This One is for the Littles

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Can we talk for just a few minutes about the littles? For those of you into children’s literature, I’m not talking about a diminutive sized mouse named Stuart. I’m talking about dogs who, due to decades upon decades of selective breeding by us human folk, come in small to sometimes tiny packages. I’m thinking of breeds such as Shih Tzus, Chihuahuas, Pugs, Malteses, Dachshunds, and Yorkies among many other breeds, as well as any combination thereof. Usually, these pups weigh in under 20 pounds although many are significantly smaller than that. 

 

The Reason for This Post

Lately, I’ve been providing an abundance of behavior consultations to families with smaller-sized dogs exhibiting bigger-sized behavior concerns. These dogs’ owners contacted Pet Harmony for help with concerns about their small dogs who were snarling, growling, snapping, and in some cases, biting family members or guests in situations where the dog was most likely feeling uncomfortable but the family didn’t realize it. There was never any doubt in my mind about whether these families love their dogs but there had been a breakdown in the relationship due to the dog making behavioral choices that were upsetting and sometimes frightening to the owners. 

The owners were confused as to why their beloved pets were growling or snapping at them or delivering bites when they were just trying to show their dog love, affection, or pampering and care. The unwanted behaviors were oftentimes occurring when the owners were hugging or kissing their dog, or when they were trying to pick up their dog to embrace them or carry them around or move them from one place to another.  I’m not judging the owners for wanting to do this with their dogs. I mean, who could look at the face of a Shih Tzu or a French Bulldog and not want to give them love and affection when their faces are so very smoochable? I understand these feelings all too well as I am the proud pet parent of a small floof myself. But kissing and hugging and touching and embracing are all decidedly human ways of expressing affection and although some dogs can learn to enjoy it, many are simply tolerating it at best. It is this lack of understanding communication styles between two completely different species that can cause problems to come bubbling to the surface and take owners by surprise. 

 

It All Started When…

Much of the time, an owner will report that the snarling, snapping, growling, or biting behavior started out of nowhere. They will tell me that their dog “FiFi” always enjoyed or never had a problem with:

  • Being carried around or moved from place to place
  • Being hugged or kissed
  • Being physically restrained
  • Being touched, petted, or groomed
  • Being dressed in totes adorbs outfits
  • Being placed in someone’s lap

 

The Out of the Blue

And suddenly, out of nowhere, tiny “FiFi” started to bite mom, dad, the kids, or visitors to the home. Truthfully though, the behavior most likely didn’t come from out of the blue at all. The more likely explanation is that “FiFi” had been desperately trying to communicate her discomfort with all of the things listed above and the owners didn’t understand her way of saying it. And because they didn’t understand yet, she escalated to biting, which is a behavior that gets the attention of almost all humans, even when delivered by a dog with a smaller-sized mouth. 

 

Would You Do That to a St. Bernard?

Why is it that things we would never dream of doing to a dog weighing 80 plus pounds, are somehow perfectly acceptable to do to dogs who weigh only 10? Our little dogs often are asked to tolerate us doing so much more “stuff” to them simply because of their size and simply because we can. Can you imagine anyone swooping in to pick up their St. Bernard and whisking them off to another room even if they physically could?  What if the St. Bernard was to emit a warning growl as the person came swooping in?  Would they still proceed anyway? I imagine that growl would give most people pause about whether or not what they are doing is truly necessary. And yet, so often when small dogs emit a growl, people don’t take it seriously. Instead, they either continue to do what they were doing or they punish the dog for using the warning system nature provided. 

In some cases (hello social media, I’m talking to you) you’ll actually see people not only laugh at but actually encourage the little dog to exhibit behaviors that are deemed “aggressive.” All for the sake of some views, shares, and likes. Those types of posts make me cringe the most because they perpetuate the myth that small dogs are inherently laughable and that doing “stuff” to them to elicit a response is not only acceptable but all in good fun. That in turn maintains the misguided labels people use to describe small dogs who are only behaving in certain ways because they have learned that is the only thing that works. 

