing empty nesters or retirees. They normally lead a calmer and more sedate lifestyle. Such a lifestyle will reflect on the dog in such a manner as to make him to be calm, cool, and rather mellow.
On the other hand, if you have a family that is highly dynamic, has children who love to actively engage with the family dog, and there are always people and things happening in the home, the dog will probably be more vibrant, interactive, playful, and assertive. (Please note that these characteristics can sometimes cause the dog to be “annoying”.)
Remember the old saying, “You are what you eat”. A family’s dog will almost always adapt to the family’s dynamic in order to easily fit in and be “part of the group”. Since I assume that most people have no problem when their dog is calm and well behaved, I will concentrate my discussion on the crazy families and their “active” dogs. Here are some suggestions I would provide:
- The family should never go nuts with their dog in the house. They are creating a “norm” that communicates to their dog that it is OK to chase, bark, jump, and steal at any time with anyone in the house. When their dog does these things, he is doing it because he has been conditioned to believe that those “probably unwanted” actions are acceptable.
- Our grade school teachers loved recess because it was a time for us to get all of our “crazy” released outside in a controlled and acceptable environment. The same is true with us and our dog. That is why I always tell my clients to allow a minimum of 30 minutes every day to get their dog out in the back yard. This is a time where they should have their dog play hard and go completely nuts. They can do things like tossing the Frisbee, throw tennis balls for their dog to run after, do a little scatter feeding to excite and energize their dog, or anything else that gets their dog to run and be excited. These activities will drain that “nasty adrenaline” that causes so many problems inside the house.
- Their kids should try and “tone it down” when they interact inside with the family dog. They should calmly pet the dog by stroking him from the back of his head to the middle of his neck. This is a very soothing and comforting experience for the dog. When the kids consistently interact calmly with the family dog, it readjusts his association towards the kids from one of “you are the crazies I play with” to one of “respectful focus and calm interaction”.
- Whenever there are guests over to the house, they must tell them not to pay attention to their dog for the first few minutes after their arrival. When new people enter the house, most dogs view them as “potential playmates”. Since they are “playmates” the family dog will naturally engage them “as playmates” by jumping and barking at them. If the guests ignore the dog as soon as they enter, it will send a physical signal that “Hey, I am not your playmate”. Thus, the dog will remain calm. If the guests want to play with the dog, they should wait for about fifteen to thirty minutes and then take him in the backyard and play.
- When the situation with the family dog gets a little crazy and the family needs to correct their dog, it is very important that they still remain calm. Remember, “correcting” doesn’t mean that you have to become physical or overly active. These things will only make your dog misbehave more. Proper correction involves standing tall and correcting in a low toned “Mommy really means it” voice. Having a leash on your dog when he starts to go crazy will also allow you to calmly correct by directing him away from the “issue causing the problem”.
It is critical that our friend’s Tennessee neighbor manages their dog’s adrenaline by the examples we provided. When they are calm with their dog, they will not encourage a jump in his adrenaline that tends to cause “all that annoying and crazy stuff”.
Please call or text us at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. You can also email us at [email protected]. We are blessed to have been your local dog training experts for over eighteen years. We have trained over 6,000 wonderful dogs and excellent families and are ready to help you.