Friday, March 22, 2013

Embarassing dog behavior?

So you take your dog out to the dog park and what's the first thing he starts doing? Mounting the other dogs at the park.  You (or the other dog) break it up, and as you are walking back to where you were you are slightly blushing and thinking to yourself, "how did I end up with the overly sexual, or highly dominant dog?"  However what you may be thinking to yourself is not all together true.  Just because your dog likes to be "on top of the world" does not mean that he is necessarily feeling sexual, or top dog. Don't just take my word for it

"Well what then is wrong with my dog?" you may still be wondering, well have you ever considered that there may be many different reason for a dog to act the way he does? Believe me it is a behavior that has caught the attention of several people who study animal behavior, specifically dog behavior.
(dogs that are intact do have more of an issue with being overly aroused than those who have been spayed or neutered.)

Patricia McConnell, Mark Bekoff, and Julie Hecht have all recently written articles about their observations and studies of such behavior.  To sum up in a nut shell what they have to say about it goes something like this; we don't.  No really, they can't pin it just on hyper-sexuality, being "intact", dominance, or aggression.  What does seem to be a common thread through most of it is being excited, or highly aroused.  Being highly aroused does not mean only sexually either, to quote Webster aroused means "to evoke strong emotions" which is exactly what all their studies do show.  If you watch your dog carefully and take note when your dog tends to start mounting ether objects or other animals, you will most likely notice that your dog happens to be rather excited by something before moving on to the mounting episode.  Excited is another word we need to be clear about defining as well.  Excited can mean scared, happy, or nervous.  It means that he, or she, is having strong feeling being evoked.  "Most of the time it is what is called a displacement behavior," states Mark Bekoff in one of his articles.  It also seems that as far as aggression issues go, mounting is one of the least likely things a dog will do to display aggression   The other dog might get aggressive because they don't like being mounted, but that does not mean that the dog mounting is being an aggressor.

 It could be that as a puppy (when the behavior is noted to start sometimes as early as 6 weeks) he found it as a way to get others to play with him and so it persisted without proper correction by other litter mates into his adulthood. (I highly recommend waiting till your puppy is at least 8 weeks before you pick it up so it has time to learn dog manners from it's mother and other litter mates).  It could also be that your dog learned that mounting a stuffed animal when it was nervous or had excess energy was calming, or had the capacity to wear him out a bit on his own.  It could also be that he is overly sexual or has a hyper sex drive, but don't always simply jump to that conclusion, and further more even if that is more of a driving factor for your dog, it still boils down to the fact that he is being over stimulated and needs help calming down.

So, you might say, what my dog is doing is not necessarily something to be embarrassed about, but is there anything I can do about it?  Fortunately for you the answer is, yes there is.  Since it is most likely that your dog is being highly aroused (remember my definition from above here, and no snickering) you need to find a way to lower your dog's arousal level.  This will be most beneficial to you and your dog anyway since dogs who have lower arousal levels are more likely to be the good and well behaved dog you are looking for.

 I would start by finding out what seems to be the trigger and go from there.  If it seems like it is just about everything, you might need help from a professional, and whatever you do you will need to take baby steps at first.  Say you find that it tends to be when your friends come over for a visit, well the next time you have your friends over, get your clicker out and ask for an easy behavior, click and treat.  Make sure that you keep your voice more even toned than not so as not to get him any more excited than he already is.  Keep your friend outside until your dog is under control, and only then move on to the next step. *note you will need to have worked with your dog and the clicker and be able to ask for the behavior and fully expect it to be given, such as "sit"

Once you are able to bring your friend in, if possible have your dog heel to you and calmly walk away from your friend, or have your dog go to his bed or crate for a relaxing and calming lay down. If this goes smoothly allow your friend to pet and let your dog smell and get to "see" your friend.  If at any time your dog gets too excited go back a step and work on it from there.  It is possible to turn your "horny beast" into a calm and less anxious pooch.  And as always never feel bad if you need to ask for help, that is what we trainers are here for, and don't feel obligated to stick with one if you don't feel comfortable with how he or she is training, (by the way that goes for vets and groomers too), there are many people out there with varying degrees of doggy understanding, so do your homework and don't be afraid to stand up for your dog if needed.  The best ways to train your dog are to keep it simple and take things only as fast as your dog is able to go, there should never be a ridged set schedule, every dog is different and will come with a different time table.

I hope that this was able to put your fears to rest and give you a new view of your dog, no he is not that "horny beast", but just a dog in need of help calming himself, or needing to learn better doggy manners.
(and neither does your dog) :o)

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