 

Unlabeling Our Littles

Aside from height and weight there really are not that many differences between the littles and the bigs (or the mediums for that matter.) They still have the same need to express species-typical behaviors such as sniffing, chewing, digging, and scavenging or foraging for food. They still have the same needs for social interactions, safety and security, health and hygiene, as well as the more obvious need for food, water, and shelter. And yet, so many times little dogs are given labels such as yappy or spoiled, or stereotyped as having “little dog syndrome” or a “Napoleon complex.” I say rubbish to all of that. 

One of the laws of behavior is that behavior works. We all behave in our environments to get more of what we desire or less of something we wish to avoid. The weight or height of a dog doesn’t change that fact. The super “yappy” Yorkie is barking for a reason. The tiny chihuahua with the Napoleon complex? There is a reason for that behavior too and it hasn’t so much to do with the dog’s size but with the dog’s inability to have a say about things that are either being done to or around it. 

 

Giving Our Littles Agency

In their book Canine Enrichment for the Real World, authors Allie Bender and Emily Strong define agency as “the ability to have some level of control in our environment and be able to make choices that will result in a desirable outcome.” (pg 27) This holds true for not only primates and canids but all of the animal kingdom. In the case of our small dogs, it is very easy to forget that they have the same need for agency as much as their larger counterparts do. Allowing all dogs, the small, the big, and the in-between, to have some say in what is being done to them or with them has a huge impact on their mental well-being.

 I think this is particularly true for small dogs as we have a tendency to treat them like portable playthings instead of individuals with their own need to express behavior in a way that works for them. If a little dog is growling at or biting their person when they are being lifted into the air or they snap at a family member when the family member is playing dress-up with them, then that is a signal from the dog that some help is needed to make them feel more comfortable. Like all dogs, I think the greatest gift we can give to our small dogs is to learn about who they are as a species and adapt our interactions with them to reflect that we genuinely get who they are and care enough to modify our behavior to make our relationship with them be the best it can be. It isn’t just on the dog. It’s on us too. 

 

Now What?

If  you want to help your little dog feel safe and secure and comfortable in your home but are not sure where to start, here are some actionable items to think about implementing: 

  • Learn all that you can about canine body language, paying especially close attention to signals that dogs exhibit when they are worried or stressed about something in their environment. 
  • Teach your dog how to say “yes” to things like grooming, dressing them up, or husbandry procedures.
  • Conduct a consent test to make sure your dog is enjoying a petting session. 
  • Teach your dog that being picked up will predict something yummy like a small piece of hotdog, cheese, or boiled chicken.
  • Use a verbal cue or a hand signal to let your little know that they are about to be lifted. I use “1, 2, 3, Up” for my dog. It warms my heart to see him sort of launch himself up when I say the “up” part because he knows what to expect each time. Other cues that can work for lifting are “up, up and away,” “super dog,” or “take off.” 
  • And finally, ask yourself if what you are doing to your little dog is really necessary and if the answer is no, find an activity you can enjoy doing together like scent work or trick training. You might be amazed at just how smart, athletic, and eager your little learner is! 

Happy training,

MaryKaye

A Behavior Consultant, A Montessori Teacher, and a Case Manager All Walk Into a Bar…

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A BEHAVIOR CONSULTANT, A MONTESSORI TEACHER, AND A CASE MANAGER ALL WALK INTO A BAR…

Ok, that didn’t really happen. But if a behavior consultant, a Montessori teacher, and a case manager did walk into a bar as the old joke goes, you would actually be looking at one person. And that person would be me. You see, prior to joining the wonderful team at Pet Harmony, I had a background as a case manager for a social service agency and then taught at a private Montessori school for close to two decades. My route to becoming a trainer/behavior consultant is circuitous and years in the making and a story for perhaps another time. Instead, this post is about the most perfect partnership between my past and present selves and how I hope that partnership will be beneficial to families with children and dogs.

