By Stan Rawlinson, Dog Behaviourist & Guest Writer of the Month
I have been asked on many occasions what are the main contributing factors of dog behavioural problems. Though it appears to be a simple question, it does not have a simple answer. However, I think I can explain the main reasons surrounding the behavioural ‘epidemic’ that is affecting so many of our dogs.
Fear of Infections and Disease
The fear of disease or infections has led breeders and owners alike to make the tragic mistake of keeping their puppies isolated until they have completed their vaccinations. By taking this stance they risk ending up with fearful dogs, that may become aggressive or have serious behavioural problems in later life.
There are two vital aspects that shape all mammals including humans, and that is ‘Nature’ and ‘Nurture’. One means genetics drive and instinct and the other means a learned aspect of behaviour. Early socialisation comes within the nurture part of the equation. This above all else is one of the main reasons for aggression, fear and timidity. We see so many dogs with fear and aggression, whether those aggressions are aimed at other dogs or humans.
It may surprise some people that dog aggression is primarily fear-based therefore it has its roots mainly in a lack of early socialisation. The critical primary periods to make sure that your dog's behaviour is acceptable is the first 16 weeks, therefore, the breeder also has an impact on the outcome.
Human Socialisation Period
The first important period is 0 to 12 weeks called ‘The Human Socialisation Period’.
The breeder should invite lots of people to come and handle the puppies up until they go to the new owner. Then the new owner must make sure at least a hundred people handle the puppy in a positive way. Take it around your local café or pub, go outside the school gates and let children treat and stroke the puppy. Older people must also be introduced. That should make the dog bombproof with people.
Of course, if the puppy is taken home and if it is nervous or fearful from day one then there may be a genetic problem that stems from in the main the female but can also be passed on by the male. Or it could be the breeder has kept the puppies isolated and therefore you must work very hard to overcome it before 12 weeks have elapsed.
Canine Socialisation Period
This is the second part of the vitally important periods and is related to how the puppies and dogs relate to other dogs. The time frame for this is 0 to 16 weeks.
People are often frightened to mix their dogs for fear of infections. Yet any puppy can mix with any other dog that has been vaccinated. However, pups learn the all-important body language and communication by playing with other puppies rather than adult dogs. Puppy classes are vitally important to canine socialisation and should be booked in before you even get the puppy home.
Neutering is also a major player in negatively affecting behavioural and medical problems in dogs, other than the all-important early socialisation it is probably one of the commonest reasons for behavioural and health problems in dogs today.
Other Reasons for Behavioural Problems
Of course, there are many other reasons behavioural problems can occur. One of these reasons can be diet; dog foods, especially those with lots of Es, artificial flavours and colourants can be a contributory factor. Packaging can be confusing about core ingredients and nutritional content and some foods lack essential vitamins and minerals. A natural nutrient-packed diet and natural supplements can help.
For more information about behavioural and other issues please visit https://www.doglistener.co.uk