You come home from a long day at work expecting the worst. Your new dog loses his mind when you leave in the morning and destroys the house while you are gone to get back at you for leaving. You cringe at the thought of the chaos you are about to enter. You think to yourself, “Self, why is my dog so spiteful, I have to work, why does he rip the house apart to get back at me?”.
While the story may seem silly to some, it is extremely common for new dog owners to endow their dog’s with uniquely human motivations for problem behavior. Our 2nd mistake is assigning a new dog with malicious, spiteful intentions when they make a mistake. Dogs do not, nor ever have, willfully destroyed a couch because they were mad at their owner. Nor have they pooped in a favorite pair of shoes because they weren’t taken for a walk the day before. It is not within the capabilities of a dog to have such intentions.
A perfect example, that I can relate from personal experience, is a story from when we first started fostering Mama Coral. It was Halloween and the whole fam was decked out –including Sully– to go fill our coffers with as much candy as humanely possible. I put Cece and Mama Coral in their kennels to keep everyone seperated –I am not willing to trust that nothing will happen in my absence– and we were on our way. Fortunately I realized that I had forgot my phone and had to come back to get it. When I stepped through the door, Mama Coral greeted me! She had broken out of her kennel in the 5 minutes that I had been gone.
I was faced with a conundrum. I couldn’t put her in a crate that she could escape, and I couldn’t let her be around the dogs while where were gone. My solution was to put her in our downstairs bathroom with the door shut. I got her set up and went to catch up with my girls.
When we got back with our bags, upon bags, of candy treasure, I opened the bathroom door to find that Mama had chewed the entire trim off the door frame! If I had not known better, it would have been easy for me to attribute this destruction to her anger about being left in the bathroom. Truth is, she had some serious separation anxiety back then, and she was terrified.
You may be asking yourself, “what’s the big deal, why is this number 2?”. This mistake ranks so high on our list because, as humans, we take offense to acts that we deem to be directed at us in a negative way. Countless dogs have been yelled at, hit, or worse, just because they had an accident, or didn’t know any better, because their owner’s thought that the dog was acting out in order to “return the favor” for some perceived slight against her.
It is so important to educate one’s self on the particulars of dog behavior in order to understand why any problematic behavior is occurring. Imagine if I had lost my temper with Mama when she chewed the door frame, she would have developed an even worse case of separation anxiety, because now, not only, is she stressed beyond belief about being left alone, but she is also terrified of someone actually coming home and what will happen to her when they do!
There are many books available on every kind of behavioral issue that you can imagine. In our recommended book section, I have broken down the different categories to give anyone, who is willing to learn, the resources they need to have a happy, healthy, and well behaved dog and avoid mistake #2!