Much of what is called dog misbehavior is rooted in genetic frustration. Most dog misbehavior is not that but simply a normal—and perfectly fine—behavior expressed in an inappropriate context.
If a frustrated herding dog that lives in a backyard and just gets a walk here and there chases squirrels or rabbits in his yard, no one cares. However, people start caring rather quickly if it does the same with kids on skateboards. It’s the same behavior. In one context, it’s perfectly okay. In another context, not so much. This generally applies to most so-called dog misbehavior. It seldom is the behavior we take issue with, just the context in which it occurs. A dog that mauls an intruder is a hero. A dog that does it to a welcome visitor is a liability.
The behaviors of our dogs we take issue with are generally all normal. If they were expressed in an appropriate context, we wouldn’t care, but they are often not. So why is this happening?
Dogs have genetic needs; desires they are born with. These drives need an outlet. If we don’t provide an appropriate outlet, our dog will find something to replace it with. These displacement activities serve the purpose of taking the edge off its built-up frustration for what is missing. We will most likely not care for what our dog comes up with. Some displacement activities are easy to understand and relate to, like the skateboard chasing example. Others are less obvious to relate to but have the same reason behind them. Common examples are eating sprinkler heads, digging holes in the yard, pacing fences, and so on. The dog is acting out of genetic frustration.
We have created different dog breeds for practical reasons; many are related to hunting, the prime desire of dogs. The six aspects of the predatory hunting sequence dogs crave are searching, stalking, chasing, fighting, celebration, and consumption. Let’s take a brief look at each of these components.
Components of Biological Dog Fulfillment
Searching: The predator has first to find the prey, so most dogs are good at searching with their nose. Bloodhounds are an example of a breed that can’t stop sniffing for things. It makes Bloodhounds whole to use their nose to find stuff.
Stalking: Once the prey has been located, the predator has to sneak up and get closer to make the hunt more likely to succeed. Pointers are an example of a breed that does this more intensely than anyone else.
Chasing: When the predator is close enough, it will have to try to grab the prey, and that often involves chasing it to catch it. Most dogs love chasing. Dogs usually don’t chase squirrels because they are hungry. They chase squirrels because they are fun to chase. Sighthounds are an extreme example of master chasers.
Fighting: Once the prey is caught. It will fight back. It will be a struggle for the predator to get its meal. There are no suicide rabbits. A dog must be able to persevere in this battle. The pit bull is an extreme example of a dog breed that won’t back down.
Celebration: The prey was caught and killed. Many dogs carry it around in their mouth proudly and have a swagger in their step doing it. That is a celebration.
Consumption: Time to eat. In the wild, survival depends on it. In a human household, other food is available. Some dogs will eat their kills; many domestic dogs won’t.
I know walking with your dog is a popular activity. By all means, walk with your dog and have a good time. But understand, walking with your dog is also just a surrogate activity; just not the best one.
We Created The Breeds and Their Needs
All the breeds I listed as examples were made better at these specific activities through selective breeding over decades and, in some cases, centuries. We created breeds that need to engage in specific activities to be whole. If we do not provide an outlet for the drives we made stronger, we can’t be surprised if dogs become frustrated and engage in what we consider dog misbehavior. In reality, it is simply looking for an alternative outlet for what we failed to provide. These are displacement activities, not dog misbehavior.
Fulfilling your dog’s genetic drives is the most successful approach for curbing your dog’s choices of undesired displacement activities. It removes the need for those activities. Once that is accomplished, it becomes fairly easy to suppress any remaining bad habits.
The Better Approach
Failing to address the genetic needs first will result in frustration for all involved. Dog misbehavior can temporarily be suppressed regardless, but without addressing the underlying cause, you will play whack-a-mole forever. After you suppress one dog’s misbehavior, your dog will find a new one a few weeks later. Because the lack that led to it in the first place still exists. Fulfilling your dog’s genetic needs is where all problem resolution must begin for lasting success.
We are located in Southern California and train dogs nationwide. Happy Dog Training currently offers local dog training services in the following counties. Riverside County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County. In addition, we offer our board-and-train program nationwide and all virtual training services worldwide.
Do you want your new puppy trained right from the start? Are you looking for help for your fearful dog? Do you need to resolve a severe aggression problem? You came to the right place! We are experienced, professional dog trainers. Ralf has trained over 1500 dogs in over 18 years, and Sarah has trained over 1200 dogs in over 11 years. Consequently, we can help you with any dog training goal.
We can help you, regardless of your dog's challenges or training goals. Being a professional dog trainer means having experience, knowledge, and skill. Further, we developed a highly effective training program to specifically help fearful dogs gain more confidence and become the best possible version of themselves. Building Confidence is our second most popular training program.
Last but not least, we are experts in dealing with all types of aggression in dogs and are often the trainers of last resort after many other programs have failed. Most of our aggressive dog clients previously spent significant money on half-baked solutions without much improvement. This is different from us. We will give you an honest assessment of what goals are realistic for your dog. We will tell you what can be resolved reliably and what likely needs to be managed before we start.
Happy Dog Training is the pet dog training business of Ralf Weber and Sarah Gill. We are certified professional dog trainers in Southern California. We are specialized in advanced obedience training, all forms or behavioral challenges and service dog training. For behavioral training, we are known for our work with aggressive and fearful dogs. Our service dogs, through Total K9 Focus, have a nationwide reputation for their reliability, longevity and performance.
Ralf Weber, MS, TWC CPDT, IACP CDT, CDTA
Certified Professional Dog Trainer Ralf Weber is lead pet dog trainer of Happy Dog Training. Ralf is a long-time dog owner of German Shepherds. During his career, Ralf has worked with over a 1500 dogs of many different breeds. Moreover, Ralf has a thorough understanding of all aspects of canine training. This includes evolutionary psychology, ethology, and, most importantly, learning science. Ralf is specialized in resolving dog behavior challenges—especially fear and aggression. Apart from this, Ralf trains dogs in basic and advanced obedience, service dog tasks, and GRC Dog Sports. Ralf is further certified in a broad range of other canine training areas. Last but not least, Ralf is the author of the behavioral book If Your Dog Could Talk: Understand Your Dog Like Never Before.
Ralf loves helping people have a better relationship with their dogs. He is a certified professional dog trainer in the Training without Conflict™ methodology by Ivan Balabanov (TWC CPDT). Ralf is also a member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and also holds their basic and advanced dog trainer certifications (IACP CDT, CDTA). In addition, Ralf is an AKC-approved evaluator for the AKC Puppy Star, CGC, and Advanced CGC programs and is also certified in canine first aid by the Red Cross.
Sarah Gill, Certified Professional Master Trainer
Sarah Gill, is a professional service dog trainer and handler. Sarah entered the world of professional service dog training after a car accident. As a result, she had to use a wheelchair for almost two years, trying to maneuver in a house not designed for it. No one expected Sarah would walk again. This opened her eyes and became a driving force behind pushing herself to defy the odds. When she regained some stability, Sarah attended a dog training school and learned how to train service dogs. Sarah completed her Master Trainer Certification and gained further experience by training new trainers. However, the school wasn’t accommodating to those with physical difficulties and PTSD. Hence, Sarah moved home to Dallas. In 2019, Sarah teamed up with Ralf and moved to California.
Sarah started this journey because she had a trained dog to mitigate her disabilities. But Sarah needed additional tasking for a new diagnosis. The only option she could find was getting a second dog for the new diagnosis. She knew there had to be a different way to address this. Sarah's passion is changing the ways of the service dog training industry.