A Dog Trainer’s Simple Checklist for Solving Dog Behavior Issues

A Dog Trainer’s Simple Checklist for Solving Dog Behavior Issues
German Shepherd Training

Maddie needed lots of enrichment in her younger years

My clients rely on my knowledge and expertise to come up with solutions to their dog behavior complaints.  It’s my job to come up with solutions and create a program to achieve their goals.  The program has to be holistic.  Many client complaints are symptoms, and not the root problem.  I wanted to share the mental checklist that I use when I suggest a program during the consultation.

Realistic expectations:
Sometimes I have to give the client a reality check. I’ve had clients that were blessed with perfect first dogs. I call those dogs the easy babies. They just follow and look to their owners for direction. That is a rare blessing in my business and I often have to describe what normal dog and puppy behavior really looks like. There are even days that I have to tell people that dogs bark. Sometimes I get first time owners that have no idea what to expect. First time owners may have expectations based on what they see on television, or even worse… what the clerk at Petland or some other “puppy boutique”, or the online puppy broker told them. It breaks my heart to tell them the news that Petland, puppy boutiques, and puppy brokers will say anything to get the sale.

Are the dog’s basic needs being met?
Dogs have a few basic needs that must be met before implementing any training program.
Dogs must feel safe. Any fear, stress or anxiety issues, must be addressed for any training program to be successful. Dogs that have come from neglect or abuse need a program to teach them that humans are trustworthy. If there is neglect or abuse in the current home, I will work with them only on the condition that the neglect or abuse ends. I do not work with people that have “outdoor dogs”. I do not work with people that refuse to give up shock collars, prong collars, hitting, or yelling at their dogs. I can teach dog owners how to bring the dog inside safely and I can give them better tools to prevent undesirable behavior.
Dogs need nutritious food in appropriate quantities. When children eat junk food all day, their behavior suffers. If a client is feeding their dog the dog food industry equivalent of Twinkies, there are going to be behavior problems. Sometimes a change in dog food can translate into big savings on training expenses.
Dogs need exercise. Different breeds have different needs. That high energy Jack Russell Terrier or Vizsla is going to need more than a 10 minute walk every day.
Dogs need enrichment. A bored dog is a destructive dog. Find games and activities that are similar to the activities that match the breed’s selected activities.
Dogs need socialization. Socialization with humans, other dogs, and varying environments is crucial during the puppy stage and important to continue throughout life. Any gaps in the socialization process need to be addressed in a behavior modification program.

Dogs and puppies explore the world with their teeth. Untrained dogs enter our homes with reckless abandon and I often hear “bull in a china shop” mentioned. If dogs have the freedom to access so many “wrong” choices, they are being set up for failure. Limiting freedom until the dog learns better choices is often a necessary component for success.
Clear and consistent rules. Rules need to be free of gray areas. If a behavior is ok sometimes, but not ok other times, that’s pretty confusing to a dog. Clients rarely have success with confused dogs.

Training to respond to verbal cues and hand signals:
Once all of the previous items have been addressed, a program can implemented to teach dogs to associate cues with behaviors and motivate them to respond to cues with variable rewards. Many of the behaviors that we teach are specific replacements for the ineffective use of the word “NO”.

Buyer beware: There are “dog trainers” out there that will suppress symptoms with punishment like collar corrections using choking, pinching, and shock. Well, now they use the euphemism “static collar” to make it sound like you are not electrocuting your dog. Pain, force, and fear are dangerous methods that can cause aggression or anxiety.

Professional dog trainers use a holistic approach to help their clients achieve their goals.

Looking for a top notch dog trainer in Greater Fort Lauderdale? Please call Oh Behave Dog Training at 954-587-2711 now for a phone consultation.