Dog owners will often ask me when I am teaching a dog obedience class if a behavior their dog is exhibiting is good or bad. What I tell them is each of them has to decide for themselves if it is something they wish to have in their relationship with their dog or not.
What this means is that first, if it is something that you are concerned enough about to ask your dog’s obedience class instructor about, it is probably not a good thing. The next question needs to be is this safe for me and the dog?
I ask my students to keep a list of behaviors and interactions they have with their dogs. If it is something they dislike or like, they add information on what happens before and after the behavior happens. This gives them the tools to stop a behavior if they do not want it or to encourage a good behavior.
Safety for the humans in the household is always the first thing which must be considered – especially if the dog is nipping or biting as part of the behavior you question. Under no circumstance should a dog be allowed to ever put his teeth on any part of a human, even in play. This can easily escalate into a biting situation and you just do not want to go there.
The next question involves safety for the dog. Is the behavior the dog does putting it at risk of injury. For example – dogs will often bark at things outside of the home. Most people feel it is OK for a dog to alert them to something outside, but get concerned if the dog becomes very animated and starts leaping at the window. This activity needs to be toned down or the dog, depending on its size, could break the window and get hurt on the broken glass. Obviously, this is not safe for the dog.
Stopping or redirecting the behavior is the next step in this process. In a well run obedience class you will gain skills on training your dog. What you learn can easily be applied to changing or eliminating an unwanted behavior.
If you need additional help or what you try does not work, be sure to ask your instructor for suggestions for dealing with the specific problem. Many times they will have some great advice or can offer to come to your home and work with you in a private lesson on the specific issue.
The most important thing is to keep you and your dog safe, so do not ignore problem behaviors you do not think are appropriate. The problem will only get worse and either you or your dog will get hurt.
Next time you wonder if something is OK for your dog to be doing – stop and think it through. This may save you from unwanted situations and also keep you and your dog safe.