At some point, your dog’s behaviour has been going on so long or so often that you may just accept that it can’t be changed.
You adjust to calling it normal, but at K9 Pro, we aim to create a new normal.
Over stimulated, over excited, hyperactive, always on, fear aggressive, predatory aggressive, dominant and anxious dogs can all be taught better ways.
Often modern-day obedience training is more geared towards competition, the flashy heel work, super-fast flip to heel and downs, and this is awesome, but this is not what we need for everyday life.
Our program that we call Life Skills, creates a calm dog that can focus on remaining engaged with their handler even around distractions, without hands filled with food.
The use of food.
At one time it was thought that training with food would never create a respectful relationship, but that has changed for some now.
But was there any merit to what was once thought?
Like any training aid, food can and often is used poorly and this can certainly result in problems, including lack of respect.
I see owners waving food and toys at their dogs to get them to recall, to me it looks like they are saying
“I know you won’t do it for me, but would you do it for food?” Because if they called their dog and did not show food, their dog does not even consider coming.
If this is you, understand that using food did not create this issue, but the way you are using it has.
I see countless clients with aggressive dogs that have been told that the moment they see another dog, start throwing food on the ground.
At best this is nothing more than you distracting your dog before the other dog does. At worst you are devaluing the food to the free food category.
If you truly want to help your dog, stop this.
The use of a management tool
Head halters, front attach harnesses etc only reduce pulling, they do not help you create a relationship with your dog that would see your dog want to walk with you, even without a leash or food.
They simply give you more leverage and the dog still wants to pull just as much but the device creates an aversive feel when pulling or pulls the dogs skeleton to one side, robbing the dog of traction to pull.
A dog that will behave perfectly in a social environment will need to have good obedience training that is cued by the handler’s voice, not the presentation of food or not a tool that makes the dog feel trapped.
Medication? a false normal?
I see too many dogs that come to me that have been medicated to solve their behaviour problems.
The first thing to know is that, if the medication worked, I would never see these dogs, because they would have been cured, right?
Second is that, there is no technology I know that can measure brain chemistry accurately and tell us if your dog has an imbalance.
This means that when you are told this, the person is basing it off their opinion, not a medical fact.
There are dogs that can benefit from medication, but nowhere near the numbers that are being prescribed it in my opinion.
If your dog is medicated and his or her behaviour has improved, is this new normal, a false, chemically induced normal?
What are the side effects of mid to long term use?
Important questions to ask if this is a route your considering.
The new normal is not easy to create.
Years ago people were accused of not exercising their dog enough and that this was the reason that their dog was miss behaving.
Over the years, many people have accepted that to have a dog you will need to exercise him or her, and even in their busy lives, find some way to make this happen.
But the current message needs to be TRAIN YOUR DOG!
This may be hard because you may have to change your thinking, from what you thought was the best way to raise your dog to another way.
The number one cause of anxiety in dogs is lack of leadership, direction and control.
The number one cure is leadership, direction and control.
We have anxious dogs board and rehab with us weekly. They are so free to make all the choices, they fear making any choice.
We give them direction; we teach them the correct behaviours and help them make better choices.
Reinforced, this forms a new normal for these anxious dogs.
They become sure of themselves, they seek leadership and advice so they can enjoy life without worrying about what can go wrong.
We see them become confident and proud, and even playful where they were not before.
Dogs deserve to live without these burdens, and we can help them, but you also may need to realise you need a new normal too.
Dogs are not furry human babies, mine aren’t, yours aren’t either. They are and always will be animals and that is not a derogatory term at all.
I love dogs more than most people, and I know how they should be treated, to make them confident and self-respecting creatures.
I personally don’t care if you call your dog a fur baby, so long as you raise and train your dog properly.
The role of life skills
Life skills are a combination of several behaviours, impulse control and the understanding by the dog that when you ask for a behaviour, the dog must deliver it.
Of course, the dog must know what the behaviour is, have been taught the behaviour and trained to a level where the dog will display the behaviour even under distraction or competitive stimulus.
With these in place you can direct your dog on how to behave in a given environment and when the dog complies this has positive outcomes.
A dog that is given a sit cue and complies with the criteria of sit cannot also lunge, bark or attack. He or she cannot jump on people, run into traffic, steal food or eat poison either…
So perhaps teaching solid life skills is more important than you may think.
Giving your dog lots of freedom sounds nice but it also provides unlimited dangerous opportunities for your dog, you and other people and their dogs.
Giving your dog direction and leadership can provide freedom without risk.
Living the dream
Creating a dog that is responsive, respectful and engaged with you is not easy for some people or for some dogs, but owning a dog like that will mean off leash freedom, pleasant walks with no pulling or worse, a calm dog in your home when guests arrive and a dog that will sit with you at a cafe whilst the world walks by.
This is very achievable for all dogs; most owners focus elsewhere and never get to live the dream.
It may not be easy, but the alternative is impossible.