You see, I recently had the honor of becoming a Family Paws Parent Educator. That means that I took continuing education coursework to become licensed to work with families with dogs and babies and/or young children. To me, it feels like a match made in heaven. I get to use my skill set as a trainer and behavior consultant AND my skill set of working with human learners too! Oh, what a gift it is when the two things you feel most professionally passionate about come together in the most delightful way! 

 

TWO-LEGGED? FOUR-LEGGED? LEARNING IS ALL THE SAME

I will never grow tired of watching learners learn. I don’t care if my learner has two legs or four. I marvel at the process every time I witness it and find it endlessly fascinating. It thrills me to see my learners acting on the environment and discovering that they can influence what happens next. Or when their foundational understanding of certain criteria becomes the building blocks for future, more complex learning. How exciting it is to see confidence grow and learning accelerate! Without becoming too hyperbolic about a thing, to be witness to the transformation your learner experiences as they become fluid in their understanding is incredibly rewarding. 

Having been immersed in all things dog for the past few years has sort of put my background in education (at least of the human variety) on the back burner. But completing the Family Paws curriculum reignited my passion for helping young children be successful in their learning environments too and so I’ve been quietly brainstorming about merging my passions in a way that would be advantageous to both kids and dogs. Like a flash, one day it came to me that I could help dogs by creating learning opportunities for children as they engage in making enrichment items for their four-legged best friend. And VOILA! An idea was born! 

BEFORE THE MEAT, HERE ARE SOME POTATOES

Before I share my first idea with you I thought it would be nice to provide some basic information about Montessori education since most of the ideas I will be sharing are inspired by the practical life area of a Montessori classroom. The following core principles are central to Montessori schools around the globe. Oh, and by the way, hold onto your hats folks because the parallels between the core principles of a Montessori education and what is universally understood about dog development and learning is pretty astonishing. Maria Montessori was ahead of her time and a maverick. Just saying. 

 

CORE MONTESSORI PRINCIPLES

  1. The Absorbent Mind – children are born ready to learn how to learn. I mean, yes of course they are. As are all species including the ones we share our homes with.
  2. The Sensitive Period – sensitive periods are developmental windows of opportunity during which the child can learn certain concepts more readily and naturally than at any other time of their lives. Hello, critical socialization period for puppies!
  3. Children will auto-educate themselves – and sometimes not in the way we want them to. Does this sound familiar to you dog owners as well? We know that many dogs, when left to their own devices, will certainly find self-employment by chewing on the remote control, digging in the garden, barking at all passers-by or any number of other behaviors owners don’t particularly appreciate. 
  4. Respect for the child – Don’t all living things deserve our respect including our beloved dogs?    

 

SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST

This one really speaks to me not only as a former Montessori teacher but as a dog behavior consultant as well: 

The Prepared Environment – Maria Montessori believed that children learn best in what she describes as a prepared environment. Great effort and intention are put into making sure the learning environment is organized in such a way that it supports children’s development and aids in their personal independence. Tables and chairs and shelves are sized so that the child can navigate the classroom independently. The carefully selected and designed Montessori materials are beautifully organized on shelves that set the child up for successful learning and exploration. Dr. Montessori held the conviction that in addition to the student and teacher, the environment is the “third teacher” in the classroom and thus should be prepared in a manner that captivates the child’s attention and maintains their focus. 

Every time I read this description of the prepared environment, all the dog trainer in me can think of is how closely the prepared environment mimics what behavior folks call the antecedent arrangement. In short, the antecedent arrangement describes how the environment that the animal is in has been set up, hopefully deliberately, but sometimes not, to determine which behavior the animal is most likely to execute. 

Just like in the case of children, the goal should be that the environment is set up in a way that allows our dogs to be successful learners. How cool is that?! If you would like to further your knowledge about Montessori Education just click the highlighted text. Likewise, if you would like to take a deeper dive into understanding antecedent arrangements, click the text and you will be diverted to a great article on the subject.

