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By Published On: April 26th, 2011

jigsaw puzzle with one piece missingIt’s not unusual when trying to sort out any behavior problems in our dogs to look for the simplest explanation for what is causing the issue. We hope that if we could only remedy that, everything will fall into place. Some of the common missing pieces heralded as the reasons for a dog’s misbehavior include:

A lack of leadership

Insufficient exercise

Ignorance of the dog’s past

The handler’s incorrect ‘energy’

The dog’s lack of a ‘job’

Not enough love

Not enough discipline

Often the puzzle piece we seek is only one in the many that create the clear blue sky. It helps, but it doesn’t mean the rest of the pieces are easy to sort out. The piece we put in place may be an edge or corner piece and does help us build the outlines of the picture while we keep working on the rest. But it usually does not complete the puzzle in and of itself. And why do we expect it should? We know from our own personal experiences that making things ‘right’ in our lives usually requires more than getting up an hour earlier, joining a gym or giving up sugar.

This is not to say that addressing what may be a fundamental cause of a dog’s conflict will not have a significant effect on their overall behavior. When it does there’s an audible sigh of relief from a trainer and a few murmured hallelujahs. But the process of creating new habits and building skills in a dog requires more than just an owner asserting their dominance, projecting the right energy or loving their dog more. That it is not so simple should not be daunting or off-putting, indeed it can be one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of living with dogs.

Realizing that we are likely the most important piece in the puzzle of our dogs’ lives should inspire us to a greater understanding of their behavior. When we learn to respect and acknowledge the many facets of our dogs’ personalities the pieces seem to fall into place.

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