Monthly Archives: July 2015

Options for Problem Behavior

 options for behavior problemsOwners of dogs with problem behavior only have 6 options.

Option 1 – Do Nothing
Option 2 – Prevention without training
Option 3 – Training with prevention
Option 4 – Medication
Option 5 – Re-home The Dog
Option 6 – To Have The Dog Put Down

Regardless of which option or set of options an owner chooses, it is important to know there is not necessarily a right or wrong decision. Owners need to make the best decision based on what is happening in their lives as each situation differs.

Do Nothing

Doing nothing does not resolve the issue and it would be fair to say living with a dog that has these problems can be stressful and harm the relationship. It can also be expensive if the dog is doing any type of damage or poses a liability for the owner. When an owner does nothing, there is a reasonable chance that the behavior problem will get worse. The problem rarely stays the same or get better because there is a reason the dog is doing the behavior.

Prevention without training

Many owners choose to control the environment to such an extent that the dog never has an opportunity to get misbehave. For example with a dog that has aggression issues to strange dogs, the owner might never take the dog on a walk. If the dog is destructive when the owner is not home, the dog may be crated. Prevention ensures the behavior problem will not be displayed as long as these measures are in place. If the dog never gets upset, the behavior most likely wont get worse, but it also won’t get better unless the owner also does some training. When a person chooses prevention without training, there will be mistakes or times in which prevention cannot be implemented. At these times the dog will become display the undesirable behavior.

Training plus prevention

Successful training involves prevention as the learning is taking place. Training the dog involves giving the dog different associations than what it presently has and preventing it from practicing the inappropriate behavior. Training can be accomplished through group classes, private classes, leaning from books or videos. Once training has been completed, the owner only needs to maintain the new associations and prevention is no longer necessary.

Re-homing

There are times in which even with a rigorous training program, placing the dog into a new home is the best option. This might be the best option under circumstances in which quality of life or safety for the dog or the people could be immediately improved. This is assuming that the new home does not offer the same set of circumstances that compromises quality of life or safety. An example would be if a dog were aggressive to children living within the house. Sometimes the dog will be happier living in a home without children. When a person places their dog into a new home, they need to make sure the potential owner not only has a clear idea as to the dog’s problems, but also has an idea as to what it is like to live with such a dog. To do anything less than this is unethical. If aggression issues are the problem, re-homing the dog does not decrease the first owner’s liability even if there is a full written disclosure of the problem.

Medication

Some dogs have such high degrees of stress that prescription medications can bring results sooner if training is implemented. Keep in mind that medication does not resolve these issues; they just help make the process easier. It is best if these medications are prescribed by a veterinary behaviorist as they have a more in-depth knowledge of which medication would be best.

Putting The Dog Down

Sometimes, the best option for the circumstances does involve putting the dog down. Most people do not take this decision lightly, but in cases in which a dog simply is not safe or training will not be effective and quality of life will be compromised, this will be the only option. Because this is an emotionally wrenching experience for most owners, it is best that the owner speaks with multiple certified professional dog trainers and veterinarians in order to make the best decision. It is important that when the owner takes this step that they know they seriously looked at all the options and feel they made the best choose.

The Best Option

Regardless of the type of issue, each owner does have options for problem behavior but there are only six options to choose from. They can do nothing, control the environment to an extent that the problem does not exist, train the dog, use medication to reduce stress while implementing training, re-home the dog or have the dog put down. As an owner considers the options available they need to think about whether the quality of life or safety of the dog, the people involved or others will be compromised to an extent that an option should be ruled out. Speaking with multiple certified professional dog trainers and veterinarians may be helpful in the decision making process.

Prevent Social Issues From Getting Worse

prevent social issuesOne thing all social issues have in common is there is something that either maintains the dog’s emotions at the present level or causes them to worsen. Behavior is not stagnant; it is either getting better or getting worse.

When your dog interacts socially, it experiences either pleasant or unpleasant emotional reactions. Those emotional reactions can be observed through the dog’s body language. When the dog experiences unpleasant emotions, what happens immediately after rewards the dog’s behavior. It might be the dog wants the stimuli to move further away or it might be the adrenaline rush the dog experiences.

To make it so your dog no longer receives these rewards we need to control and manage the dog’s environment.

Prevention will not solve the problem, but it will reduce your dog’s stress increasing the likelihood that training will be successful. 

