Behaviour patterns - what your dog needs
Always keep in mind that, no matter how well you feel you know your dog, or how gentle they appear, you should be aware of your dog’s needs and be alert to any changes in their behaviour. It is important to teach your children how to behave around your dog.
The way a healthy dog behaves is individual and depends on its age, breed or type and past experience. However, most dogs are playful, sociable animals and they enjoy playing together with toys, people and other dogs. Play is an important part of getting along with people and other dogs, and although dogs will spend some time playing alone with toys they should have regular opportunities for interactive playing.
Dogs are intelligent animals and can suffer from boredom. If your dog is bored, and does not have enough to do, it may suffer or engage in inappropriate behaviour. Changes in behaviour may show that something is wrong with a dog’s health.
All dogs, in particular puppies, need rest. However, individual dogs have different needs and some will sleep for long periods after exercise or food; others will need less rest and will be more active.
Space to be alone
A dog needs space to be alone and needs to be able to relax undisturbed. When the dog is ready, it needs to be able to re-join the group.
A dog needs regular exercise and regular opportunities to walk and to run free under proper supervision. The amount of exercise a dog needs varies with age, breed and health. Some breeds of dog need a lot of exercise and you should take account of this when choosing a dog. Young dogs may need to have their exercise restricted during periods of rapid growth, to avoid developmental problems. Exercising dogs in extremes of weather can lead to unnecessary suffering.
Training a dog, including the house training of puppies, is important to help it learn to behave appropriately and to make it easier to keep under control, as well as safeguarding its welfare on how it feels about its social and physical environment and its ability to cope with any challenges.
Positive-reinforcement based training can enhance a dog's quality of life, but aversive methods can cause a dog pain or unnecessary suffering and can cause longer term behavioural problems, so should be avoided.
Familiarisation and socialisation
Puppies need familiarisation with the many noises, objects and activities they will meet in their environment, some of which may be frightening. Socialisation is an important part of a puppy’s early experience and helps it to develop appropriate behaviours.
What you should do:
- make sure your dog has enough to do so that it does not become distressed or bored
- make sure your dog has access to safe toys and suitable objects to play with and chew and that these activities are properly supervised
- make sure that your dog can rest undisturbed when it wants to - puppies and older animals may need more rest
- allow your dog to move away from interaction with adults or children when it wants to, and not be followed
- provide your dog with regular opportunities for exercise and play with people or other friendly dogs
- give your dog the exercise it needs, at least daily unless your vet recommends something different, to keep your dog fit, active and stimulated
- if you are unsure how much exercise your dog needs; take advice from your vet or other suitably qualified dog care specialist
- you should get to know the behaviour of your dog when it is fit and healthy - if you become aware of changes in behaviour, you should seek veterinary advice, as your dog may be distressed, bored, ill or injured
- all dogs should be trained to behave appropriately and in ways that will benefit them, their families and the wider communities, ideally from a very young age
- only use positive reward-based training - aversive, harsh, potentially painful or frightening training methods, such as electronic, spray and prong collars should be avoided
- the level and intensity of training should be suitable to the age of the animal
- professional advice should be sought where behaviour problems are not being resolved with training methods used, or where training knowledge or experience is inadequate
- teach your child to be gentle with your dog and not to approach them when they are eating, sleeping, unwell or injured