All domestics dogs are descended from wolves.  Despite being different in shape, size and colour, our domestic dogs have retained about 85% of their behaviour patterns.  It is this part of our dog that we need to understand if we are to understand and control our dogs.

Understanding your dogs behaviour and advice on how to deal with it.

Wolf Behaviour

In the wolf pack, there is a definite hierarchy which is strongly maintained and defended.  There is usually only one male and female dominant breeding pair and the rest are arranged in order beneath them.

This is similar to how your pack should be - adults first, then children, then dog.  Dogs are very conscious of hierarchy and will attempt to find their own place if you do not set this for them.


Living with Wolves


It is important that your dog thinks that he is at the bottom of the pack.  Suppose your dog is on the sofa and you want him to get off - if he is way below you in the pack he will do so without argument; if he thinks he is on equal terms, you will have to make him and if he considers himself above you he is likely to bite you if you insist because he feels you have no right to tell him what to do.

The greater the difference in hierarchy between your dog and yourself, the more respect he will have for you and the more likely he is to comply with your wishes.  So setting out the ground rules, right from start is really important even with the more submissive types of dog.


Pack Leadership

Your new dog will have a predetermined view of humans.  This will depend on his genetic make-up and his previous experiences with humans.  Despite this predetermined view, how you treat him in his first few weeks will make all the difference to the way in which he sees his place in your family hierarchy.

The old way to dominate a dog was to beat it into submission.  This is tough on the dog and also very difficult for the average pet owner to do.  An alternative way is to use the ways that wolves use - the natural way and a method instinctively understood by our dogs.

Even if you have had dogs before which have been well behaved, we strongly recommend that you keep to the guidelines for at least the first six months.


Sleeping Place

The dominant wolf will choose the safest, warmest place in the territory to sleep.  It is usually elevated so that they can look down over the rest of the pack.

In your house, you have chosen your bedroom as the best place to sleep.  If you allow your dog to sleep there (and even worse on or in your bed) you have immediately put him on equal footing with you.

Dogs that are made to sleep in the kitchen from day one will have little trouble in accepting this.  For similar reasons, it also pays to keep him off the furniture.



In the wolf pack, the dominant wolves will eat first if a kill is made, the rest waiting until after they have finished.

For most dogs, dinner time is one of the highlights of their day.  Therefore, it is a small but important point that in your home, dogs should be fed last after the family.

Similarly titbits should not be given.  This can be easily misinterpreted by dogs as being a weakness on your behalf rather than being benevolent.  It also saves you from having a dog that sits drooling over visitors when they come to dinner!



Dominant wolves will present themselves to subordinates for grooming, who will lick their faces and generally pay them attention.  A dominant wolf would not be approached by a subordinate uninvited - the subordinate would know better than to do so.

In order to reinforce your status, it is important to groom your dog every day in the initial period.  This applies especially to those with short hair, which are often overlooked.

This also gives you the chance to give your dog a quick health check.  It also ensures that you will be better able to handle him if he needs veterinary attention.  You cannot expect your veterinary surgeon to examine your dog if you cannot.



If you have children, it is important that they also follow these guidelines - keep the dog out of the children's bedroom, do not let it take food from them or clear up under a baby's high-chair until after the child has eaten.  The children should assist you in grooming but this should only be done by them when the dog completely accepts you doing it and children should then only groom the dog under supervision.



Games provide your dog with a major opportunity to find out his position in the pack.  Games that dogs play can be roughly divided into three types :

1. Killing,  These are games with squeaky toys.  The squeak is designed to mimic an injured animal which arouses the killing instinct in some dogs and makes them excited.  It is the typical game played by the terrier type of dog.  The dog continues to enjoy the game until the toy is sufficiently damaged to cease squeaking.  Then the dog will lose interest.

2. Chasing,  This is probably the most commonly played game.  It is usually the favourite game of dogs to herd or chase such as collies or greyhounds.  It is often the favourite game of submissive dogs who do not want to play the more dominant strength games.

It is important to encourage dogs that enjoy chasing games to play with toys.  Otherwise they may play unacceptable games such as chasing joggers, bicycles or chase the postman down the drive!

3. Possession,  These are games of tug-of-war.  They are games of strength and are played to find out who is stronger, both physically and mentally, and hence who is better equipped to lead the pack.  They are generally played by more dominant dogs, the social climbers, the ones who want to be the leaders of the pack.

If your dog enjoys this sort of game, it is important that you play to certain rules so that your dog learns the right thing from the games.

The rules are as follows :


  1. You keep all of the toys, so you decide when to play.  You need to play often - as often as you can - but you must initiate the game.

  2. You must win the tugging match more often than not.

  3. You must take the toy away at the end of the game.

By following these rules, your dog will consider you to be physically and mentally stronger than himself and consequently more suitable for pack leadership than he is.

If you have children, it is important to form a coalition with them so that when they play a tug-of-war (always under supervision), you can assist them to win if necessary.


