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The Listen Dog Blog

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I'll be keeping it up-to-date with regular catch-ups on what I've been up to, plenty of original articles on obedience training and behavioural best practice, plus top tips and ideas you can work on at home with your own four-legged friend!


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'There Are No Bad Dogs, Only Bad Owners' – Why This Can’t Possibly Be True

By listendogtraining, Dec 18 2016 01:40PM

To say that ‘there are no bad dogs, only bad owners’ implies that the actions and behaviours of the owner are the ONLY possible influential factors that can affect the personality, motivation, and behaviour of a dog – and this is certainly not the case.

We know that dogs are affected by a vast array of stimuli from incredibly early on; Bruce Fogle goes so far as to say that dogs can even be affected by the state of mind of their mother, during their time in her uterus, alluding to research that suggests that stressed pregnant mothers can produce more fearful animals, and in particular that bitches who are stressed during their third term of pregnancy are more likely to produce puppies with reduced learning ability, extremes of behaviour and increased emotional states.

There are so many factors that can influence a dog’s personality and behaviour outside of those within the owner’s control, including experiences with its mother and littermates, adequate or inadequate socialisation with other dogs during puppyhood, the memory of traumatic experiences, such as being attacked by another dog, the dog’s genetic make-up, breeding history and state of health... the list goes on.

However, whilst there are many factors outside of the owner’s control, it is equally true that there are many, many factors within the owner’s control, which can greatly alter a dog’s behaviour also. So if you took two genetically identical puppies, who had reasonably similar personalities, it is safe to assume that if one puppy was placed with an owner who provided adequate socialisation, obedience training, nutrition, exercise and companionship, then that dog would be seen to thrive in comparison to his counterpart, who had been placed with an owner who did not exercise, socialise or train their dog appropriately. Such a neglected dog would be more likely to develop problems such as aggression or anxiety around other dogs due to poor socialisation, bad manners due to poor training, and problem behaviours such as destructive chewing or excessive barking due to inadequate exercise or stimulation.

The above is a very controlled comparison; the point still remains that no two dogs are the same, even if they are selected from the same litter. Add to that the further diversity that exists as a result of the myriad breeds we have today, all bred for different purposes and to display incredibly varying behaviours, and you find it is impossible to place sole responsibility for a dog’s ‘bad’ or ‘good’ nature on the owner alone.

Nevertheless, what can certainly be said, is that whilst the owner is not the only influence on the nature of their dog, they can be an immense influence, and this is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.

When investing in a puppy or dog, you must always take full responsibility for providing the essential training, socialisation, healthcare, exercise and companionship that that dog requires, to provide them with the best chance of growing into a well-rounded, good-natured canine companion. When the breed traits and natural instincts of a dog are left unfulfilled, behaviour problems are going to occur, so to do your best to ensure a dog is happy, balanced and safe, you must take into account the needs of the dog you have chosen, based on its breed and its individual personality, and provide the most appropriate lifestyle and care possible... the rest is up to the universe!

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