 

HERE COMES THE FUN STUFF!

Now that you have learned a bit more about the Montessori method, it is time to share my first idea with you. Remember, my goal is to use a Montessori-inspired approach to give your child the opportunity to learn and develop new skills while they are making enrichment items for your dog to enjoy. It is always a good idea to keep in mind that the item is only going to be enriching for your dog if your dog chooses to engage with or understands the enrichment activity. For more on creating an enrichment plan for your dog, read this: http://petharmonytraining.com/july-2021-training-challenge-evaluate-your-enrichment-plan/

I would also recommend that you set up the environment so that your child can focus on their task without the family dog trying to “help.” And what I really mean when I say “help” is sample the goods as they are being prepared. Perhaps another family member can take the dog for a walk or play a game of fetch in the backyard during prep time. 

Also, as with all things dogs and kids, parental supervision is a must. I absolutely love this product to help your child be safe and successful: Toddler Tower Step Stool. I only wish such a wonderful tool was available when my kids were younger. (This is an affiliate link. We receive a small commission for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. This helps us continue to put out free content to help you and your pets live more harmoniously!)

One final recommendation. As the goal is ultimately for your dog to benefit from your child’s hard work, when it is time for your dog to engage with the prepared enrichment item, the child must not interrupt them. I would encourage your child to watch your dog enjoying their enrichment from a safe distance. The parent can reinforce the child’s hard work and kindness by pointing out how much the dog is enjoying the activity and perhaps capturing it on video to share with other family members later. What a wonderful thing indeed, for our children to learn the invaluable lesson that doing kind things for others, is truly a gift to oneself as well. 

 

READY, SET, GO!

Material needed

  • Muffin tin
  • Colored balls
  • Construction paper that matches the color of the balls
  • Bowl of your dog’s kibble
  • Spoon

Parent set-up

The parent will need to cut small pieces of the construction paper and tape them to the top of each section of the muffin tin as demonstrated in the first photo. Parents will also need to gather all necessary supplies and make them easily accessible to the child. A large tray works well for this. (See photos below)

Child activity

The child will use the spoon and spoon a small portion of kibble into each separate section of the muffin tin. When the kibble has been spooned into the sections, the child can then match the colored ball to the section of the muffin tin that has the corresponding color paper. 

Skills for the child:

  • Practicing fine motor skills as they use the spoon to scoop up the kibble.
  • Hand-eye coordination as they transfer the kibble from the spoon into the muffin tin. 
  • Color matching and discrimination
  • Focus and concentration 

 

NOW WHAT? 

  • Follow us on Instagram for more upcoming ideas, photos, and tutorials on kids and canine enrichment activities.
  • We would love to see your photos of your kids preparing, or your dog enjoying, the enrichment that was made for him or her! Tag us @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Read Canine Enrichment for the Real World for a deeper understanding of what canine enrichment is and how adding it to your dog’s daily routine can be a real game-changer for you and your dog. 

MaryKaye

When Compare Leads to Despair

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“She is our third Golden Retriever and the other two never growled when we went near their food bowls.”

“Our last Labradoodle loved every person he met. This one hides and growls if people come over to visit.” 

“She’s our second German Shepherd. Our other one just left our cats alone.”

“Our previous rescue dogs have all been super chill but our recent rescue can’t ever settle down and is always getting into everything.”

 

I’m sure you’ve detected a running theme in these imagined but all too real scenarios behavior consultants and trainers hear all of the time. Well-meaning dog owners can’t help but compare and contrast their current dog with the dogs they’ve shared their homes with in the past. Truth be told, it’s not just clients we are working with that make a habit of comparative thinking. Parents do it. Teachers sometimes do it. Bosses can be guilty of it as well. Honestly, we all do it, even if we aren’t always completely aware of that fact. 

 

To Compare Is Human…..

