Some Behaviours That Need Improvement

As much as we love Nix, and believe that overall she’s pretty well-behaved, she sometimes behaves in ways which certainly require improvement. They are the following:

She is possessive of her toys, especially tennis balls, towards other dogs. She has no problem when a person takes them away, but when there are other dogs involved, this can sometimes lead to conflict. She’s never hurt another dog, but there has been a bit of growling involved and a bit of an attitude on her part.

The frisbee is another of her favourite toys. Frisbee catching is a serious activity.

We checked with an ethologist (a dog-behaviour expert) and she said there was actually nothing we could do about it, and that the best option was to avoid tennis balls altogether when other dogs where around. Although I’m pretty sure that she is right, it feels wrong to do nothing. Therefore, what I plan to do is to try and teach Nix the following:

  1. Not to get so excited around toys. This is going to be difficult as she loves playing fetch and it’s a great way for her to spend her energy.
  2. Basic obedience regarding toys. For example, a person throws a toy for her to fetch, but she can’t fetch it unless she’s told to. We started working on this but we haven’t practised regularly. It’s also going to be difficult because she is very tense while waiting.

Another difficulty is that when she is having fun she sometimes refuses to take the food in exchange for whatever toy she is holding, although she loves food.

She pulls. When she is excited for some reason or she really needs to relieve herself, she starts pulling the leash, sometimes even to the point where she is almost choking herself. We’ve already tried to deal with this by refusing to move while she pulls and resuming the walk when she looks at us.

Some serious leash-pulling. In this case, I think she only wanted to come to me.

However, there have been a number of “problems”:

  1. We haven’t been consistent. Sometimes we’re tired or we’re in a bit of a hurry because we have to leave her home. In these cases we actually want to get to the park so she can do her business and have some fun. For example, just last Friday we noticed she was acting funny at home, which led us to realise that she really needed to relieve herself. She pulled the lead all the time until we got to the park, and it felt completely wrong to try to teach her anything then. When we got to the park, it turned out she had diarrhoea.
  2. It doesn’t happen all the time. She doesn’t always pull, just when she is in a hurry for the reasons mentioned earlier. This is good, since it means we don’t have such a huge problem, but it makes it easier for us to forget that we should deal with it.

My plans to deal with this is to mix the techniques in two short books which talk about this issue and how to solve it. I hope to review the books here some time in the future.

She can be pretty well-behaved while on leash.

She greets dogs in an unappropriate way. Again, this doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes she greets dogs too effusively or brashly. If she is off leash, she’ll go running towards them and be a bit rough. Some dogs don’t like this, especially if they’re on a leash, and so they’ll bark or show their teeth. The problem is that, instead of leaving them alone, Nix will retreat a little and then bark back. Again, nothing bad has ever happened, but Nix is young and her personality is still being defined.

On the other hand, if she is on a leash, she will start pulling to meet the other dog. As she is a bit insecure, her hair usually stands on end. Again, she doesn’t mean any harm, but other dogs sometimes dislike her attitude.

In my opinion there are two ways to try to solve this:

  1. Improve her recall when she is off leash, by tempting her with things like tennis balls or really good food, such as chicken.
  2. When she is on a leash, I believe that by working on the pulling issue mentioned above we could also see some improvement when she sees other dogs. Again, probably a toy or a yummy treat would also help.

I think it would be very interesting to either write some posts or film a series of videos showing her evolution and the techniques we have applied to improve all these issues. We’ll see if I manage to do so.

If you own a dog, what behavioural issues has he or she had? Have you tried to solve them? Did your approach work?

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