Part 2 in a series

Don’t you remember dogs that were perfect and didn’t have any training? They were just “good dogs.”

  • Why are some dogs so good and others so “bad”?
  • Won’t my puppy grow out of her hyper behavior?
  • If I start training too early, won’t I break her spirit?

These and similar questions are valid. “Aren’t there just good dogs and bad dogs,” is a question that’s often asked by owners who are puzzled by problems they are having. If the answer is yes, the temptation is to get rid of any dog that does not seem to naturally fit in. If the answer is no, then the owner must decide whether he or she is willing to do what is necessary to help the dog. There is a small percentage of dogs who may be considered dangerous in the sense that no matter what you do, they will not fit easily into a family setting. This small percentage in no way matches the number of puppies and dogs who are abandoned or euthanized for behavior problems each year.

Dog Behavior: Good Dogs and Bad DogsSo why does this happen? The answer is that everyone has their own idea of what makes a good dog, and each different breed or mix has its own special talents. Some people want a dog to bark when someone comes onto their property, others don’t like it when a dog barks. Some want a dog who is playful while others want a quiet, easygoing dog.

With the different wants of owners and the different traits and behaviors in different breeds, mixes or even different lines of purebred dogs, it is the unusual situation where the match between dog and owner is perfect. This is because many owners do not think about how the specific behavior of a breed or mix will fit in with their situation.

A family may end up with a dog because he was inherited, he was taken in as a favor, he was a gift, he was cute or beautiful, he was small or large, he doesn’t shed or he was like a dog I had as a kid. None of these situations guarantee a good match between owner and dog.

Because of the possibilities for a mismatch between a dog and a human, an owner may think his problem dog is bad or even aggressive. Research over the last decade or so shows that many of those bad behaviors occur because owners don’t understand the ways a dog’s behaviors are formed. Many owners are simply not aware of how to guide their dog to be what they want him to be. With training (of both owner and dog), unwanted behaviors can be prevented or changed in the vast majority of dogs. Even the dog that starts out as a mismatch can adjust and become a loved companion.

Authored by: James Akenhead Ed.D.
Photo credit: visualpanic / Foter / CC BY



1 Comment

  1. Pattie says:

    Mr Akemhead
    Sir I could not agree with you more. As a young child I was taught that when you get a pet it is a life long responsibility. “Life long” for the life of the animal not until he/ she urinates in the house, escapes through an inadequate fence, or doesn’t act the way my “old dog” did. I work in the veterinary field as a technician for a surgical unit and 24 hourEmergency facility; and I am disgusted in how many people give so easily up on their pets. If they only knew that dog would give his life for you at a drop of a hat. Currently I have a Cane Corso that was a breeders dog and at 8 weeks of age was attacked by another dog. The Breeders response was “the cost to fix this dog outweighs the cost to sell it Please euthanize it” this puppy’s jaw was broken in three spots and her eye was proptosed. I could not bear to see this puppy euthanized. 5 years later I have a wonderful dog. My German Shepherd was bought by a family who 5 days earlier had to put down their 13 yr old shepherd. Two months later they come in to euthanize this puppy because he wasn’t like their old dog. Of course not he is a puppy so the locked him in the garage for 2 months before giving up on him. I am fortunate that I have wonderful boss who would not oblige this gentleman’s wishes and I use that term gentleman very loosely. I didn’t choose the animals I have but I will tell you this as long as I am alive I will do my best to be the person my dogs think I am

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