We may not like to admit it, but, we do need to accept that; people create the so called 'bad' behaviors in their dogs, which then, in turn, lead to the dog and or breed being labeled as 'bad'.
No amount of excuses and justifications can mask or allow one to escape this reality. Sure, specific breed characteristics and instincts are driving forces, these are well known, however, it's what the Human does with these breed characteristics and instincts that, can either lead their dog to being a 'good' or a 'bad' dog.
Like children, dogs aren't born 'bad' or 'good', they just are what they are, a clean slate!
Dogs don't sit around thinking; how can I be good or bad today, how can I annoy or please my Human, how can I cause problems... You get the picture... they just react to their 'now' environment and follow the reactions of their pack leader.
A Pack Leader to a dog is what a Parent is to a child!
If, their pack leader is calm, in control of their emotions and their environment then, the dog will be calm and relaxed about life. If, on the other hand, their pack leader is scattered, in a mess, fearful, worried, etc. etc. then, their dog will also be in the same state of mind.
The vast majority of unacceptable behavioral problems I witness are originating from dogs that are anxious, fearful, insecure and confused.
They generally have no consistency in their lives, no comfort zone or understood boundaries. They also, very, very often, have inadequate exercise, leading to pent up energy with no natural form of release.
I see this, as an old time observer, in modern day children as well. The brain in bored children will start creating uncontrolled or undirected avenues of release. It is no different in our dogs!
It is extremely important, prior to becoming a dog owner (or parent) that, one has developed a reasonable level of self discipline and a high level of self responsibility. I would also add self love to the list of essential traits required, to be a trustworthy and reliable pack leader.
Think about it! Ask yourself the question... Am I leading myself down the right road to happiness, fulfillment and success or, am I leading myself down the low road to dissatisfaction, stress, anxiety, sadness, etc? Because, where I'm going is where my dog is going too! You can't expect your dog to be calm, happy, attentive and joyful if you're miserable, sad, depressed and fearful... can you? There are many variations on this theme, but you get the idea, you fill in the blanks for your own life's circumstances.
The honest answer you get will let you know if you are ready and capable of being a trustworthy pack leader.
For your own sake and that of an innocent dog, don't consider a pet dog as your savior, as the answer to your problems. If you do, you will only be creating more problems than you started out with. A dog, more so than any other pet, will mirror its Human's emotional behavior, temperament and lifestyle.
It should be qualified here that; the vast majority of dog owners experiencing behavioral problems in their dogs have not consciously done anything wrong. They didn't deliberately create the problems, in most cases, they are just unaware of what's happening. I hear it all the time, statements like... I just don't know why he's acting like this or, why does he do that, I'm really good to him, I love him and he treats me like this, etc. etc. and so on and so on.
In fact, more often than not, many of the dog problems I witness are in dogs that are doted on and spoiled by their kind, loving owners. So, don't be fooled by what it is that actually constitutes bad treatment of dogs, leading to anxiety, fear, etc and resulting in really difficult behavioral problems. Don't jump to the conclusion that the dog has been abused or mistreated. I experience this quite a bit from dog rescue volunteers, who, often jump to the conclusion that the cute little bundle in their arms, trying to bite their hand off, has been mistreated and abused. It may well be the case but, it is not necessarily so!
Sure, abuse, neglect, cruelty, etc will obviously lead to dysfunctional behaviour, but, likewise, pampering, spoiling, treating a dog like a human child, can also lead to the same outcomes.
Surely not, I hear you say, but, please know that this is fact. Why? Because, dogs are dogs, they are not humans and there's a big difference. They need to be respected and treated the way they need to be, not the way a human needs to be. You see it all the time, humans loading all their fears, anxieties and stress onto their dogs. They do it though, in the most loving and kind ways, however, the poor old dog doesn't understand all this. They just know that they're very worried and scared, their pack leader is stressed and worried so they better be too! The results... so called bad behavior, which, really is just a dog acting out in ways that worried, anxious dogs do.
Dog's aren't Therapists, they are dogs! Their role in your life is not to fix or solve your problems, but, to add a new dimension of love, friendship and joy to it. This new dimension of love may or most probably will, ease and lighten some of your problems but, it shouldn't be the reason in the first place that you chose to have a dog join your life.
It is up to the Human to meet the dog's needs, on a consistent daily basis and in responsible ways, not the other way round.
True love is when you can put the needs of others (including your dog), ahead of your own. Words to a dog are cheap and mostly meaningless. Actions speak much louder to dogs (and kids) than any word ever can.
