Animal House: Breaking Bad Dog

Nov 22, 2016

Sometimes a dog just forgets his good canine manners...
Credit Golly G Force / Flickr via Creative Commons

You can put hours and hours of training into a dog, and still the loveable canine will occasionally misbehave. So what gives?  What does it mean when dogs seem to forget their training to free range their behavior? 

Dog trainer Bob Ryder from Pawsitive Transformations knows where a canine is coming from when he breaks from his usual training. "It could be that the dog is trying new things," said Ryder. "Dogs that are bored or find themselves in a new situation, even if it's just a new situation from their perspective, will do what's safe and effective to meet their needs.  If a dog has an opportunity to get a valued resource, whether that's food or some attention, if there's a way to make that happen, they're going to go right ahead and try it."

And if that works by getting the dog the attention he seeks, he'll repeat that behavior, the behavior that he finds effective, rather than what the care giver thinks is appropriate.  "The dog is innovating to get something he doesn't know how to get," said Ryder. "A dog that will  try new behaviors is a confident and intelligent dog that is willing to go outside its comfort zone." It's also a dog that can be redirected with new training.

Other dogs can occasionally lead your dog astray with bad behavior.   They're not skipping school or sneaking a cigarette behind the A&P, but they may pick up more aggressive cues from other less-well behaved dogs.  Avoid dogs like that, said Ryder, so your dog won't pick up undesirable habits.