Control of Games

When you get your new dog, find out what his favourite games are and buy some appropriate toys.  All dogs play, but unfortunately there will be some who do not know how to play with toys.  If this is the case with your dog, you will need to teach him.  Choose all the times when your dog gets naturally excited and invite him to play.  The more movement and energy you put into the game, the more likely he is to join in.

Keep all toys yourself.  This is the dominant way to behave and will give you higher status.  You should decide when games should be played and decide when to finish.  Always take the toy away at the end of the game.

For the first two weeks, it is recommended that you play with the dog 20-30 times a day.  This may seem a lot, but the games only have to last for one minute or so.  Produce the toy only when the dog is being good.

Ten of these games should be played after the dog has been shut in alone for a period of time.  Begin doing this as soon as you get the dog home, increasing the period of isolation gradually.

After two weeks, reduce the number of games played to a substantial level.  Since you own all the toys and they remain a novelty for the dog, your dog should not become obsessed with the games and you can use them as a reward for good behaviour.


Ignore your dog !

There is a good reason for this.  For the initial period, it is recommended that you ignore the dog whenever you have not chosen to interact with it.  There are two important reasons for doing this:

  1. This is the dominant way to behave.  Ignoring demands for attention will give you higher status.

  2. It produces less dependency, over-attached relationship between the dog and the owner.  To make it easier on the dog, ignoring it unless you choose to interact will reduce the anxiety felt by the dog when it is left.

How Dogs Learn

Do not expect your new dog to know your house rules.  He will only know what was acceptable in his first home; you will need to teach him what he can or cannot do in yours.

In fact, dogs do not learn rules at all.  For example, if you teach your dog not to get on the sofa, that does not mean that he knows it is wrong to jump on sofas in other houses.

Dogs learn by association of ideas.  If you teach a dog to lay down on command in the kitchen, he will not necessarily understand the same command in the garden.  He will only associate the reward for that particular action if all the associations are the same.  By changing the environment, all the associations, apart from you, have changed and the dog will not necessarily understand your command.

If an action is rewarded it is likely to be repeated.  If it is ignored or punished, it is less likely to be repeated.  For example, if every time your dog goes and lays on a particular rug you get the biscuit tin out and feed him, he is likely to lay down on that rug more often.  If, every time he lays on the rug, you accidentally trip over him and kick him, he will less likely to lay there.

The reward or punishment has to come within two seconds of the event for it to be effective.  If it comes later than this, the dog will have moved on thinking about something else and the effect will be lost.

What matters is what the dog finds rewarding.  If he stands in front of the television barking for attention and you shout at him to make him stop - you think you are punishing him and that he will stop - however, he likes attention and it encourages him to do it more.

When you take your dog home and he does something you do not want him to do, tell him off so that he knows he has done wrong, but don't physically punish him.  An effective way is to say, forcefully, "NO!!!, command".  Also show him what he should do instead and praise him.  This gives you the chance to tell him what he should do and gives him the chance to learn what he can do to earn praise, rather than the very negative experience of always being told off.


Delayed Punishment

Dogs cannot learn from delayed punishment.  Punishment has to come at the time of the misdemeanour to be effective.  Showing the dog what he has done long after the event and punishing him will not be understood and will only to make him frightened.  If the dog has made a mess or a wet, then usually the scent of the urine/excretion focuses the dogs mind on the misdemeanour, and the fact that you are angry, will act as sufficient punishment.  Owners will often say 'he knows he has done wrong because he is looking guilty', and will therefore continue the punishment.  'Looking guilty' is just a submissive gesture by the dog to try to avoid the punishment that he knows is inevitable when you come home and begin to look angry.


Environmental Correction

This can be useful if your dog is doing something which you do not want him to do, for example, he begins to chew the furniture.  If, just as is teeth make contact to the furniture, something soft and heavy lands on him and makes him jump enough to get up and leave, he will associate the act of chewing the furniture with something unpleasant rather than with the reward of chewing.  Throwing something that lands beside him and rattles will have the same effect.

This has two advantages.  One is that since the experience is not connected with you, so he is unlikely to chew the furniture even when you are not there.  Secondly, since the correction has not come from you, he will go to you for reassurance and you will stay his best friend.



The following information may help you the reasons behind why dogs chew.  The reasons of chewing fall into four main areas:

1. Puppy Chewing.  Puppies go through the teething stage at 2-3 months and everyone should expect them to chew at this stage.  Provide suitable items for this.

2. Boredom.  Young dogs or those with active minds, such as those from the working breeds are more prone to this type of chewing.  Usually dogs such as these will go to sleep when their owners leave.  Once they wake up, they will pad around looking for something to do and this will be when they are most likely to be destructive.


Prevention of puppy and boredom chewing

  • Provide strenuous physical and mental exercise before leaving so that your dog is tired.

  • Provide a 'novelty' chew/bone which is only available when you are out.

  • If you have a puppy, make sure that he is not in contact with items that will be expensive to replace until you have taught him the difference between what he should chew and what he should not.

