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— January 20, 2015 —
Top Five Ways to Mess Up Your Dog
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

Last week we wrote about the Five Habits of Highly Successful (Dog) People. This week, the top 5 ways to really make a mess of your dog.

What do I mean when I say, “Make a mess of your dog?” What I am referring to is the things we can do to make our dogs neurotic, fearful, self destructive, aggressive and/or unhealthy. Some people come to me with a dog and say, “But I didn’t have to do ANYTHING as far as training with my last dog, he was perfect.”

To those people I usually say, “Congratulations. Those perfect dogs are few and far between. This one is normal.”

Generally when we trainers meet a dog with major behavioral issues, there are some patterns that we see which contribute to those issues. Here, in no particular order are 5 ways to mess a dog up.
  1. Feed them as much as they want, all the time…and get the cheap stuff. No need for that $50.00 a bag dog food. As far as feeding time, there should be no feeding time…free feeding is the way to go and it’s so much less work.
    Free feeding is generally a bad idea. Feeding time is a great time to do some positive training. After all, what better reward is there than a big bowl of dinner? Another way to ruin your dog is to get the bargain store brand food. I think the majority of kibble is made from the things that cannot be used for human food. Major increases in cancers, allergies and other heath issues are linked to the increase in feeding poor quality commercial dog food. Here is a link to a dog food rating system that we like to share. It helps you determine if what you feed your dog is of good quality. www.abouttimecanecorso.com/KibbleQuality

  2. Grooming isn’t important. Let your long-coated dog develop dreads. They’re fashionable and groomers are expensive.
    Ever had a knot in your hair and tried to comb it? Hurts, huh? Well that is what happens every time a dog with mats walks or moves. Imagine that the hair on your forearm is tied to the hair on your head…or back ;-). Every time you move your arm, it pulls the hair and hurts both areas. Also, severe mats can trap moisture on the skin and cause some very nasty infections. Often when we find a matted dog, the horrible smell coming off of them is from the infected sores under their mats. Mind you, this is severe neglect, much worse than a few painful mats, but we have taken dogs surrendered out of homes with this condition.

  3. Exercise? Forget it. A fat dog is a happy dog, right?
    I admit it, my dogs got a little heavy last year. I was working on adding some variety to their feeding with raw and some kibble and the measurements were not exactly right. We have made some adjustments and cut back, and they have trimmed down a bit.

    Every time I see a fat dog with behavioral issues, I immediately start to think about exercise. Pent-up dogs have to exhaust their energy somehow. If they don’t get to run and exercise, they will “exercise” on your blinds, rugs, table legs, whatever. They may “exercise” by becoming defensive or aggressive. They may exercise by digging up your begonias. So, you’ll be putting time in somewhere. It might as well be time spent doing positive exercise, not cleaning up his mess.

  4. Training is for suckers. My dog can already sit…as long as he isn’t distracted. Oh, and I carry him everywhere because he’s scared of things.
    A dog that is fearful may be genetically challenged, or maybe it just needs some training. I am currently working with a big beautiful pit bull who is fearful. To his owner’s credit, he does exercise his dog and his dog already knows how to sit. He also recognized that his dog needed something he didn’t know how to provide. Now after 5 or 6 lessons, he reports that his dog is much more confident “out in the world” than before. We have about a dozen lessons left to go. What did I do to help this guy? Simple. I helped provide an additional level of communication between dog and human. I showed the human how to communicate with his dog more effectively. This gave the dog a higher level of trust in his human to keep him safe. Over time, the dog will see the world through this new filter and his confidence will continue to grow.

  5. I want my dog to portray my tough guy image. I don’t really want him to be tough. I just want him to look tough.
    This may be my biggest pet peeve. Every breed that has developed a “bad rap” has generally had something like this happen. A tough-looking or muscular breed is discovered and the wrong people are drawn to it. Years ago, German Shepherds and Dobermans were the tough dog of choice. Now it’s Pit Bulls and eventually some of the working mastiffs will be on the banned breed list. Literally thousands (or millions?) of dogs have died because of the image that people want to portray with their dogs. Nat Geo put out this video a few years ago, and wouldn’t you know it, I actually had a guy come in with a Dutch Shepherd who bought his dog specifically because of it’s “attack style” as demonstrated in this video. He had done absolutely no training and was not happy with his dog’s behavior. Not that the owner alone was to blame for his situation. I also blame the breeder who sold him a dog that he was completely not equipped to handle. I preach it every time I get the chance. Educate yourself about the characteristics of the dog you want to adopt or buy and be realistic. I have had a couple of people say, “When I read they could be dominant, headstrong, defensive, etc I thought I could handle it. Now that I see what they meant, it’s more than I am ready for.”
It’s important to educate yourself about the dog you want and what the dog will need to be a good companion. Read up on dog behavior and learn about selecting a puppy. Also, I usually recommend adopting a slightly older dog if you are going to rescue. If you can meet a dog’s parents, you can get a great deal of information about your puppy’s adult behavior. A puppy can change a LOT from 8 weeks to 1 or 2 years of age.

I recently had a very unfortunate case where a couple selected a very scared 8 week old puppy from a rescue and that dog grew up to be a flat out dangerous adult dog. This was nothing they did or didn’t do. Their dog was genetically fearful and quite aggressive, perhaps one of the worst I have seen…and he wasn’t a Pit Bull or Rottweiler or any other breed you think of as dangerous.

So there you have it. Five ways to mess up a dog and the reasons not to do it. Hopefully it will help someone, somewhere to think a little differently about the time and effort that their dog requires.

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