What is Behavior Modification in terms of Dog Behavior Training?
What is dog behavior modification (or dog behavior training if you prefer)? It is dog training plain and simple. You are teaching the dog what to do and what not to do. This is different from obedience training which teaches a dog specific behaviors in a specific context. Teaching obedience behaviors does nothing to create inhibitions for things like jumping on people, charging the front door or biting the neighborhood kids. Unfortunately no one tells you this.
Why do I know this? Because I work with a lot of rescued dogs. Many of these dogs are taken through obedience class as part of the adoption contract. These dogs look like obedience champions in class but I watch them out in the parking lot on their way out of class lunging, snapping and snarling at every dog they see. Many people unfortunately think that is as good as it’s going to get and either live in misery or get rid of the dog.
Is Your Dog Ruining Your Life?
Take a look at life with your own dog. What does it look like? Are you afraid to leave the house because everything in sight will be shredded by your dog? Are you living like a hermit because your dog is so aggressive everyone is terrified of him? Have you tried obedience class or followed the advice of TV trainers? How long have you been trying to fix the problems? How much progress have you made? Are you near the end of your leash and looking for answers? Where do you go next? Google?
Sorry, the Internet doesn’t help much because there is an information overload on what you should and should not do to fix your dog’s behavior problems. There is a lot of emotional rhetoric out there promising dire consequences if you dare to say “No” to your dog and another camp that states that if you use treats to change your dog’s behavior you are allowing him to dominate you and more dire consequences to follow. Don’t forget pack theory that in spite of first hand evidence to the contrary is based on mistaken theories on how wolf packs operate. Too many trainers have packed their bags and left the land of reason long ago.
So, how do you know who to hire to save your dog?
Look for a trainer who is not married to only one approach to deal with a problem. A good trainer should have a variety of tools and protocols and can tell you why he or she is using a specific approach. The trainer should be able to give you a pretty clear idea as to how long it should takes to see any improvement in the behavior and it should be sooner than later. Many behaviors can be stopped in one appointment with follow up to test other scenarios and establish new behaviors. The trainer should be able to explain any potential fallout from the protocol and what is to be done about it, if anything.
If the trainer recommends anything that makes you uncomfortable he or she should be able to explain exactly why it is being done and have other options if necessary. I personally do a number of things that the dog might not like and the owner may have reservations about but I can explain all the reasons why we are going in that direction. Still the owner is in the driver’s seat and if they are adamantly opposed to a specific tool or technique I have enough experience with other tools and approaches that we can go another way. I can also explain the implications of not taking the most optimal approach.
I make my decisions by observing your dog and how he responds to both consequences and rewards. If the initial approach doesn’t give the desired result fairly quickly I can change my approach.
Run Away from One Trick Ponies
Avoid any trainer who espouses a single ideology. The trainer’s first priority should be to do what is best for your dog and you not what they like to do. If someone suggests that your dog has a chemical imbalance or a neurological problem and that you should spend hundreds of dollars getting blood work and testing before they can fix the problem get a second opinion. You will be out of money before the training even starts.
I Know I can Help You with your Dog Behavior Training
I start with the simplest most direct approach. If I don’t see an appropriate response within the range of normal I may suggest a vet visit. I promise you that unless your dog is seriously mentally unstable (which is extremely rare) most of what you are suffering through can either be fixed completely or brought down to a livable level. Actually, I have even been able to help brain damaged dogs without the use of expensive medication. I can fix your dog because that is what I do.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laurie Yakish is a dog trainer and dog behavior specialist working in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She is certified through Animal Behavior College but more importantly Laurie was mentored by Gary Wilkes who pioneered clicker training and many other groundbreaking behavior modification protocols. Laurie is an active member of IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals). Dog obsessed since she was four years old, by seven she was frustrating the daylights out of her mother by stealing snacks out of the cupboards to use as treats to train her dog Pepper to play high jump.
You can learn more about Laurie and her unique brand of dog training by visiting www.dogtraininglauriesway.com