Why Does My Dog Do That?!
Some of the most common behaviors I see outside of the usual puppy stuff entail hyperactivity and/or fear based behaviors. When a dog is in a fearful or stressed state they can not respond to cues in the manner they normally would. My goal is to teach them how to manage their stress and learn to perform simple "default" behaviors in their place. Essentially, we will teach them that when they are faced with "x" situation, they will be correct to perform "y" behavior. We practice this in sessions and then work in various planned situations until the behavior truly becomes automatic.
We also need to be honest about the fact that sometimes the dog's behavior is not the real problem. I have seen many situations where an owner was inadvertently causing behaviors to happen and then through misunderstanding, they were actually then rewarding or encouraging the behavior. I will help point out these things so we can get life back on track and go back to enjoying our dogs!
I have a very strong interest in helping "reactive dogs". These are dogs who have above average reactions to stimuli, such as dogs, strangers or common objects. The behaviors the dogs perform may range from barking and pulling to lunging and snarling. The degree of the behavior is often frightening and embarrassing to the owners and limits the time the owner wants to spend with the dog. It also limits the exercise and stimulation the dog is able to have. This is usually an overblown stress response and when it happens frequently, I can not imagine the dog is very happy either!
My wonderful Lab, Maggie, is a "recovering reactive dog" around other dogs. I was horrified that my dog would behave like this. I finally realized I had a few choices; ignore it and hope it goes away, manage it as best I could, or train her to make things better. Maggie is wonderful now and I am so glad I chose training! Taking her for a public walk or back to the park is so relaxing and enjoyable now. Maggie is so much happier being able to do the things she loves without the stress of reacting.
Bowser Boot Camp
Sometimes communication breaks down between us and our dogs. When that happens we need to step back and evaluate the situation. There are times when a program needs to be implemented that is known as "Nothing In Life Is Free", "NILIF" for short. NILIF is a great program that puts the owner in a non-confrontational leadership role. Essentially the owner is in possession of all resources. If the dogs wants it, the dog earns it! The following are things the dog should work for:
- The chance to play with a toy
- The chance to eat a meal (or each kibble of a meal in serious situations)
- Being patted
- Any cookies or treats
- A trip outdoors
- Freedom in the house
- Getting in or out of the car
The work can be as simple as performing a "Sit", offering eye contact, or lying down on request. Basically the dog has to do something in order to earn a good thing.
In extreme cases some dogs need to be crated a lot during this work or tethered to their owner. The owner must be the source of all good things during this work. This is *NOT* permission to leave your dog alone all day in the name of training! You *MUST* schedule work time in and commit to training your dog! If you do not want to train, exercise and play with your dog, please find him a home where someone will!
I incorporate a little bit of NILIF into everyday life with my dogs. They must always sit to leave the house, the car, or to get their dinner. It is their "Say Please" behavior and keeps a little bit of training in everyday life.
And don't forget about sufficient exercise. If you are having problems due to your dog's energy level, try doubling the amount of aerobic activity your dog gets. Go for a walk or jog, play frisbee or fetch, get moving! You'll both feel better, and a tired dog is a good dog.