Getting your dog right…

We see a lot of people who bring their dogs to us for help, many of them are in crisis as the situation is just impossible to live in.

These situations do not develop overnight, they are the result of smaller problems ignored, and now the problem is severe.

What you are probably experiencing is not the actual problem, it is the symptom of the problem.

Not knowing this means you may be treating the symptom and not the (root) cause.

Doing that will not bring you a resolution to the problem.

I believe this is where a lot of you, people with dogs that have behaviour problems, are.

I am going to cut to the chase here and tell you five things I really suggest you don’t do or stop doing.

  1. Distracting

I would never make a noise, throw food on the ground, lure with food or a toy to get my dog to avoid displaying aggressive (reactive if you prefer) behaviour to a person or a dog.

This is not training the dog, it’s distracting.

Regardless of what you may think or have been told or shown, Positive Reinforcement is not being associated with the trigger (person or dog).

If you are simply looking to distract the dog (and not attempting behaviour modification) then simply place your hand over your dogs’ eyes, it is about the same in my opinion.

For your dog to change his or her value (feelings) for the trigger (person or dog), your dog must know the other dog is within the triggering distance but choose (with your assistance) an alternate behaviour.

This you can and most definitely reinforce and in time, your dog will become less sensitive to this trigger and can reframe its meaning altogether.

These guys below were dog aggressive, cant you tell?

2. Waiting

Look, trust me, he or she will not grow out of it. A behaviour that is being rehearsed is being reinforced, therefore it will not stop on its own.

The overall best advice I can give you is, get a professional trainer on board BEFORE you have any problems, yes start with a puppy and trainer.

Most people I meet when they get a puppy, see me a few times in the first year of life and never, ever need help again.

If you missed that boat and your dog is “starting” to display some concerning, or worrying behaviours, please contact us now. Even if it is simply a Zoom consult so we can determine if the problem is going to need intervention.

The longer a behaviour goes on, the harder (more work, time and money) it will take to modify.

3. Rehearsing

If you are out and about anywhere with your dog, or in your home, and your dog displaying a problem behaviour, change the situation to prevent rehearsal.

Rehearsal means practice, and practice makes permanent.

Like smoking cigarettes, the more you smoke, the harder to stop.

4. Online advice

There are many well-meaning (and not so well meaning) people on the internet. Groups, forums, breed groups etc that dog owners go to so that they can ask for some help with their dog.

Most great trainers I know shudder and cringe at a lot of the advice we see given online by keyboard qualified dog trainers and experts.

Of course, there is always the odd piece of good advice, but does it apply to your dog, life and situation? How do separate the wheat from the chaff?

The time wasters from the genuine people who want to help, people who are telling what they read on an equally bad group?

Is your dogs (mental health) future worth this risk?

I’m not talking about the best way to teach sit here, but emotional behaviours such as aggression, biting, resource guarding, separation anxiety, territorial behaviours etc.

5. People wandering outside of their lane.

People come to see me, and as I said, it is crisis time.

The dog’s behaviour is extreme now and they love their dog but can’t live with him or her (see this)

Here are some things that I see commonly with dogs at this level.

  1. No effective training
  2. Dog has been seeing vet for a behaviour problem and loaded on medication with no improvement for years.
  3. Dog and owner working with trainer that is outside of their depth.

This is what you need to do.

Get help from experienced professionals, easy to find, they will be able to show you examples of their work with the breed and problem behaviour you have.

Follow their program and their program only, adding various pieces to dedicated programs is recipe for failure.

Do the work, seeing a trainer regularly and only practicing this work at the training session is waste of time. Changing a dogs behaviour is changing a dogs life style.

If you need more help, speak to your trainer and schedule more.

Go at the problem head on, hard and fast to begin with, this is the fastest way to put it in the rear vision mirror.

Dogs are animals, predators in fact, they can be the best part of your life or your worst regret if you, your child or friends are hurt.

If you want the dream of having a well behaved, best mate, it will take attention to these details to start

Research and breed choice.

People get working dogs to have as pets they want to watch TV with and throw a ball 5 minutes every 3rd day. Many dogs, Kelpies for example, can go hard many hours a day, 7 days a week.

Other dogs, such as German Shepherds NEED training to teach them how to fit into your life.

If you a person that is laid back, are not interested in training dogs, don’t get a working breed, you nor they will be happy.

Training

Start training the day you get your puppy or dog and have goals to achieve such as those in our Life Skills programs.

So much of our work is “on demand”. This means people need help with a problem behaviour.

The best way to solve a problem behaviour is train your dog to prevent the problem behaviour development.

PROactive beats RE active every time.

Get help, find a trainer that you will work with, especially with a puppy. Don’t wing it! A good trainer will help you teach your puppy to be a great companion in only a few lessons.

Re training takes much more time and therefore makes those first few pro active lessons with a trainer, very cost effective.

Management

Most behaviours people don’t like that their dog displays are things the dog learned through experimentation. Puppies chewing curtains and electrical cords are a good example.

If you give a teething puppy free roam of your home, your giving the puppy endless opportunities to experiment with behaviours you don’t like.

Expert dog trainers use dog crates, puppy pens and dog runs at times throughout their dogs lives to prevent their dogs doing and learning unwanted behaviours.

Management can be a great way to prevent your dog rehearsing behaviours you are trying to remove also.

Relationship

Everyone thinks they have a good relationship with their dog, but what does that actually mean?

Many words have been used to try and describe the ideal relationship and people have poisoned and mistaken a lot of these terms so now they have incorrect meanings.

Alpha, Leader, Boss, Mummy, Daddy, Sister, Brother, Fur Mum, Guardian, and the list goes on.

It doesn’t matter how you refer to yourself or what label you think is best, but I can tell you one thing.

Dogs that come to see me with lots of problems are usually owned by someone who refers to themselves as one of the above.

I tend not to believe in coincidence either so my explanation is that when you refer to yourself as one of the above, you have a less than ideal understanding of how the relationship should be and who you need to be for each other.

When your dog won’t come when called, or is aggressive if you wander near their food, if your dog will not listen to your cues unless you have piece of food in your hand, understand there are problems in your relationship.

The good news is that these can often be cured and in some cases quite quickly if you act early.

We are all people who love having dogs in our lives, so much so that when it goes wrong, it can really make you anxious, stressed, unhappy and depressed.

I hear you and you are exactly the people we provide services for.

Read this article and objectively see if your doing the right things, if not, you can change.

If you need help, we are here to help.

No judgement, no blame, just help and support.

About SteveK9Pro

Steve Courtney is a Nationally Accredited Canine Behaviour Specialist, Obedience Trainer, Law Enforcement Dog Trainer and ANKC Breeder. Steve has been training dogs all his life and in these articles he shares with you his experience...

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