Last in a series
Ignore bad behavior? Am I crazy? Sally and Raymond, like a lot of us, loved their dog like a little person in a furry suit. In many ways, that’s healthy for pets and for us but different species have different behavioral genetics.
Dogs do not believe they have the right to a response from their leaders. They earn this great privilege by their behavior of the moment. If we respond in any way, they are sure we want more of their antics – good or bad. Reprimanding “Brandi” would actually reinforce her fear-driven attempts to chase Raymond to the next county. She’d think he wanted more of her agitated barking and ankle biting.
Raymond was (still is) committed to Brandi. He passes her treats as he stands and while he walks around the house. Everybody is happy until he heads for the door, a crime that consistently triggers this big hound to charge and bark fiendishly. But the aggressive element is missing now. Videos of her recent mad pursuits show high arousal, for sure, but gone are the retracted ears, pulled back lips, and raised hair. What makes the door so important? We’ll never know.
Converting behaviorally disordered cats and dogs to normal is not the goal. Improved quality of life – for everybody – is considered at least a base hit if not a home run. Long-suffering Raymond needed a break. A simple management adjustment would suffice.
The hero of our story leaves for work first. He now puts Brandi in another room, before her breakfast, gives her a stuffed food toy and then, adopting his best ninja moves, sneaks out the door. After his car is out of ear shot Sally releases their dog. This daily ritual is the new normal.
Brandi and Raymond play ball in the yard. She comes happily when he calls her. She’s more relaxed, sort of, when he stands. The pathways in her brain are shifting but they’ll never be fully normal. Her neural circuits, just like everybody else’s, are in a lifelong state of flux. It’s a journey.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website, drjeffnichol.com.
Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (drjeffnichol.com). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Email pet behavior or physical questions to or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.