Way of the Dog


Before giving your dog away due to behavior issues, make sure these two basic needs are being met!

If you have been frustrated to the point of considering returning your dog to the breeder, rescue, or even the shelter, you’re not alone. Some of the more common behavior problems that can cause overwhelmed owners to consider giving up their dog are jumping, chewing, barking, digging, anxiety, hyper-activity, and aggression. Many owners have tried multiple forms of obedience training, yet still haven’t resolved these problems. This is because teaching a dog to sit, or perform other tricks for treats, is not relevant to the problems they are experiencing. The truth is, failing to meet a dog’s basic needs is the root of many canine behavior problems but the good news is that this article will provide simple ways you can significantly improve your dog’s behavior, just by understanding and meeting two of his basic needs.

The first basic need is access to the pack. In the wild, from the moment a dog is born until the moment he dies, he is never alone and always near his pack. Your domesticated dog’s “pack” is you and any other family members in your home. What many dog owners fail to consider is why we expect dogs to listen to us in the first place. A dog’s willingness to obey is only possible because they are social pack animals and therefore codependent on us, which is how we are able to control them. Their codependency requires access to their pack to feel safe and secure and in order to do this you must meet these three requirements:

1. Access to the inside of the house 24/7. Locking dogs outside away from their pack can create stress and anxiety. Access via a dog door is ideal or, if confinement is necessary, in a crate or pen in your main living area.

2. The five hour rule. Avoid leaving your dog alone for more than five straight hours without human interaction. If you are typically away for a standard work day, it is ideal to break up the day by coming home at lunch or having a pet sitter/dog walker visit mid-day.

3. Access to your bedroom at night. Dogs naturally sleep with their pack and need to have access to you and your bedroom throughout the night. Be sure they have their own dog bed or (if necessary) a crate in your bedroom.

The second basic need is exercise. The average, active, mid-size dog typically does well with two 45 minute power walks a day. Every dog has different exercise needs and you will need to determine your dog’s exact requirements. The goal is to exercise your dog enough that the rest of your daily interactions with him are calm and relaxed.

The peak hours to exercise your dog are during dawn and dusk, as these are his natural hunting hours and his energy levels are at their highest. The evening hours in particular are usually the most hyper times for dogs. If you are able to satisfy your dogs exercise needs just prior to the busy dinnertime hours, he will be more calm and compliant throughout the rest of the evening.

If you are limited on time when walking your dog for exercise, it’s best to try power walking, jogging or hiking. Playing fetch is also an excellent way to tire your dog out. Allowing your dog to play with other dogs is a great form of exercise as well, so explore options like doggy daycare, dog parks, dog beaches, and doggy playdates.

When your dog’s exercise needs are being satisfied and he has access to his pack at all times, most problems are significantly reduced. If you are still experiencing problems, then it’s time to explore if your dog has underlying issues that need to be addressed by a professional. Honoring these two critical needs gives your dog a fair chance to become and remain a happy member of your family.


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