Social Challenges to People who live at the house
If the dog has issues with a person who lives in the house coming into the room,  the person the dog has issues with should toss the dog treats every time they come into the room.

If the dog only has problems around food or chew items, then have the dog eat and chew in a location where no one can approach the dog. When the dog is done eating or chewing entice the dog out of the room with treats.  Close the door and when the dog is distracted with something else go in to the room to remove the chew item or bowl.

If the dog gets upset when people grab its collar, tell it to get off furnature etc. instruct people to not touch the dog and instead use treats to manipulate the dog into doing what ever you want the dog to do.

Social Problems Directed Towards Other Dogs Living In The House
This problem is really stressful for dogs and owners. Separating the dogs into different parts of the house or yard making it so they do not have access to each other is one way to prevent the negative emotional reactions from occurring. Separating means a door keeps them from having access to each other. Dogs on each side of the room are typically still stressed out making it so body language will be questionable.

Some dogs only need to be separated at certain times

  • meals
  • with chew objects
  • around toys
  • during play
  • homecomings etc.,

Other dogs need to be separated at all times. How do you do this? Lets say one dog is outside and the other needs to go out. The indoor dog is shut into the bathroom. The dog that is outside comes in and gets locked into a bedroom. The dog in the bathroom is let outside and the other dog is now allowed to roam around the house.

Social Issues Directed Towards Dogs Or People That Do Not Live At Your House

In Public
This is so much easier; simply don’t take your dog anyplace it is going get close enough to social stimuli that it would display the unpleasant emotions. If you have to take your dog to the vet, leave it in the car, with you parked well away from the door. Have office staff come to the car to let you know when it is your turn. Ask staff to clear a way to the exam room before you bring your dog in.

Doggie Goggles
Doggles are great for those times in which you have to take your dog places but you might not be able to keep you dog a distance away from things (vet office, car rides). You can order one at shop.doggles.com The smoke lenses will minimize your dogs visual stimulation while making it look adorable. The silly tongue is not included.

At Your House
When you have company over, secure the dog in a crate, behind a closed door before the company arrives and until they leave. You could also put your dog outside, in the garage, in the car etc. Just make sure doors are locked so no one can go into that environment.

At Fences, Gates, Windows
In the book, How To Right A Dog Gone Wrong: A Road Map For Rehabilitating Aggressive Dogs author Pam Dennison asks, “Why does your dog aggress at windows and barriers?” Pam’s answer is “because he can’t get to and investigate what’s on the other side and frustration builds” (19). To minimize reactions at window, fences and gates, cover the lower portion of window with brown paper and fences or gates with Tarps.

Crates
Used properly a dog crate is a great way to control your dog’s environment. During the day a dog can be in the crate no more than one hour for each month of age and never longer than eight hours. The crate should be large enough for the dog to stand up, and turn around, but you do not want it to be so large that the dog can eliminate in one end and sleep in the other.

Baby Gates
Baby gates can be used to control access to the environment making it possible for the dog to move around more.

It is my sincere goal is to increase your quality of your life while changing your dog’s emotions. Will you let me help you? Call 541-603-6868 if you have questions.

See information on our Changing Dog Emotions Program

See how my clients have benefited from this training

intelligence and observations skills

intelligence and observations skillsIs there a link between intelligence and observations skills?  Guess continues to amaze me with me with how intelligent he is and how he connects events. Apparently, some time in the past  made rice in a specific pot and then gave Guess the leftovers as I cleared the table. Now, if we have rice, in that pot, as soon as I finish eating he becomes animated (not naughty, just excited).

 If I cook something else in that pot, he does not get excited.

If I cook rice in a different pot, he does not get excited.

He only gets excited if I cook rice in that particular pot. 

What I have accidentally done is taught a conditioned emotional response to the pot and rice.  This is an example of single trial learning.  It only happened 1 time and Guess remembered that it was a good thing. 

An intelligent animal is going to keep track of the environment.  It needs to know what is safe, neutral or dangerous.  This means it needs to observe and remember how the environment affected it.  If it eats a substance and it gets violently sick, the intelligent dog that makes this connection will avoid that substance in the future. If it has fun with other dogs and people, It will be happy or relaxed in the presence of other people.  Guess’s rice pot excitement is an example of single trial learning.  Dogs can learn something from just 1 experience.  This is why as much as possible, you want your dog to only have good experiences with other dogs, people and different environments as they will be observing and making the connections about how the environment affects them.