Happy and Whole: Tackling Dog Behavioral Problems Holistically

Your barking dog causes a nuisance with the neighbors. With relations strained, you need a quick fix. Here's how taking a holistic approach can sort the problem AND set tails wagging.  

What Does 'Holistic' Mean?

Holistic means tackling all aspects of the dog's well-being, including:

  • Mental: Stimulating the mind and preventing boredom

  • Physical: The need for adequate exercise

  • Emotional: Having the dog feel safe and secure, and the absence of inner conflict

 Great! You say. But what has this to do with Fido barking at people passing the front room window? Fair question. To understand this better, let's break things down and look at the individual elements.

Your Dog's Mental Well-Being

Imagine the kids are on school vacation. You sit them in a room.and... unplug the TV, confiscate their phones, and take away their toys. Then you tell them to sit in that same room for eight hours while you go to work. What happens?

They get bored. That's what happens. And as a result, they play catch with the cushions, try mountaineering up the curtains, and fight each other.

Now, think of the equivalent with your dog. Placed in a room and left to their own devices, they make their own entertainment. It just so happens, the best thing going is watching people walk by. Then, a really good game develops where they bark and realize it makes people go away. (Actually, they were always going to pass by, but your dog doesn't know that.) Pretty soon, your dog has learned to bark...big time.

Approaching this holistically means a number of things:

  • Puzzle feeders: Provide mental stimulation by using puzzle feeders instead of food bowls. Give your pooch a stuffed, frozen Kong before you go out and this keeps them busy for at least half an hour.

  • Games and toys: Provide games that are new and exciting. This can be simple, such as a treat inside a sealed cardboard box (your dog has to bite through the box to get the treat) or in a rolled up newspaper. If your dog is the type to eat the box or newspaper, though, you may have to skip this one.

  • Block the view: Pedestrians threaten your dog's territory. Use a panel of adhesive frosted glass to block the view in the lower part of the window.

  • Doggy Massage: Giving your dog attention while easing anxiety and improving blood flow is a win-win situation. Massage is a bonding tool that is under the holistic umbrella.

Your Dog's Physical Well-Being

Holistically speaking, the physical state of your dog is important to their overall demeanor. Acupuncture and acupressure are two treatments that can improve your pet's bodily functions and general health. They are performed by certified specialists who know the technique. If you are looking for a way that you, personally, can improve your furry buddy's health, think fresh air and movement.

Lack of exercise is a huge contributor to bad behavior in dogs. In simple terms, when a dog has too much energy to spare, they will spend it getting up to mischief. Or, put another way, a tired dog is a sleepy dog.

Make sure your dog receives adequate exercise to meet their needs. And this doesn't mean putting a German shepherd in the backyard for an hour a day. It means one-to-one interaction and taking your dog for walks where you play fetch and let them play.

If their recall is poor and you worry about letting them off leash to burn off energy, then use a long line and work on our next point, their emotional well-being.

Your Dog's Emotional Well-Being

A bored, dog bursting with energy will bark at those passing by. However, when you shout at them to be quiet or punish them, this sets the scene for inner conflict.

In your dog's mind, they are defending territory and doing what comes naturally. But, their owner punishes them, which sets up uncertainty and conflict. This can show itself in a number of ways such as insecurity (toileting in the house), a worsening of the problem (your dog thinks you want to join in), or aggression (displaced confusion).

Instead, a better way is to obedience train your four-legged companion. Distract them away from the window with a squeaky toy, then train them to sit on command. Spend five to ten minutes, two or three times a day, teaching your dog a different response to the passers by.

This gets your dog looking to you for instruction, gives a sense of security, and reduces inner conflict. When training, combine the action with the gentle aroma of infused essential oils, lightly scenting the room as you teach. The calming effect will help your pup focus on the job to be done.

Drawing It All Together

From this, we see that providing plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and training for your dog not only reduces the urge to bark, but also makes for a happier dog. Now, the holistic approach and the inclusion of massage, professionally performed therapies, and home-related infusions make sense.

It's possible to adapt this approach to any number of behavioral issues. Have a go today by thinking through the problem and seeing where a holistic approach could benefit both your dog...and neighborly relations.

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