Experienced, Knowledgable Help For Your Dog
Anxiety, Fear, Aggression etc.
Table of Contents
I have been rehabilitating dogs with behavior problems for nearly 30 years on a full-time basis. The knowledge and experience I’ve accrued provide a significant database to draw from in assessing, diagnosing and recommending a rehabilitation program. It also allows for an additional contribution which is prognosis. Often dogs suffering from extremes in behavior can be a safety concern either to themselves or those they are exposed to, and an essential element that companion dog owners should be looking for in any trainer they select is honesty as to risks associated with doing nothing, during rehabilitation and afterward.
‘Fully Balanced Companion Dog Trainers’ like myself approach the assessment and recommendations related to canine behavior problems in a far more advanced manner than typically available through ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’, ‘Might Is Right’ or partially balanced companion dog trainers. These approaches rarely consider a wide variety of factors (some are listed below) that should be reviewed and weighed so that the companion dog owner can be more accurately advised regarding diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis.
In other words, an experienced, Fully Balanced Companion Dog Trainer like myself will improve your chances of success by considering all the information and tailoring advice and approach accordingly. You will be providing your dog with a far greater opportunity for rehabilitation using a plan that is far less stressful to both companion dog owner and dog that is typically offered in the part-time amateur dog training world.
What Is Fully Balanced Dog Training (Short Version)
Our approach to training is based on known rock-solid science that is based on how higher order social species teach, and their offspring learn real life-skills for the real world. It’s the approach shared by all higher order social species, dogs, wolves, apes, and human beings so it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn it doesn’t involve treats or brutality.
- Is the only companion dog life skill training for real-world contexts approach that has extensive supporting science. There is literally no science to similarly support ‘Might Is Right’ or ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’ treat ideologies that almost always used by amateur dog trainers when confronted with behavior problems.
- It is almost always All Positive. Almost. It does not shy away from the reality that parents of all species occasionally draw upon the concept of “I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.”, in a manner that is in keeping with the youngster/student’s ability to comprehend that they are not bad, the teacher isn’t bad, but the behavior itself is what is bad.
- Because it is essentially part of nature’s template, both companion dog owners and their dogs relate and subsequently learn and adapt to it far more quickly than ‘Might Is Right’ or ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’ ideologies. Both dogs and dog owners love it.
- The results are amazing. Dogs learn to exert self-control without being subjected to the submission techniques of ‘Might Is Right,’ or the addictive focus, (until something more interesting appears) on treats as opposed to the strength of their love and relationship they have with their owner.
You will find it’s straightforward to implement for two reasons:
Expectations: Learning To Exert Self-Control Vs Cures
Any legitimate approach to canine behavior modification is going to look at all of the factors that influence the outcome. Some are mentioned HERE There are more than most dog trainers are aware or you might think.
When a trainer is knowledgeable and experienced, they will, after meeting the dog and its owners, based on consideration of these factors, be able to provide an opinion with reasonable certainty as to what the dog’s owner can reasonably expect from their dog. There are two categories of factors that ultimately influence outcome. There are those that the dog’s owner (or the trainer) can (technically/potentially – more on that qualifier in a moment) influence, and those that they cannot.
For example, training cannot extinguish (without harm) a guarding breed’s genetic drive to guard, a retrieving breed’s drive to retrieve, herding to herd, etc. Nor can it add a drive that is not there in a manner in keeping with the breeds for which that drive has been carefully selected. In other words, training doesn’t transform a Rottweiler into a Golden Retriever. What training can do is teach the dog to exert self-control.
Another area that we have no control over is the influence on any dog’s temperament that experiences missing from or were adverse exposures during the dog’s critical imprint period (3 – 12 weeks of age). If you’re interested in the science behind this (it’s quite solid) you can read my book Socialize Your Puppy for Everything (eBook) – John Wade
Another is the legitimacy of the dog’s breeder and subsequently breeding. As with dog training, there are no industry qualifying standards and outside of the ability to tell the difference to determine the difference between a male and a female dog nothing else is required to be a breeder. You will rarely find much else. Membership with a kennel club provides little to no advantage. Multiple wins over multiple years in the show ring is almost always a red flag if not well balanced by arenas that proved the dog’s physical and mental stability (fashion vs function).
Without a breeding ethic that includes periodic check-ins throughout the lives of the dogs they breed, breeders can and do create instability in the dogs they produce from both a mental and physical perspective. For example, Golden Retrievers have in the last 20 years had their lifespans reduced by approximately 30% and the number dying from cancer around the 8-9 year period is enormous. Also, many within the same breed have also exhibited extreme food aggression (resource guarding) something virtually unheard of twenty years ago.
Another area for which we cannot meaningfully influence is that as alluded to above, some breeds of dogs, some dog personalities, might be categorized more in the Ferrari world whereas some dog owners from a handling ability or from the perspective of how much there is left over of them at the end of the day are better suited to the mini-van world. If a mini-van owner has a Ferrari level dog and has issues with their handling ability and/or the time they have to invest in the dog to keep it on the road, how legitimate the training advice they’re given will make little difference.
Essentially, proper dog training and especially with regard to dogs with serious behavior problems, is a lot like naturalism painting. You have to paint will all the colors, not just the ones we like, if the picture is going to be clear. Some dogs need more colors than others.
Long story short, (too late I know) at this point I can guarantee to you two things:
- Given the correct information I’ll be able to provide an honest, knowledgeable and experienced opinion as to what your chances are of achieving your goals with your dog and how to best go about achieving those goals.
- The absolute best support, accessibility and post-training followup.
