No Such Thing as a Bad Dog
‘Bad behavior’ in dogs, such as nipping or aggression, are external manifestations of internal driving forces. These behaviors stem from frustration or stress because the dog’s instinctual needs are not being met. Kimberly Artley fixes communication issues between owner and pup to get to the bottom of such behaviors.
Dogs are unable to take themselves out for a run if they have excess energy to burn. “Their quality of life is 100% dependent upon what we choose to provide them and what we don’t,” Artley says. Just like when a person is upset, they may smoke, drink, or shop excessively, dogs may also act out. “It’s boredom, it’s frustration, it’s anxiety,” she says. “It’s a coping mechanism.”
Artley’s first dog, Lobo, was her best friend. “He fulfilled that little emotional void,” says Artley. “We did everything together.” He was a balanced, well-behaved dog. However, when Artley and her husband divorced, a switch flipped in Lobo. He became overprotective and aggressive. Artley considered Lobo to be the problem and put herself into bankruptcy trying to fix him, going through trainer after trainer and sending him to a two-week board and train. Eventually, he bit someone and had to be put down. It didn’t have to be that way. “Had I known then what I know now, it would have been a non-issue,” says Artley. “I could have nipped it in the bud.” Lobo is the reason why she does what she does.
Fixing the Right End of the Leash
“We’ve got some of the most psychologically challenged, neurotic dogs on the face of the planet, and we don’t have to look any further than our end of the leash as to why,” says Artley. It’s the owner’s responsibility to provide dogs with what they need to be calm and balanced. To achieve this, Artley conditions calm.
When a dog gains something, such as attention, affection, or getting pet, from practicing something else, such as excitement or being pushy or demanding, they will continue to practice those things. “We’re actually conditioning those behaviors, reinforcing those behaviors, reinforcing that state of mind,” says Artley. Instead of conditioning your dog to be excited, you must condition your dog to be calm, polite, and respectful. “What we do not address and what we do not correct immediately gains our consent,” she says. Failing to disagree with a behavior in a dog will cause that behavior to continue, intensify, and bleed out into other behaviors.
Dogs aren’t born with the understanding of what humans consider appropriate, polite, respectful behavior, we must teach them. “But we cannot teach without first understanding how to communicate effectively,” says Artley. Humans communicate primarily through verbal language, but dogs respond to energy, body language, and vocal inflection. Speaking with a high-pitched, excited voice creates excitement in dogs, while speaking with a lower-registered, calmer voice is more grounding and facilitates a calmer energy.
Trust and Respect
When we bring a dog into our home, we enter into a relationship with them. At the foundation of every sound relationship is trust and respect. When a dog is not listening to their owner, usually it’s due to a lack of respect. Many people try to befriend their dog, especially if their dog is a rescue. They stay attached to the dog’s emotional story and try to compensate for every wrong that the pup has suffered, which doesn’t allow them to move forward. “We cannot lead through emotions,” Artley says.
Provide for Instinctual Needs
Dogs don’t need a friend. They need structure, rules, boundaries, leadership, discipline, mental stimulation, and nutrition. Like parents of the human species provide all these things for their children, they must also provide them to their dogs as the alpha of the pack.
Different dog breeds have additional needs. People will fall in love with the look of a dog such as a German shepherd, but that’s a super intelligent, working breed. They don’t fare well as pet dogs.
Artley recommends looking at stray and homeless dogs. They don’t tend to be crazy or imbalanced, running around challenging everybody. Rather, they’re calm, cool, and collected. This is because they meet their own needs. If they need exercise, they give it to themselves. Pet dogs, on the other hand, are given every luxury — free meals, toys, beds, attention — they are constantly gaining without having to earn anything. “So what we’re conditioning are very bratty, entitled, unruly, spoiled, pushy, testy dogs,” says Artley. “We’ve got to be more accountable for what we’re doing and not doing. They’re looking to us for their guidance.”
My Dog, My Buddha
Artley wrote My Dog, My Buddha for Lobo and everybody who is struggling. “It’s a blending of personal empowerment and self-help and dog behavior,” she says. “It’s everything kind of wrapped into one.”
Packfit does private training and stay-and-learn training. “I’m really big on educating, empowering, and equipping the human end of the leash,” Artley says. Training doesn’t happen in six or eight sessions, it happens every single day. “If our dog is exhibiting some behaviors, it’s our responsibility, it’s our commitment to them to figure out how we can help.”
Contact Information for Kimberly Artley