Tips for becoming a better dog owner

(WTNH) — If you have a dog, you might think you have the pet parent thing down pat. But is there anything you could be doing to be a little more responsible? Richard and Vicki Horowitz from Bark Busters talk about tips every dog owner should know.

What are some misconceptions about dogs?

A dog is a dog. The greatest misconception many dog owners have is to assume their dogs communicate the way people do. Dogs live by the same pack rules and exhibit many of the same behavioral patterns as their wild ancestors.

Dogs are neither spiteful nor deliberately naughty. There are three reasons why a dog misbehaves or disobeys: 1) it does not understand what you want, 2) it does not consider you its leader, or 3) it is suffering from some kind of stress or fear.

Aggression is instinctual in every breed. Whether Chihuahua or German shepherd, a dog’s breed has nothing to do with aggression. Instead, aggression is instinctual and caused most often by fear of the unknown-that is, whatever the dog cannot understand or does not recognize as normal. When a dog becomes frightened, it will do one of two things: fight or take flight. By reinforcing leadership over your dog, you can avoid unacceptable or uncontrollable aggression.

You can teach an old dog new tricks. Dogs are continuous learners and have good memories. By educating your dog and effectively showing him what you consider good and bad behavior, you can help him change his behavior.

Dogs experience the world differently than people. Dogs have a stronger sense of smell than humans. Their sight is comparable to a person who is color-blind. Dogs use other cues such as smell, texture, brightness, and position instead. Dogs can hear sounds four times farther away than humans-but dogs also hear selectively. They can sleep beside a blaring television, but wake up as soon as they hear something unrelated to that.

Bad behaviors may be natural, but they do not have to be acceptable. Most people consider digging, chewing and jumping as unacceptable dog behavior-but to dogs, these actions are natural.

How do dogs communicate?

All dogs think in terms of the pack. As a dog owner, one of your responsibilities is to model a leader’s strong and consistent characteristics so that you will be accepted as the pack leader and your dog will learn to respect and obey you. Your leadership will make your dog feel safe and eliminate many behavior problems.

Dogs don’t understand English. In addition to barking, growling and other guttural sounds, dogs rely heavily on body language. And yet, your body language can easily be misinterpreted. By understanding how dogs communicate, you will avoid the mistake of telling your dog one thing while your body language and voice pitch tell it something completely different.

How is it best to educate our dogs?

It’s illogical to get angry with your dog. Dogs do only what comes naturally or what they’ve learned through association, so getting angry-or using physical force-is both inappropriate and counterproductive. Moreover, never use your hands for disciplining, because dogs find this provocative and threatening. Use your hands as little as possible when training-and when you do, make sure your dog always associates your hands with gentleness and pleasure.

Correct your dog in the moment. Because dogs learn from association, they will comprehend your message only if it is delivered in a timely manner. A correction must be issued at the precise moment the dog is either contemplating or actually doing something wrong. Because it can be difficult to catch your dog in the act, find ways to create situations that will cause your dog to misbehave so you can then correct him immediately.

Are there other tips to consider?

  • Schedule regular check-ups with our dog’s veterinarian
  • Get your dog spayed or neutered.
  • Provide proper identification for your dog to wear.
  • Make time for your dog
  • Keep your dog safe when traveling
  • Provide adequate shelter and a balanced diet

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