When a dog owner’s frustration begins to mount with the behavior issues their pet is presenting, the first thought may be that the dog is ruining their life, being bad, and possibly should be turned over to the shelter so that they can rid themselves of the pressing inconvenience.
This is such a sad and unfortunately common scenario.
We humans seem to evaluate dog behavior as to how annoying it is. Granted, many times dogs are just a bit strange genetically. These may be dogs that display some undesirable, yet not intolerable, traits that over time may be either ignored or enabled by the owner. Then there are the cases where the owner reports that out of the blue their dog transformed into a four-legged nightmare. I would advise those folks to examine the possible medical explanations (physical), and what triggered the change (emotional).
As a trainer, I see far more emotionally confused dogs than I do sick dogs. There are some specific behavior problems that may bring to mind a possible physical cause and these need to be ruled out first. The most common one is the dog that regresses in its housebreaking. Perhaps this dog suddenly begins urinating in its crate. I would first check to make sure the pooch wasn’t suffering from a urinary tract infection, for example.
In evaluating the dog with emotional problems, it is important that the owner feels compassion for the dog and understands that “fixing” the issues is not an overnight project. It takes understanding, a lot of time, and is extremely worthy of professional help from a trainer who understands dog behavior, not just someone who wants to “correct” the dog out of its problems. It’s impossible to cure an emotional problem with fear. For severe cases there are certified animal behaviorists who do nothing but deal with issues such as you may be addressing.
It is a rude awakening to some owners that their dog has emotions that have suffered a great deal. Think for a moment of all of the emotional issues that we humans have. Some we bring with us from childhood, some brought on by trauma, and some simply develop over time. All of them are complicated and slow to respond to treatment.
My message is to get help if need be, but don’t abandon your dog.
Keep asking yourself if the unsuspecting person that may adopt your dog from the shelter is going to appreciate bringing home a pet that proves to be a financial and personal burden…
There are absolutely wonderful folks out there who take on unbelievably challenging dogs. To read of such a person, refer to my blog about Duke and his awesome owner, Todd. However,do not assume that the world is full of Todd’s because we all know they are few and far between!
Perhaps a better solution to the problems we face with our dogs is trying to change our own thinking first. Take a deep breath and search for answers and understanding. Maybe we could learn to be more like Todd.