3. Attention-seeking chewing.  This is the least common reasons for chewing.  It is a learnt behaviour similar to attention-seeking barking.  Dogs that have this problem tend to cause small bits of damage to many items in the house.  Fortunately this type of chewing is rare.

4. Separation-Anxiety Chewing.  It is not fully understood why some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and, under similar circumstances, others donít.  Itís important to realize, however, that the destruction and house soiling that often occurs with separation anxiety is not the dogís attempt to punish or seek revenge on his owner for leaving him alone, but is actually a panic response.  Separation-Anxiety is very common in re-homed dogs.  It is more likely in dogs that are very sensitive to their owner's actions and is especially seen in working breeds.  It is very important that the socialisation between dogs and humans takes place very earlier with a good rapport between them.

Many dogs form a very close bond with their owners and try to follow them everywhere.  They are often allowed to do this and when the owners have to leave the dog to go out, the dog panics.

Usually the first 15 minutes are the worst.  The dog will sniff under the door to try to locate the owner, run round trying to find a way out, scratch at the doors and will jump up at windows.  Finally, it will often select something that has recently been in contact with the owner which smells of the owner and will begin to chew it.

Sometimes, the anxiety that the dog feels will result in barking, whining or howling and the dog may urinate or defecate in the house.

It is worth considering implementing the following if you have this sort of problem:

Prevention of separation-anxiety chewing

  • Be sure to ignore the dog as much as possible whenever you have not chosen to interact.

  • Stop him following you from room to room and shut him in another room for short periods of time, gradually extending the length of time he is left for.

  • Ignore the dog for half an hour before going out.

  • During this time, wear an old sweater or jacket and leave this in his bed or where he will feel most secure.

  • Prepare to go out, but then stop and sit back down, try this several times until the dog simply gives up on the expectation and hence the anxiety is less.

  • Renew your scent on this article each time you go out.

  • Be nice to him on your return - preferably not making specific notice to anything he has done in your absence and after you have completed your usual activities (e.g. checking the answer phone; reading you mail; taking off your coat etc).

Toilet Training


Most adult dogs will have been housetrained at some point in their lives.  Some will have been in kennels for a long time and may just need reminding.  All will be used to a different routine and will need time to adjust their bodies to cope with your way of life.  Puppies however, will have as basic understanding of cleanliness, but will need further training, so be patient.


To set them off on the right foot, when you first take your dog home, give him ample opportunity to go to the toilet outside in the garden before bringing him in.  When he does so, make a tremendous fuss of him, give him food rewards and play a game with him.  Dogs are very much creatures of habit and once the habit is started, it is likely to continue.


The First Night


It is useful to put your dog to bed half an hour before going to bed yourselves for the first few nights.  This gets him used to the idea of being alone in the room before you disappear upstairs.

Ignore all attempts to get you to go back to him.  Warn the neighbours that there may be a few sleepless nights, and put something up against the door so that he cannot do any damage if he scratches.

Only go in to your dog in the morning when he is quiet.  If you go in when he is barking, you will be rewarding him for making a noise and he is likely to be more persistent the next time.




All dogs need to be taken off their territory at least twice a day.  This not only gives the opportunity for exercise but also provides mental stimulation and the chance to socialise.

Take toys out with you on its walk so that you can play with your dog.  This gives him more exercise and build a stronger bond between you.

The amount of exercise needed will depend upon the individual dog or puppy, and is not necessarily dependent on size.  Working dogs are likely to need more than those bred for other purposes.


48 Hour Stress


When you take your new dog home, he will be under stress, no matter how kind you are to him.  Stress causes an increase in body temperature which can lower the immune response and cause any ailments that the dog's system was just coping with to come to the fore.  Watch out for any stomach upsets at this time.  If they persist longer that 24 hours, consult your veterinary surgeon and let us know.




Your new dog will probably behave like a visitor for the first two weeks.  Any behaviour problems that the dog will have, tends to be exhibited after 14 days.  A dog will not have settled completely in your home until he has been their for almost a year, therefore don't be surprised to see odd behaviours materialise.

Use this time to get him used to the environment in which he is going to live, bringing as many friends around as possible.

A puppy is most perceptible to new activities during the age of six to fourteen weeks of age.  This is said to be the period of time that the dog will never forget, so it is important that the puppy is introduced to many activities such as car travel, road noise, human socialisation.  Do not chastise your puppy hard during this time, as you may have social problems in the future.  Remember your puppy will not forget.




Dogs are not humans in fury skins and have different needs and abilities.  We hope that as a result of this information, you will understand them a little better.



Domestic dogs have retained 85% of there behaviour from the Wolf.

Dominant dogs will sleep in the safest and warmest place., feed first and present themselves for grooming - Establish yourself as pack leader.

To a dog there are three types of games - Killing, Chasing and possession.

Dogs learn by association.  Use positive rewards to praise positive actions.

Dogs are not humans in fury skins.  They have different needs.