We, humans, are hardwired to compare and contrast. It is an adaptive behavior and a survival technique. Our ancestors had to be able to critically assess which of the foods they were foraging for were safe for consumption and which ones would have limited the gene pool by poisoning them. Being able to compare, among many other things, a potential meal’s texture, color, shape, size, and structure was integral for making sure that the item being analyzed was safe for ingestion. Being able to contrast two similar plants, one which was safe to eat and one which was not, was a skill that has kept us humans on planet Earth for generations upon generations. And beyond survival, being able to critically compare can help us classify and categorize information which in turn can certainly help us simplify our lives. 

 

Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Lemon?

Take fruit as an example. I, for one, am glad that I can simply look at an orange and a lemon and immediately tell the difference between two fruits that fall under the citrus fruit category. No need to cut open and taste each one. Past experience has taught me to expect that an orange will taste sweet and a lemon’s tang will cause me to pucker up my lips, usually, before the lemon even reaches my mouth. 

Being able to compare the taste of a lemon to an orange saves me a whole lot of time and is incredibly helpful when I am looking for a sweeter beverage to accompany my eggs and bacon in the morning. I challenge anyone to substitute unsweetened lemon juice for orange juice as their breakfast drink of choice and tell me they absolutely love it! This is just one of the many ways that comparison helps us to make an informed (and in the fruit example, a much more palatable) decision. 

 

Which Brings Us Back To Dogs

When it comes to our dogs, however, one of the unfortunate side effects of comparing one dog to another can be that the comparison very often comes with preconceived expectations (the reason why my lips would pucker before I even brought the lemon up to them) of how our dog will or should behave or perform or what they will enjoy or how they will make us feel or laugh or smile. When the dog doesn’t, or simply can’t, live up to those expectations, there is all too often the inevitable disappointment or letdown that follows. Which typically doesn’t feel all that great and can lead to a sense of defeat or dare I say, a sense of despair. 

We are oftentimes left wondering, “Where did I or my dog go wrong?” Which in turn can damage the relationship we have with the dog standing before us; the one who is currently in need of our guidance and help. 

 

Here Are A Few Questions To Consider

If we know that making comparisons is a species-typical behavior for humans, what can we do about it? First, being fully aware that we have a propensity for comparative thinking can be very helpful. We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. 

Secondly, I want you to honestly ask yourself a few questions. Please ask yourself, is the comparison I’m making between past and present dogs helpful? Is it neutral? Or is it harmful? 

An example of a helpful comparison could be thinking about the difference between your dogs’ body language. Learning how each of your dogs expresses themselves can be a very informative exercise. This type of comparison should be done as objectively as possible and can be a great way to learn each of your dogs’ ways of communicating with you.  

A neutral comparison might be that your current dog loves hotdogs more than any dog you’ve owned before. There is no judgment or expectation of your current dog. Rather, you are observing what your current dog likes to eat without any attached expectation of a certain outcome. 

Conversely, a harmful comparison might be that your current dog lunges at and barks or growls at people and dogs when you walk him down the street. This is a behavior that you haven’t seen in your other dogs. Therefore, you might surmise this dog is “bad.” Or “aggressive.” Or “broken.” This comparison does nothing to inform you about the behavior you are seeing and it is applying a label to your current dog that may not be accurate. 

I’m going to go out on a limb and propose that much of the time, this type of comparison is made out of a sense of frustration and a desire for things to be different. Or better. Or like they used to be. Or how we imagine they should be. Which can turn into wishful thinking and a lot of second-guessing ourselves. So, what should we do instead? 

 

I’m Glad You Asked

Now that we are more aware of how human nature can lead us down the path of comparative thinking, perhaps a better use of our time would be to see our dogs as the individuals they all are and to accept the things about them that are different than the dogs we’ve owned before. 

I personally think one of the greatest gifts we can give to anyone, regardless of species, is to see the individual in front of us and try to get to a place of understanding and perhaps even more importantly, acceptance of who that individual is. I think of it as an active observation, without judgment, of the individual. Acceptance carries no hidden agenda or preconceived notions. It is simply the act of making peace with the way things are. 

