■ “How to Behave so Your Dog Behaves” by Sophia Yin, DVM
■ “Family Friendly Dog Training” by Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., and Aimee M. Moore
A young woman stopped me in the grocery store inquiring about training her “crazy” dog. Now, I don’t train dogs in the grocery store, but I did try to dispel a common misconception about how we perceive dog behavior problems.
Apparently, the 2-year-old dog is a mix of a herding dog and retriever and is kept in a mud room. Family members are working or gone a lot. He’s destroying the back door from the inside. This was all the information I wanted at the moment.
I don’t make judgments about behavior without obtaining a written behavior profile of the dog along with any other information that might be pertinent. I also want to see what is happening within the family.
I do, however, like to mention some things to help people begin to think about what it is that they are asking. Sometimes, owners just want trainers to “fix” their dogs, and they might not realize what an integral part they play in the situation.
Of course, we don’t want our dogs to destroy our homes. We want them to be good and be the dog of our dreams. One thing we all learn sooner or later is that dreams usually take a lot of work on our part. A horse trainer whom I admire used to say, “A dream is a goal without a plan.”
If you’ve read any of the previous articles I’ve written about my bull terrier, Stuart, you might have noticed that I frequently mentioned I had to learn new skills and change my behavior in order for Stuart to be successful.
Behavior doesn’t just pour out of a dog for inexplicable reasons. They are brought into the world with a unique set of behavioral tendencies and express these in the only way they can. They need guidance and intervention from the humans in their lives. They are often a product of their environments.
So here’s what I ask dog owners to think about:
Most often, what it takes to help a dog reach his potential is your positive intervention. This might mean learning new skills or increasing your dog-training abilities through available literature and classes.
One important aspect might be changing how you manage your dog. This might mean changing his living environment in your home; changing how, when or what you feed him; or changing his and your exercise routine. One big change that helps bright, active dogs is enriching their environments with puzzles designed for dogs, interactive toys and play time with you.
In the end, it’s up to us. We need to change our thoughts, skill levels and behavior in order to bring out the best in our dogs. It’s all about change, but it’s worth it.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training with more than 25 years of experience.