Do Dogs Misbehave Because of Other Dogs?

Dogs are prone to copying behaviors, even if they know better.

Dogs are prone to copying behaviors, even if they know better.

Dogs are social animals and much of their behavior is informed by the behavior of the dogs around them. If that behavior is disruptive, or at the very least inappropriate for the domestic environment, it will be more noticeable than the desirable behavior dogs learn from one another. As well as being influenced by the behavior of other dogs, the very presence of other dogs is often enough to cause inappropriate behavior.

Mimicking

Dogs learn much by observing other dogs. This is especially true of younger dogs that look to older dogs for guidance. A misbehaving dog can easily become a negative, influence on any dog around him. But dogs mimic selectively. They don't copy every move they see in other dogs, only those moves that they perceive to have a beneficial outcome. For example, if he observes his pal stealing food, this otherwise well-behaved dog may be tempted to copy. But it's unlikely that he'll copy a dog that is performing a habitual behavior, such as licking or chewing his own fur. Positive reinforcement and if necessary, distraction, are effective in discouraging your dog from repeating behaviors he's observed in other dogs.

Territorialism

Instinct drives dogs to defend what they perceive to be their territory. The house and yard are typically treated as home territory, although some dogs may treat public space they occupy, such as parks and sidewalks, as their territory. Nature gives dogs territorial instincts so that they are capable of defending themselves from intruders and potential threats. Domestic dogs still retain these instincts. If another dog comes to visit the home of a territorial dog, the very presence of this intruder can result in all manner of misbehavior, including barking, hyperactivity and aggression. Socialization from an early age reduces the chances of territorialism. If your dog is territorial, expose him to "intruders" gradually by having friends and their dogs come by for short periods of time. Reward passive behavior and give him a time out when he responds aggressively.

Resource Guarding

Resource guarding is linked to territorial behavior. Dogs instinctively want to protect their resources from potential interlopers. In the wild, dogs typically view food and a safe place to sleep as their resources. In the domestic environment, resources are more numerous. Toys, the basket, food bowls and even the sofa are fiercely protected resources. An inclination to guard resources can cause a dog to act aggressively, anxiously or to become agitated in the presence of other dogs. To combat resource guarding, teach your dog to accept sharing. Start by holding his toys. If he reacts passively, give him a reward. Once he's comfortable with you holding the toys, graduate to taking his toys away. If he becomes agitated, ignore him. If he responds calmly, give him a reward.

Anxiety

A dog that is scared of other dogs may struggle to contain himself if forced to socialize. This problem can be fixed with patience, socialization and gradual positive exposure to dogs. Anxiety can be a cause of bad behavior, such as aggression and excessive barking.

Sexual Behavior

The instinctive urge to reproduce can cause dogs, especially males, to severely misbehave. If an in-season female is in the area, it can severely affect your dog’s behavior. He may try to escape, become prone to roaming and not coming when called and he may howl and whine. These behaviors are all driven by his sexual urges. If he comes into contact with an in-season female, he may pester her or try to mount her. If your dog can't control his urges, keep him on a lead when he meets females that are in season.

 

About the Author

Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.

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