Your way of being, your body language, your attitude and demeanor to life, your self love and self respect, your sense of self discipline and self responsibility and your ensuing actions all dictate the kind of pack leader you are, on any given day, in any given moment. If, you are aware and in tune, you'll know instantly from your dog what your level of emotional fitness is, in any given moment... stay alert and be aware! Be prepared to make adjustments if needed, to achieve the outcomes you desire. Yelling, scolding, hitting and basically losing control will never give you the outcome you want. Nor will actions like chaining, locking your dog up in a cage, banning him/her from the house, using devices designed to cause pain, etc. etc., ever give you a positive result.
Dogs live very much in the 'now', they react to the 'now', yes, they carry past experiences and baggage similar to us, however, their Reactions are in the 'now'. That's why you can't expect them to know that, she's a really good pack leader sometimes but, has bad days and isn't so good on other days... they just don't understand this concept of inconsistency, they will simply give you the reaction you deserve or warrant in any given moment. Like us, they do carry triggers created in the past, but, and it's a big BUT, unlike us, their reactions can very much be controlled by the way their pack leader reacts in the 'now'.
Think about it! Are you providing an emotionally and physically secure and reliable environment that meets your dog's needs or, are you all living in a chaotic, inconsistent and unreliable environment.
Remember, a dog can only learn through consistency of actions and consistency of expectations. If, the rules of the game are erratic and forever changing, half way through play, then, what can you expect? If, it's OK one day to bark at the postman because you can't be bothered to correct the behavior but, the next day you chastise the dog for doing so then, who's being unfair?
I hope you can agree with me that, there are no bad or good dogs... they are what you make of them.
A quick point worth noting is... Don't turn a blind eye to your kids pestering and teasing your dog in the name of play and then, blame the dog for reacting in a way you find inappropriate. Be a 'Fair' and 'Aware' pack leader, it is your responsibility not your dogs!
It's also very difficult for a dog to have multiple pack leaders, they need one who sets the pace and expectations, one who they can always rely on and whose lead they will follow in trust. Their pack leader sets the behavior of how they will interact with all other members of the pack (family).
A little tip I find that can have powerfully positive results is... to allow your dog to come inside the home... dogs I see that are banned from entering the home often exhibit difficult and undesirable behavior - digging, anxious barking, aggression, fear based behavior, etc. To them, being isolated from the pack (family) is the equivalent of being left to die. Yes, it's that strong and in nature that's exactly what happens to the weak, sick, injured, old members of the pack. Allowing them in the home doesn't have to mean giving them the run of the house to do what they want, it means including them inside with you, allocating space in your life for them to join in and be included in the pack.
Another suggestion that might be helpful is to... never, never ever use food as a control tool. Their right to eat and be properly nourished and satisfied is a basic, instinctual need of every creature (including humans) and is not to be used as a bartering tool, punishment tool, etc. Always try and keep a reliable routine around feeding, within reason. They need to know that dinner and breakfast will arrive and they will be free to enjoy it, without threat, a hungry dog is a problem dog. Sure, you don't have to be on the dot of 6pm, or whatever time, every night but, you do need to ensure you feed them, no matter how tired or late in you might be. So many problems in dogs result from food anxieties... keep to a routine they can rely on and you'll find, over time, this will result in a calmer, more satisfied and contented dog.
The subject of breed characteristics and instincts is for another article, suffice to say that; no trait is good or bad, it is more about what the human does with the trait that makes the difference between a reliable, well mannered dog and a so called 'bad' dog. Breed characteristics and instincts are a great tool and guide in selecting the right type of dog for you and your lifestyle because, they will form the foundation from which you can both grow together. If you choose the wrong breed for your lifestyle then, you will have problems. For example, if you live in an apartment and choose a working dog breed, what's going to happen? I don't need to answer that question for you, it's too obvious.
Please don't blame them or yourself, make the changes in yourself and your life, then, sit back and see the miracle of change occur in your dog. The rewards on offer from a well balanced, calm and satisfied dog are worth every moment of the effort required to create this relationship.
The consequences of not being prepared to have an honest, inner self assessment and continuing on with the blame game are awful and unrewarding, to say the least, for all concerned. The results are on show in the millions, in every rescue shelter around the world, all supposedly filled with bad dogs... I don't think so! I've actually witnessed a number of people who have been through multiple dogs, discarding them because they were bad dogs or the wrong dog, then going out and doing it all over again and guess what, getting the same results as the previous one, but still blaming the dogs. Extremely sad!
Please remember and truly know... your dog's problem behaviors "all start and end with you"! You are the one in control, you have the power to change, the dog is just reacting to you in the moment and therefore has no control or power to make any changes.
I wish you all the inner joy and happiness that can come from the love of a dog.