You have a reactive dog.
You are beating your head against the wall trying to understand why. “Why is my dog all of a sudden this unrecognizable creature?”
It started with cute nibbles… then he gained ten lbs and it started to hurt…
So you told him no and jerked your hand away…
Now its a game!! A game that's taught him he can use his mouth to get what he wants…
You’re left wondering what happened…
I’ll tell you what happened...
1. They are DOGS NOT people
2. Dogs speak dog they do NOT speak English or any other human language. Dogs have to be taught what the words mean, and that is what training is for.
3. What is socially acceptable in the dog world is NOT necessarily socially acceptable in the human world.
4. They have their own way of communicating with each other and attempting to communicate with humans, through body language and vocalizations such as barking, whining, growling, snarling, etc.
Sometimes what sounds or looks terrible to the human ear or eye is actually just a dog’s way of saying “Stop!”, “Mine!”, or “Get out of my face!”
Since your dog’s form of communication does NOT always jive with human forms of communication it is your job to understand your dog’s likes and dislikes, stick up for your dog, and teach him/her how to cope with various situations in a “human-acceptable” manner.
So...Why would your dog lunge, bark, growl, and show teeth?
1. Illness, Pain, or Discomfort.
• Dogs will act differently when they are ill, in pain, or uncomfortable. They may be more irritable than would be if they were feeling healthy.
Thus, your dog may act out inappropriately (growling, snapping, snarling, biting). Similarly, when a human is sick or uncomfortable he/she may lose his or her temper more easily, or say things he/she would not say normally.
2. Pent up energy/Lack of exercise.
• Dogs NEED exercise, physical and mental! The amount of exercise needed will vary depending on the dog. When a dog is not given enough exercise on the daily basis the dog’s energy will build up and literally boil over, meaning he/she will likely act out in an undesirable fashion (ie constant barking, chewing, etc.).
This could escalate to more aggressive behaviour when put under stress. Dogs need an outlet; give them something constructive to do with their energy.
This can be equated to cabin fever in humans.
• When a dog is scared of something it will do 1 of 3 things: Fight, Flight, or Freeze. If you have taken away their flight option they will resort to fight or freeze, neither of which are healthy options. You are probably most concerned about the fight option at this point.
This does not necessarily mean your dog actually gets into a physical fight with another dog or animal, but it is likely lunging, barking, and/or growling at the perceived threat.
This is a dog’s first attempt to say, “Stay away from me you are a scary thing!” It is your job to help your dog work through his/her fears and teach him/her constructive coping behaviours that will keep him/her safe.
4. Bad Introductions.
• As humans we generally all follow a common etiquette when introducing ourselves to others. Similarly, dogs have standards of etiquette they follow when meeting each other.
They usually learn this etiquette from their mothers (if they got to spend enough quality time with their moms as pups).
If dogs had a choice, they would prefer to meet nose to tail. Unfortunately, when thrown into the human environment they are often forced into greeting each other nose to nose.
Nose to nose greetings are rude, awkward, and challenging in the dog world. Some may view it as a threat or a challenge resulting in snarling, growling, snapping, and possibly even a fight in more extreme cases.
The dog’s reaction to the greeting will depend on circumstances, temperament, and past experiences.
5. Protection of a Valuable Resource.
• A dog protecting its resources is a natural behaviour. It is a survival mechanism. The resource can be anything from food, water, the food dish, a bone, a special toy to a bed or space.
It is anything that it sees as valuable, usually to its survival. When a dog feels something it values is going to be taken away from it, the dog may show teeth, growl, bark, snap or bite.
Again this is a dog’s way of saying, “That is MINE!”
It is your job to OWN and protects these resources from the beginning, helps the dog understand he/she does not have to protect these resources, because YOU will.
CONCLUSION: It all boils down to LEADERSHIP! Your dog needs leadership, your guidance on how to act in all of these possible scenarios.
He/She needs to feel safe, secure, and confident that you will take control of ALL potentially bad situations.
When your dog TRUSTS YOU, you will be able to TRUST YOUR DOG!
So What Do I Do Now?
You know WHY potentially your dog lunges, barks, growls, and snarls in different situations.
Now the question is HOW are you going to address these behaviours?
How are you going to be the LEADER? How are you going to earn your dog’s TRUST?
You're going to call a trainer today & get help.
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