Gentle Spirit Dog Training



Creating Lifelong Friendships Through Mutual Understanding and Respect


Behavior Consultations

 

 

Behavior problems can ruin the owner/dog relationship and are the most common reason dogs are relinquished to shelters.  Often the dog is engaging in normal behavior – barking, digging, chewing - but at an extreme level or at a time that’s not enjoyable for the owner.  Common behavior challenges include:


 

Excessive barking

 

Destructive chewing

 

Fearfulness

 

House soiling

 

More challenging problems include separation anxiety, phobias and aggression to people or other dogs.

 


Behavior consultations will help you understand why your dog is acting the way he or she is, and offer appropriate solutions to modify your dog’s behavior so that problems may be overcome.  Kate’s training philosophy uses reward-based methods – nothing painful or scary – because she believes that this approach creates the best learning environment. There are several basic elements to solving a problem behavior:

 

Management:

 

Management refers to structuring your dog’s physical environment to prevent unwanted behaviorsThe goal is to set him up to “get it right” by not giving him access to things that will get him into troubleFor example, preventing his access to the window by the front door ensures that he won’t bark at the mailman.  Preventing his access to an object he might guard – rawhide chews, laundry, “stolen” items from the garbage – is a crucial safety measure to take so that he won’t find himself in a situation where he feels the need to growl or bite.  Management tools can include using gates, crates or confinement rooms, and enriching your dog's environment with plenty of toys, stuffed Kongs or hollow bones to keep him safe and happy when you can't supervise him.  It also means that you must completely avoid any potentially problematic situations until you have a plan to address them.  This element of a behavior modification program must be in place before attempting to re-train a problematic behavior.  The objective of a program is to resolve the behavior problem, modify the dog's behavior to an acceptable level, or avoid the problem completely by properly managing the dog's environment.  The length of management needed depends upon the severity of the problem, and in some cases must be practiced for the rest of the dog's life.


 Train a Replacement Skill:

 

When faced with a behavior problem, most people ask “How do I stop him from doing that?”  We need to ask “What do I want him to do instead?”  If you have ever tried to break a habit – biting your fingernails, for example – you’ve probably found that it was difficult.  If you simply just tried to stop, you left a big space where that behavior was and found it stressful to just sit there, doing nothing.  If, on the other hand, you filled that space with an alternate behavior – like making a fist – you were more successful breaking the nail biting habit.  Additional aids include chewing gum, awareness training and strengthening your nails with special products.  When working with your dog to change his behavior, you can provide similar assistance by learning to recognize changes in his body language and removing stressors that contribute to the behavior.  Desensitization and Classical Conditioning exercises can help him cope with any stressors that cannot be reduced or removed.

 

The replacement skill doesn’t have to be a difficult one.  You can use one of the skills your dog already has like “look at me” or “sit”.  You can teach him “go to place” to target a bed or mat, or “this way” to turn around while on a walk. 

 

Practice for Reliability:

 

After practicing the replacement skill in distraction-free situations, you’ll set up training sessions that resemble contexts in which the problem behavior occurred, using much less intense versions.  Done properly, over time the new behavior will replace the old behavior.  Success depends on being objective and realistic when answering these questions:

 

- How long has the dog been practicing the problem behavior(s)?

- How many situations cause a problem?  How many triggers are there?

- How intense or emotional is your dog during the problem behavior?

- Can your family be consistent and strictly adhere to the management plan?

- How much time do you have to work on the problem?

- Are you willing and able to work on the problem?

 

With patience and consistency, many problems can be overcome in a short period of time. Kate will help you and your best friend through the process!