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Training People Who Blame the Dog
By Judy Kody Paulsen
(Excerpt from Spring/Summer 2008 issue of GCNM News)

• “My greyhound won’t stop stealing food off the countertop!”
• “My greyhound would rather go to the bathroom in the house, and the reason I know that is because after I take him/her outside, s/he comes back in and goes in the house and sometimes it’s when I’m right there!”
• “My greyhound keeps destroying things in the house and it’s not just when I’m gone….”
• “My greyhound insists on getting me up in the middle of the night to go outside.”
• “My greyhound wakes up in the middle of the night to play.”
• “My greyhound jumps all over me when we’re getting ready to go for a walk.”
• “My greyhound growls when we touch him while he’s lying down.”
• “My greyhound gets very agitated when I first get home from work.”
• “My greyhound pushes the other dogs aside when they want my attention.”
• “My greyhound only wants to eat doggy goodies or people food.”
• “My greyhound……(fill in the blank)”

Okay, you get the picture? It’s safe to say that with all the above situations, the dog is doing what s/he has been allowed to do or has been given insufficient signals to discourage undesirable behavior.

Dogs don’t unlearn behaviors without human intervention. Dogs don’t learn desirable behaviors without consistent human guidance and training. Problem is, who will train the people? People must implement changes in their own behavior before they can expect changes in their dogs.

Defining boundaries for a dog is a must. Consistency in enforcing rules for the dog and for every member of the household who interacts with the dog is the key to success. If only one person in the household is the disciplinarian in all or most instances, and other members of the family are allowing or encouraging unwanted behaviors, the dog most certainly will be confused and will not be able to determine when it’s okay to behave in a certain manner and when it is not.

Training people is what it’s all about; just ask any professional animal behaviorist. It has long been known that physical punishment and compulsion training are less likely to produce favorable results in dog training than good communication coupled with positive reinforcement. But first, people must learn to speak “DOG.”

Communicating successfully with your dog takes time and willingness for you to learn. Trying to see the world through your dog’s eyes is an especially valuable tool.

Knowing why a dog is behaving badly is a good start, but unfortunately, many folks can’t (or won’t) look beyond the bad behavior to see the cause. In most instances, a dog will do what is innate. When in training, some dogs appear to “get it” almost on their own, while others need frequent reinforcement.

Dogs who don’t learn easily are often considered “difficult” or “stupid” or “rebellious” and often get relegated to the back yard rather than given more attention and guidance. This only produces a lonely dog who is more likely to develop negative behavioral traits which become increasingly harder to reverse. People may have less patience with these dogs and are not as likely to want to spend time in training sessions with them.

So, please, before you give up on your greyhound, evaluate your own handling of the situation. Dogs deserve the time and understanding to help them adapt to house rules. This especially holds true for ex-racing greyhounds who’ve never been exposed to anything even similar to household manners. It can take months of effort and lots of patience when integrating any dog into a household, but ex-racing greyhounds can be particularly challenging.

Remember, retired racers come from environments unlike any other dog which goes into an adoption network, and may need more time to learn how to be a welcome member of the family.

Training the dog is easy once the people are trained!

Author’s Note: Answers to many greyhound behavioral problems can be found in the articles on our website at http://www.gcnm.org/behavior.html. And for those who feel their dogs prefer relieving themselves inside the house, here’s a tip: When you let your dog outside to “go,” you need to be sure s/he “goes” before letting him/her back in. The last turnout of the evening should be timed right before you go to bed, and let the dog out first thing in the morning upon arising. Distractions outdoors may take precedence over the dog’s need to relieve itself, so be sure s/he has the opportunity to “go” before you call him/her back in.

The easiest solution to this is to install a dog door and be sure your dog has access to it at all times. Most dogs grow accustomed to whatever schedule the household has adopted, but please don’t expect your new dog to understand the rules without some help. Be patient with your retired racer – they’ve only known one turnout schedule most of their lives. They are not difficult to housebreak, but they do need help in adjusting.


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