But let’s not confuse a state of acceptance with a state of resignation. The difference between the two is that acceptance can feel proactive while being resigned to a situation is reactive and comes with the added burden of acquiescing to something we didn’t ask for or want. Resignation can leave us feeling powerless and feeling like we have no control over any outcomes. 

However, when we truly reach a place of acceptance of an individual, we can let go of the imaginary ( and let’s admit it, sometimes wholly unrealistic) perfection of who that individual, at least in our minds, is supposed to be. Once we alter our original expectations for this individual,  we can start working on a plan to help the individual with whatever issues may be impeding their success. We do not ask for the individual to be perfect. But for our lives with the individual to be meaningful, connected, and genuine. 

 

It’s Not Nirvana

Let’s not seek a state of perfection based on past experiences with previous dogs because that ideal does not exist. Not for us and certainly not for the dogs that we invite into our lives. Let’s instead find a reason to love the quirky things that make our dogs the individuals they are. After all, they don’t judge us for singing in the shower, eating Cheetos for breakfast (especially if you would be so kind as to share), or laughing uproariously at Schitt’s Creek. 

And if you find that your dog has behaviors that fall outside of the range of what is considered to be typical for most dogs, please do your research to find a reputable, ethical, science-based behavior consultant. One that keeps up with the latest scientific research and holds themselves accountable for continuing education so that they can be best prepared to help design a behavior modification plan to help you and your dog have a meaningful, connected, and genuine relationship that is not influenced or haunted by the ghosts of dogs gone by. 

 

Now what?

  • If you find yourself making comparisons, ask yourself is the comparison helpful, neutral, or harmful. 
  • If the comparison is helpful or neutral, continue on. If it’s harmful, however, then dig deep as to why you’re making this comparison. Is it because you’re frustrated or wish things were different with this pet?
  • For those quirks that are truly quirks and are not dangerous or harmful to the pet or others, try looking at them through a different lens to see if you can start to feel differently about them. If those quirks are dangerous or harmful, reach out to our team at [email protected] to schedule a consultation.

MaryKaye

What is the Difference Between Training & Behavior?

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As someone who sees clients as both a trainer and a behavior consultant, I often get asked the question, is the behavior I see my dog exhibiting a training issue or a behavior issue?  I think it is a legitimate question and one that deserves a closer look, especially because it can help a client determine what type of professional would be best suited to help them work on and implement a training plan for themselves and their dogs. 

                                                          

Training

When I think of training, the first thing that comes to mind is giving our dogs the tools they will need to help them safely navigate our human world and expectations. Dogs certainly weren’t on the receiving end of a ten-page document on how to live harmoniously with humans in a home! They do what works for dogs because after all, that’s exactly what they are. They don’t come hardwired to understand that open doorways are not for dashing out of or that delicious turkey sandwiches left unattended by humans are not for their consumption. It is up to the humans in their lives to teach them the skills they will need to share our homes in a way that still allows them to be dogs but also addresses safety concerns and good manners from the human perspective. 

So how do dogs typically acquire these essential skills? Perhaps you’ve taken your dog to a group class like puppy kindergarten or beginning obedience. Or you’ve hired a trainer to do a remote training session or come to your home. Or you could have joined an online training forum. Through one of these venues, you have taught your dog some basic manners such as sit, down, stay, or to go to her “place” when cued. Are these acquired skills essential from the dog’s perspective? Probably not. It is highly unlikely that your dog finds it necessary to do a sit/stay or go to her “place” when the pizza delivery arrives. And yet, from a safety perspective, we humans know that these trained behaviors help to keep us, our dogs, and possibly the pizza safe! So, as responsible dog guardians, we train our dogs to respond reliably to these cues. 

