New Owners – Dog temperament basics to prevent bad dog behavior
Dog owners often choose their next canine companion based on size and appearance rather than on their preferred dog temperament. This can lead to problems with behaviors that aren't appreciated by the owner, but are completely normal for their chosen breed.
Although our pet dogs all have the same ancestry, there is a huge variation in type and behavior. Compare the tiny Yorkshire Terrier with the Great Dane, or the active and agile Border Collie with the pet Greyhound who prefers to spend their days on the couch. You must make sure your dog temperament suits your lifestyle, or you are both heading for unhappiness.
The herding breeds like the Australian Shepherd and Border Collie have been carefully bred over hundreds of years to have a very strong herding instinct. It is in their nature to round up and move animals, and even nip them on the heels to keep them walking forward. It should be no surprise to you that your herding breed might do the same thing to your children. While it may be bad behavior in your eyes, it is exactly what you should expect from a dog designed to herd.
Some breeds have evolved over the years to be independent workers. Consider the Bull Mastiff, a dog bred in England to patrol large country estates and catch poachers. These dogs didn't have their master alongside them to guide them all the time. Don't be too surprised if your Bull Mastiff appears stubborn and difficult to train; they were designed to think for themselves.
Another example of dog temperament related problems is found in the terrier breeds such as the Bull Terrier, Carin Terrier, Border Terrier, etc. Bred to go to ground and hunt vermin, they are great diggers. It's normal behavior for them, but not nice if you love your garden.
Before you welcome a dog into your family, you must carefully look at their breed's history and purpose. From this, you will understand more about the normal behaviors you can expect from them, and how you can best meet their needs. You are less likely to have to deal with behavior problems that are essentially normal for your dog, and you'll enjoy their company so much more.
Existing Owners – How to work with your dog's temperaments to eliminate bad dog behavior
What if you already have a breed of dog whose normal dog temperament is causing you problems? There is a solution.
You will need to give your canine companion the opportunity to express that normal dog behavior in such a way that they are satisfied, and they don't cause you any problems.
For a terrier dog, this may mean giving them a sandpit and hiding treats in it, so they can dig to their heart's content. For an intelligent working breed like the Alaskan Malamute, Akita, or Boxer that has been developed to work alongside their owner, consider trying out dog sports such as obedience, flyball racing or agility. You can work together as a team while your dog is able to use their brain.
Many pet dogs in our society suffer from boredom. Their owners are at work all day, and they spend many hours alone with nothing to do. Given that a dog is considered to have the same intelligence as a toddler, you shouldn't be surprised if they create their own amusement. Often, you won't find it as much fun as they do.
Being a pack animal, dogs enjoy the company of others. As well as boredom, they may become quite anxious when left alone. In one sense, this is normal for a pack species, but it makes life difficult for you.
There are a couple of things you can do to manage this. If your budget allows, you may want to consider adopting another dog. They will be good company for each other. Keep in mind that you still need to be prepared for any breed related dog temperament issues to occur, but there will be less anxiety when you aren't home.
To prevent barking, digging and attempts to escape when you are out, give your dog some appropriate toys to play with. Interactive treat dispensers, stuffed Kongs and even tug ropes suspended from a branch will give them something to keep boredom at bay.
There are few bad dogs and few bad owners but there are many bad choices. Do your homework, understand your breed and make sure you meet their behavioral needs. You are less likely to have to deal with a normal but not quite so enjoyable dog temperament.