What have you done with my Lab and where’ve you taken him?? (Dog Marking Behavior)

LOL…that came out sounding kinda scary, huh? Like I was going to blog on theft of dogs…NOPE..

Ever Wonder Why Your Labrador Changes Personalities or Behavior around different dogs????

Fall/winter has hit here in the Endless Mt.’s and I’m writing this blog from our Lake House (about 10 miles from Aspen Hall, our home).

We spend about 2-3 days a week here, and we can handle 2 dogs here. We have recently been brining Amy and Reign who are pretty good going anywhere, but something changed when they began to spend time at the Lake House together with us each week (with none of our other labs around). They are totally different here than at our other home. Even my 11 year old plays like a puppy here!

I’ve spent the last 20 years pondering the mysteries of dogs and how their brains work. But most importantly, since I live with more than at least 5 dogs, I’ve been able to observe one dog when they are in the pack, and one dog when they are away from the pack. Who is the alpha bitch can change on a whim. Same with alpha male. It’s not a “bad” thing, it’s a natural thing. And once I began to learn about how dog packs function it gave me a lot of insight into some of my dogs’ strange behavior when we find ourselves in a NEW place.

First of all, they are SO relaxed here alone with us.

They may not live in a run type situation or a huge pack of dogs that live in close quarters (can be a challenge, don’t recommend it), but they “feel” the responsibility at home to “keep watch” for the pack. Or to be conscious of what people are coming or going. Here…all they do is sit with us. We open the door, they come sit with us. They want to JUST be with us. Since they are pack animals, suddenly this is their tiny pack. They can relax. They are well protected, well fed, and warm (and then some!) It’s like two different dogs!

Example: You visit your friend’s house and enter with your dog who happily greets your friends dog (who is a “bit” nervous at first, then wags as he recognizes his friend). Your dog disappears and leaves a nice big pile of poop in your friend’s living room behind the couch. You gasp with embarrassment. “Bennie never poops or pees in the house!” You hang your head in embarrassment as you ask for a role or paper towels.

Usually, upon first entry to a new place, your dog will have the innate desire to “MARK.” –male or female—spayed or unsprayed—neutered or not neutered. I’ve observed this behavior for 32 years watching my friends parade their dogs into my house swearing “they are house trained!” I just chuckle and wait with my paper towels and Lysol spray handy. Its ok….and its NORMAL. So instead of getting really mad…just realize what is going on and don’t worry. If your neighbor doesn’t understand, now you can explain!

Same thing with play. Some dogs that have been exposed to lots of different ages and sizes of dogs at and early age will be more confident and be less likely to want to do ‘submissive’ marking. And some will even play differently if you move them to a new location. They may become more laid back, more nervous, or even more playful—depends on the breed, age, socialization of the dog and owner’s willingness to engage in a variety of activities and surroundings with their dogs.

IF you find yourself in a new place, be prepared for what comes up. Don’t be nervous, try to be as calm as you can about the new surroundings and walk through them without hesitation or babying your dog. In the show ring we look straight ahead and just GO with them—and they get it quickly. Do the same in new situations. Be confident, build your dog’s confidence, but don’t be too hard on them if they are a little “off” in a new environment. Keep it up, though! It’s a great time in history to travel with canine companions. Lots of “Its ok” would just make them more nervous because you just communicated, in a way to them, it may not be ok…so approach each NEW thing with enthusiasm, a light-hearted vocal tone, and… Enjoy!!!

Photo: Courtesy of Dog Training Nation

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