We are facing an imminent and very serious behavioural crisis for ‘Lockdown Dogs’ as we finally face the possibility of lockdown easing. That’s the warning from leading dog trainer and behaviourist, Daniel Markham, who runs Dogs Behaving Perfectly, and is now dealing first-hand with dogs that are exhibiting worrying and dangerous behaviours. “In the past month I’ve seen two dogs who want to chase cars constantly, a dog growling and biting its owner, a French Bulldog attempting to attack every dog it sees in the street and a large German Shepherd ready to bite anyone who gets too close. ” Daniel says there is an emerging pattern in all of these cases. “The anxiety and stress many people have suffered during lockdown, quite understandably, has had a direct impact on their dogs. When I speak to dog owners about the problems they are having with their pets, I always ask a couple of searching questions about how they are feeling themselves. When I do, I’m often faced with a tearful owner who opens up and explains to me that they’ve suffered a recent traumatic event in their lives. This might be a bereavement, a sudden separation from their long-term partner or they or someone they know have become poorly” Daniel says in these types of events owners latch on to their dogs. Owners are seeking love, affection and companionship from their dog. They dispense with any of the usual house rules or discipline and start to treat their pet as a human, almost feeling sorry for their pet. However, this is not in the best interests of the dog. A dog needs strong leadership, guidance and discipline with timely love and affection. “Lockdown coupled with another traumatic event can see both dog and owner becoming like two frightened dogs clinging on to each other, isolated from the scary world outside, in a man-made cave. This is a recipe for disaster” Daniel says that fear in dogs nearly always leads to aggression and that aggression can lead to a serious attack on a dog, a person or even a child if left unchecked. He says “if your dog has suddenly started displaying signs of aggression towards other dogs, people or you, then you need to act now. These problems rarely go away by themselves and will only escalate without intervention. I’ve included my top ten tips below on what you can do to tackle the issue.”
If your dog’s behaviour has changed and they start showing signs of nervousness and/or aggression first speak to your vet. Underlying health problems can sometimes be a cause of behavioural change.
Seek advice from a professional dog trainer/behaviourist who is willing to train and guide you in the skills you need to handle and manage your dog. Being a successful dog owner is a skill you have to learn.
Go back to basics and re-establish house rules. To do this, you must have your dog on a lead in the house. When you need to tell you dog to do something, ensure you only tell them once and use the lead to direct you dog. For example, if you ask your dog to get off the sofa and they don’t move, pick up the lead and bring them off. The lead is an indirect way of controlling your dog whilst ensuring your hands only come into direct contact with the dog to give praise and affection; of course you give that praise as soon as the dog comes off the sofa. Don’t give your dog a free run of the home. Don’t allow them to use the furniture as an agility course.
Stop praising and fussing your dog for just being there. Praise, affection and treats must only be given when the dog is behaving in a desirable manner. Stroking and trying to reassure a dog that is barking at something they’re frightened of will make the issues worse. This might sound obvious, but many owners make this mistake.
Turn mealtimes into training sessions. Feed all the food by hand as a reward when training basic commands such as ‘sit’, ‘down’ and ‘stay’.
Play ball with your dog, but do not play tug-of-war games. If your dog starts to become excited by a ball this can be a useful distraction away from things they fear. Make sure you develop the game. A game of search can be so stimulating for dogs.
Exercise your dog appropriately. A fit, healthy dog needs to be walked for at least an hour and half a day and not just to the same location as always to have the ball thrown for them two or three times. Get out and find new exciting walks.
Every walk should include a bit of formal training. Recall, sit, down and walking well on the lead.
Change your attitude around the dog. Be calm, assertive, consistent and give genuine praise/affection at the right time.
And finally, not all dogs are compatible with their owners. Some dogs require an experienced owner. If you have to part company from your dog, ensure you re-home responsibly. Talk to a dog rescue centre. They are the experts in this area.
Daniel Markham started training dogs when he was thirteen, back in 1993. His parents bred and showed German Shepherd dogs and established a dog training centre in the West Midlands. After leaving school, he joined the family business to train full time. Daniel and his father gained an excellent reputation for being able to help dogs that had become difficult with very severe behavioural issues. Daniel has trained dogs for agility, search work, working trials and obedience. He now runs his own business - Dogs Behaving Pawfectly in Kent. Daniel is available for interviews and to give help and useful, practical advice to your readers and audience. Contact details: 07904 394 843 firstname.lastname@example.org www.dogsbehavingpawfectly.com