WHAT IS BEHAVIORAL WELLNESS?
Observe a wonderful example of what calming signals look like between two dogs. These are especially signaling BECAUSE they are working between the two dogs. Otherwise one dog sends a "sign" (calming signal) and the other dog does NOT respond and conflict ensues.
Just as you go to the veterinarian to prevent and or treat diseases in your dog, you also need to MONITOR and BE AWARE of what behaviors are healthy and normal and which behaviors are not. These unhealthy behaviors will lead to undesirable, annoying and downright aggressive behavior.
Being aware requires you, the owner, to know how a behaviorally healthy dog acts in different circumstances. Knowing this, you will be better able to recognize when behavior in your own dog needs modification or change. The behaviors on the list below don’t necessarily come naturally to your dog. Many of them need to be “TRAINED” using positive methods. No hitting, grabbing, yelling or jerking. If you have a puppy 7-12 weeks, NOW is the time to train these behaviors. If your dog is over 6 months you may have to work a little harder at change, but you still can have a behaviorally healthy pet. You need to work first on meeting your dog’s most basic needs: exercise (including socialization), proper diet, mental stimulation (training basic commands, tricks, games etc.), and structured environment (your dog knowing you are the leader).
*Compare your dog’s behavior with the healthy behaviors below.
1. Your dog is friendly toward people she meets, including well behaved children.
2. Your dog gets along with other friendly dogs.
3. Your dog can be left alone for reasonable periods of time without becoming anxious or panicked.
4. Your dog will relieve herself when and where you want her to.
5. Your dog is relaxed during normal, everyday grooming and handling including veterinary visits and is mostly relaxed at the vet.
6. Your dog will calm down quickly after being startled or getting excited.
7. Your dog is not fearful of everyday events such as new people coming to your house, sudden loud noises, thunder, lightning, trash trucks, roller blades, bicycles, etc.
8. Your dog barks when appropriate but it will not be excessive and she can be “hushed” relatively easily.
9. Your dog can interact with family members without biting or hurting them or acting uncontrollable.
10. Your dog is independent and not “clingy” or “needy” of your attention all the time.
11. Your dog plays with her toys MOST of the time and doesn’t ruin your possessions.
12. Your dog adapts well to travel, moving, and confinement (crate).
13. Your dog responds well to the basic commands of “Sit, Down, Stand, Heel, Wait, and Come.
This list is a guide--use it to be knowledgeable about what it is you need to work on with your dog. For the healthiest and most enjoyable relationship with your pet you need to work on getting to the point of answering “Yes” to the above statements. But remember it does take knowledge, consistency, and persistency to follow through and make it happen.
Hetts, S. Ph.D Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, n.d. OVMA Veterinary Conference