 

Wait, There is More

Now, technically we know that trained cues are behaviors. In the textbook Learning and Behavior, the definition of behavior is as follows: “anything a person or other animal does that can be measured” (Moore, 2011; Reber, 1995; Skinner, 1938). The book goes further by saying that “anything an animal does might qualify as behavior, whether measurable or not, but for scientific analysis we are necessarily limited to those things we can measure” (Baum, 2011). A cued sit or stay is certainly something that a dog does and there is no doubt we could find ways to measure the behavior but it is very unlikely that a measurement is necessary for daily functioning. We just need to know that the cued behavior is reliable in a variety of circumstances. The predictability of our dogs understanding and performing their known cues is helpful for their daily functioning so that they can live cohesively in our homes with minimal stress for both species. 

 

Behavior

Now that I have explained what might constitute a training issue, let’s take a look at what would more likely fall under the behavior issue category. When a prospective client contacts Pet Harmony with a concern about their dog’s behavior, we would typically be thinking about behaviors that are considered maladaptive behaviors. 

The American Psychological Association defines maladaptive behaviors as “a condition in which biological traits or behavior patterns are detrimental, counterproductive or otherwise interfere with optimal functioning in various domains, such as successful interaction with the environment and effectual coping with the challenges and stresses of daily life” (http://dictionary.apa.org). Bearing that definition in mind, typical behavior issues a dog behavior consultant might be contacted to help with could include the cluster of behaviors that help describe things like leash reactivity, separation-related problems, fear of strangers, and dog to dog aggression. In other words, if a dog is exhibiting behaviors that prohibit optimal functioning in their daily lives, a behavior consultation would better address these concerns than a training session. To help us further clarify the differences between training and behavior, I will provide some common scenarios that fall under each category. 

 

Training

Behavior

  • Your dog is jumping up on visitors as they enter your home as a form of greeting.
  • Your dog is counter surfing to retrieve food items during meal preparation.
  • Your newly rescued dog or a new puppy is house soiling or chewing or destroying household items.
  • Your dog is pulling you down the street on walks making it very difficult and uncomfortable to walk them.
  • Your dog is emitting a low growl or is barking and lunging at visitors as they enter your home.
  • Your dog took a counter surfed item and is freezing, growling, or air snapping your direction as you approach him to retrieve the item.
  • Your newly adopted dog is soiling in the house or destroying items whenever you leave her alone.
  • Your dog is pulling, lunging, and barking every time he sees another dog on a walk.

 

As you can see there are some similarities in the scenarios above. For example, in the first example of visitors entering the home, both reactions from the dog are not ideal. We don’t necessarily want our dogs to rehearse the behavior of jumping up on guests to greet them. However, I’m guessing that it would be way more troublesome to owners everywhere if their pet was exhibiting the set of behaviors (growling, barking, lunging) that are described under the behavior category. Both situations are the same in that the style of greeting isn’t well-suited for safe interactions with visitors but in the behavior example, the dog’s behavioral choices are much more likely to include the possibility of escalating to a bite if management and a good behavior modification plan are not implemented. 

 

Why Does Any of This Matter?

It matters because it’s important to work with the appropriate professional to help you reach the training and behavior goals you have for your dog. Whether you think your dog has training issues or behavior issues, hiring a trainer or behavior consultant who understands learning theory and the behavioral sciences can help you safely, effectively, and ethically address those concerns by providing you with a plan to help you and your dog. We at Pet Harmony are ready to help you address these concerns, whatever they be, because we believe that the relationship you have with your dog should be mutually beneficial to you both so that you can live the best life that is possible for you and your dog. You can find out about the type of services we offer by using this link: http://petharmonytraining.com/services/clients/all-services-comparison/

We are here to help and look forward to hearing from you, whatever your concerns may be. 

 

Now what?

  • Think about a behavior that your dog exhibits. Does it seem more like a training issue or a behavior issue?
  • Determine if you need to work with a professional (this blog post can help you do that.)
  • Choose a professional and start working with them. 

MaryKaye