Sometimes a family adopts a puppy who has a little bit of an attitude problem or is needier than others. Other times, they just happen to adopt a dog with some baggage. Yet, I usually don’t get a call until the puppy is a full grown dog at 2 years old or the adult dog they adopted has been practicing the behavior for a few years.
I’m not sure why that is, but it is a very common occurrence in my line of work. I don’t get called until it is officially a problem. And I don’t mean it’s “too late” as in the dog is deemed un-rehabilitatable, but more so, don’t wait until the dog has bitten someone to finally get started. If there are clear signs of an underlying issue, you most definitely want to get that addressed as soon as possible.
The longer a dog practices a behavior, the harder it will be to address the problem and it really isn’t because they have developed a habit. The habit itself is actually pretty easy to break. It actually comes down to the fact that the dog has learned that they can get away with the behavior because the owner has allowed it to go on for so long.
You see, in my opinion, all animals can learn by association and this holds incredibly true for dogs. An example I use all the time is children’s behavior with their parents and grand parents. The parents tend to be strict and the grand parents tend to be lenient and spoil them. The children then learn that they can get away with certain behaviors, whereas with their parents, they may be on their best behavior. In some cases, the grand parents may override a rule instilled by the children’s parents in the presence of the parents! Then the children learn that they can get away with certain things simply because their grand parents are around!
It’s the same association dogs make with their owners. They’ve learned that they can get away with certain things for so long that once the family wants to stop it, we have to have the dog unlearn that old association and create a whole new one. Which takes a lot of work. It’s like letting a kid do whatever they want their whole life and then all of a sudden, when they’re a teenager, saying that there are rules they need to follow. And I think we all can guess how well that is going to tide over.
That’s why trainers like myself, or Cesar Millan for any Dog Whisperer fans out there, can come in and garner an immediate change in the dog’s behavior because the association made from the moment we walk in is, “this guy represents discipline.” I’ve seen some pretty intense protest coming from dogs that have never received any form discipline in their lives. Things like biting the leash to biting the handler, screeching, barking, peeing, pooping, vomiting, alligator rolling and so much more. Which is very hard for an owner to watch happen, but is necessary to move through in order to get the dog to accept discipline.
My current B&T dog, Geronimo is a good example. In the first video you’ll see a lot of protest from shutting down to trying to get at me and trying to assert control by grabbing the leash with his paws. He’s never received any type of rules, boundaries or structure and is throwing the biggest tantrum because of it, but also, through lack of guidance he’s lost himself in a sea of anxiety.
That’s it for this week’s newsletter, see you next Friday!