Is that behavior normal?
Dogs have almost as much personality as humans. Some are anxious and shy, some are outgoing and love to be the center of attention, and some are more excited for the humans at a dog park instead of the dogs! This last instance would be my little goober. All the dogs will be happily running around, playing, chasing tennis balls...and he's about 30 feet away from all of them sitting down next to the table with the humans. I like to refer to him as the "HR Manager", because he doesn't like to get involved, but wants to keep an eye on everything to make sure everyone's playing nice.
Since dogs have so much personality, there are so many behaviors to know about, and every dog has a different set of behaviors that come normal to them. These mainly come from their breed, their early life, and their current living situation. I've noticed that because there are so many different types of personalities, some owners think that certain behaviors are a product of the dog's personality, and things that should be left alone.
This is where I tend to disagree! Not every behavior your dog does needs to get a "pass" because it's part of their personality! Below are a few behaviors that I commonly see and hear owners deal with as an unchangeable part of their dog's personality:
1) Barking. This is absolutely the most common. Your dog barks when people come to the door, or when a cat comes by, or when they see other dogs, and it's okay because they're just dogs, right? Yes, it's part of a dog's nature to bark, especially if you have a hound, but that doesn't mean that they should have a free pass to bark at anything and everything. Dogs can control when they bark just as much as we can control when we talk. Well...most people can, but don't get me started.
2) Pulling on the Leash. Dogs want to be pack leaders. They want to scout ahead and see any potential dangers before they would reach you. How nice of them! But when they start to pull on you, it becomes dangerous for you, and if you let them continue to pull, they won't know it's dangerous or unacceptable.
3) Chewing Inappropriate Objects. Vetstreet, a website dedicated to finding vets and informing owners of best practices for owning a pet, lists this as their #1 behavior in this category, saying, "Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, since they explore their environment with their mouth. It also relieves stress and boredom, and helps keep their teeth clean." Redirect them to appropriate toys and make sure not to give them a pass because "Well, all dogs chew!"
4) Stealing Food, Begging or Trash Diving. Yes, dogs know how to forage for themselves if they smell something they think might be tasty, but this is the most dangerous behavior to be passive on. If not training them out of these behaviors, they can swallow something poisonous to them or dangerous, like chicken bones. Dogs don't know what they're allergic to! So don't assume this is part of their "unchangeable personality".
5) Whining. Awwww, but it sounds so cute when they're whining! And all it means is that they want more attention! Yes, very true, but if they're allowed to whine when you're home, they're encouraged to whine when you're away as well, which isn't the most neighbor-friendly behavior. Also, this can actually increase anxiety, because their calls go unnoticed all of a sudden.
6) Growling While Playing. They're just playing, it's not harmful. To quote Dwight Schrute - False. Growling is used when playing to communicate, but it can also warn of a potential attack. Canine Journal has an EXCELLENT article on why dogs growl and how to tell when it's play-growling vs. threatening growling. I encourage you to follow that link, but the TLDR version is in the body language. If dogs are running and growling, and the play is 50/50, it's play growling. If they're standing still and the fur is standing up on their back, pull the dogs back. That's not playful growling. And again, this can be controlled! Your dog doesn't have to always be the aggressive growler!
7) Being Distracted. This is usually meant for when you're walking your best friends outside. They can see another person, another dog, a squirrel...really anything, and they want to immediately go towards them full force! This can be dangerous, and usually results in pulling you as well. Dogs can very easily be trained to not get distracted by every small thing while on a walk or out in public! It doesn't have to be part of their personality.
My perspective is a little different than a lot of dog owners I know, and maybe that's because dog training is most of what I do, but it's somewhat hard to watch owners justify bad behaviors by saying "Well they're dogs, it's what they do!", or "Yeah, he's always like that. It's just who he is." My dog isn't! And I think most people underestimate not only the impact of quality training, but how easy life can be when you get the bad behaviors trained out of your dog's personality. Other owners will feel more comfortable with your dog, as will other dogs, and your dog will be able to go with you more public places without you worrying!
If you want to talk about the many positive impacts and results training can have, contact us today with questions about your specific dog's breed, personality and behaviors. Our training is personalized and private, so the attention (and results) aren't split among a group. Check out the standard options here.