I was at a Home Dog Training session last week in Johns Creek with a new client and her German Shorthaired Pointer, Toby. The big problem that she was experiencing with Toby was pulling on the leash while they were taking their morning walk around the neighborhood. We worked on redirecting Toby’s attention to her while practicing simple “focus techniques” when she would start to pull ahead or be too attentive to other distractions.
German Shorthaired Pointers are very smart dogs and Toby was no exception. She responded quite well to the training technique and my client is sure that they are going in the right direction. As we were finishing the session, she mentioned that she wanted Toby to be an outside dog and spend almost all of her time in the back yard. I wanted to let her know that I was not a big fan of that type of “living arrangement” for companion animals.
Recent studies have shown that humans and dogs have lived together in a domestic relationship for at least 18,000 years. That is a very long time, and a very long time for a natural bond to build between human nature and canine nature. Dogs and humans are both social animals. Dogs have packs and humans have families. Both rely on the strength of the group to provide the nurturing and safety for every individual.
When people live away from everyone else, we often call them hermits and crazies. When dogs are away from the pack, they lose their safety and security. It is natural that both dogs and people would rather live in a group than alone.
To have a properly socialized dog, he needs to constantly observe us to appreciate our actions. It helps to build a consistency of his understanding of the group. This allows him to calmly react to daily situations and comprehend his responsibilities within the group.
As “the humans” and our dog’s leader, we need to continually interact with him in order to allow him to learn our rules of appropriate and inappropriate behavior. This is only done through constant and repetitive reinforcement of our rules in a way that our dog can naturally comprehend. As this process takes hold, his focus on us as his leader and care-giver is clearly established and his understanding of “belonging” is complete.
When we keep our dog outside for most of the day, we are unable to provide the leadership and direction needed to create this natural bond. Our dog starts to make up his own rules because there is nobody else around to take a leadership role. Many times this will lead to aggression toward other animals because he is still looking to establish his own pack and safe territory.
Food hoarding and aggressive ownership of toys will normally also be prevalent in this situation. He will often show strong dominance over anyone entering the back yard in the form of jumping and nipping. If he gets out of the yard, he will normally be in such an adrenalized state that he will scare anyone he comes across. This often causes the person to become scared and react in such a way that could cause the dog to jump and bite them.
In some instances, he may become fearful of people entering the back yard. This will cause him to retreat to his doghouse or a corner of the yard. If you try to approach him, his “fight or flight” instinct may take hold and he may lunge at you and try to bite.
When most of us get a dog, we want someone that will provide us with unconditional love, complete companionship, respectful focus, and fun play. Having a dog ostracized to the back yard for most of the day is not a way to create this environment and is not a way to humanely treat a dog.
We need to understand that dogs are pack creatures and have been naturally bread to be with humans. When we take that away, there can be unfavorable results.
Please call Robin or me at (770) 718-7704 if you need any dog training help. We are blessed to have been your local dog training professionals for over sixteen years. We have trained over 5,000 great dogs and loving families and are ready to help you.