Accepting "Bad" Behaviour

Just like the humans in our lives, dogs may do things we don't like, or misbehave. We don't have to like this behaviour, but we can't just unthinkingly train it away. (And we definitely don't want to punish our dogs for it, because punishment doesn't work.) But is that behaviour actually bad?

Dogs do things for a reason and often that reason is important. For instance, dogs growl as a warning and while we may not like the growl, a dog that doesn't warn people to get away could bite "without warning." (There probably are other signs, but we missed them.)

Barking is usually done for a reason too. Sometimes that is a reason that we don't agree with or irritates us, but we need to know the reason. We also need to think about when we might and might now like certain behaviours. We don't want to train a dog to never do something we want them to do sometimes. For instance, I don't really like Max barking the whole time service people are in my house, but I was sure grateful when he growled and scared off the prowler trying to get in. It is fine that he uses a particular bark to greet people he knows, but he needs to quiet down quickly, not keep going for minutes on end.

Until we know why a dog is doing something and when we might or might not appreciate that behaviour, we shouldn't teach them not to do it. Once we do know what we really do and don't want, then we can help our dogs replace behaviour we don't want to live with with something more appropriate. Or we can live with behaviour that we then realize is appropriate for dogs or our dog.

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