A Buyer Beware Warning For Any Companion Dog Owner Looking For Help With A Dog With A Behavior Problem
I was somewhat torn as to whether to include the following caveat emptor message or simply stick to what I have to offer. In the end, because the high degree of quackery in the dog training world is relatively unknown by the average companion dog owner combined with the consideration that if a companion dog owner finds themselves on this page, they likely need legitimate assistance with significant stakes. As a result, if you are such a person, whether you decide to work with me or seek help elsewhere, I hope that what follows will serve you well in finding qualified help for you and your dog.
While most companion dog trainers offer services related to canine behavior problems very few should. However, as the industry is unregulated and there is an extensive market, (ironically caused by many of these unqualified trainers) very few can ignore the temptation of adding an additional stream to their income, qualified or not. You can read about an example local to my region here – Dog Training Frauds – Companion Dog Owners Beware.
Dig a little, and you will learn that almost all companion dog trainers are little more than dog lover hobbyists with websites. They are part-time and/or have less than five years experience which they often expand to include the years since they first owned a dog.
Also, most have fallen under the pseudo/pop science spell of ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’ treats, treats, treats as a means to shape behavior. It’s not that true behavior modification does not include this aspect of behavior modification in its tool bag, but it’s extremely rare that trainers in this category also include elements of behavior and learning that include far more influential tools to assist in training let alone rehabilitating a dog with a behavior problem.
Many of the behavior problems that dogs exhibit are not that far removed from human behavior problems. Imagine taking a person with anxiety or aggression issues to a professional in the psychology or psychiatric fields and have them suggest what ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’ Or ‘Might Is Right’ companion dog trainers suggest.
Factors That Contribute To Many Behavior Problems
Some breeds are more prone to certain behavior problems such as anxiety and aggression. However, because breeding of dogs has in most cases become no more than an income stream and very little attention is spent on emerging confidence levels as the dogs develop we’ve left the door open to genetically influenced negative behavior in our dogs.
Critical Socialization Period Imprinting
The most severe versions of behavior problems related to anxiety and aggression are almost always in large part connected to the amount and the context of companionship a dog experiences or did not experience between 3 – twelve weeks of age (+/- one week). If imprinted on constant companionability during this period a dog will forever more have separation anxiety triggered when left alone. If the environment was insufficiently stimulating another form of anxiety and often fear aggression will likely have manifested.
While not easy, this is undoubtedly the easier to address form of anxiety and aggression. An example of ‘learned’ anxiety, in this case, crate-triggered separation anxiety can be tied to the way in which a crate is used in the early stages of life.
Crates are more often than not overwhelming mistakenly only used when a dog must be left alone such as in another room at night time and when the owners are at work. In spite of still having residuals of their cousin’s denning instincts where used more creatively a crate could have become a sanctuary many dogs develop anxiety triggered every time they are in a crate or otherwise confined.
The issue isn’t the crate so much as the manner in which the crate is used. Puppies that spend some time in their crates while still at the breeders with their mothers and littermate nearby and later with their owners nearby for their naps, meals, treats, to fetch a toy, etc., or at their owner’s bedside every night do not develop anxiety triggered by crates.
That doesn’t mean that they won’t suffer from separation anxiety as there are other ways to trigger this condition, but they too are avoidable. It’s just intended to illustrate the learned aspect of anxiety.
An example that is not uncommon in cases of prey but particularly territorial aggression is the impact of unsupervised environments. A dog is learning, whether being actively taught or not and there are a variety of lifestyle factors that can push, particularly a territorial or prey oriented breed in the direction of severe conditioned aggression. Looking out a window in an urban environment can so frequently trigger territorial or prey genetics that in time the behavior instead then be considered as an option to the dog becomes conditioned and unnaturally amplified.
Approach To Training
Many dogs develop behavior problems because the approach their owners were encouraged to embrace concerning training was designed for a purpose too far removed from living with a companion dog and as a result open the door to behavior problem development.
Almost all companion dog training offered still embraces an approach and curriculum that might make sense if the goal is to compete in an obedience or agility competition. Controlled settings and a lifestyle that revolves around the dog might be the world a dog trainer lives, but companion dog trainers that expect this to work in the world that a companion dog owner and dog actually live are at best suffering from cognitive bias. They ultimately leave their clients with a dog that does a context/treat dependent trick rather than a job. Without guidance, some of these dogs will go on to develop behavior problems.
Very few companion dog trainers understand how dogs learn beyond the two highly flawed and effectively limited ideologies of ‘Might Is Right’ and treat, treat, treat, ‘All Positive Purely Positive/Force-Free.’
Of the two, it is the now far more common ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free’ ideology leading to aggression and anxiety problems. Even considered, from a human perspective, were parents encouraged to restrict their approach to parenting to ‘All Positive/Purely Positive/Force-Free…’, how many of their offspring would develop anti-social tendencies let alone useful life skills and how many would be dead or in jail before long?
An article of how the approach to training can impact both relationship and results:
Missing Or Insufficiently Emphasized Lifestyle Components
I frequently use the metaphor that ‘Fully Balanced Companion Dog Training’ is similar to naturalism painting. If you want the picture to be an authentic representation you need to paint with all of the colors required to bring the image into clear focus. Leaving out some colors for some dogs can lead to the development of behavior problems. Attempting to resolve those problems without considering the role of those colors can lead to failure. For example, there’s considerable research outlining the impact that a lack of cardiovascular activity has on not only our own physical but our mental health.
What typically passes for exercise for dogs rarely ever is in keeping with what their bodies evolved for and that this might impact the brain chemistry of some dogs as has been determined with some humans is worth considering when assessing a dog with a behavior problem related to anxiety (or aggression).
Physical activity is but a single example of the potential role a dog’s evolutionary biology might play in the assessment of dogs with behavior problems.