Posts tagged service dogs
Is your energy feeding your dogs behavior?

Does the environment in which a dog is exposed to play a part in their behavior? Can they develop traits from prolonged exposure to chaos that will manifest itself in the way they act and interact with others? I am not an "expert" in dog behavior, I can only state what I have observed over my years of dog training and interacting with a broad scale of dogs in various settings.

My first example is their environment. One dog in particular, we will call him Scout, is a regular at our facility for boarding and training. He is a German Shepherd Dog who just turned one year old in May 2016. I have been working with him since he was just a couple months old with the first few training sessions being at his house, the lady of the house was the one to handle him. The household consists of husband, wife and two young boys one of which is autistic. Scout is being trained to be a service dog for the autistic son. The chaos within the household made the training sessions virtually impossible to complete, so we began the boarding/training at our facility.

Scout behaves just fine when he is with us. He of course has those puppy issues still, but he has matured and understands his parameters within our house during his visits here. The environment at our school is relaxed, calm, pretty chill. He gets to run and play, has his lessons, lives in the house free to roam and explore and maintains his discipline for the most part. Once he returns home it is a completely different story. He does well for the first couple of days, but without the consistent discipline and understanding of his role within their family he begins to feed off the chaotic energy that is ever present. He starts misbehaving, getting into things he never even thinks of getting into at our school. He does certain things that he knows is unacceptable here but there he seems to think that it's cool.

Another example is exposure to different types of dogs. When my training sessions get to a certain point I introduce the dog in training to my personal dog Venus. She is a 5 year old albino Doberman Pinscher that has a very docile, calming personality. She still romps and plays but when she is done, she is done. It never fails, whenever I introduce her to one of the dogs I am working with, they will feed off her chill energy. Of course they are curious at first, wanting to play and have fun. Eventually they will relax more and maintain the discipline and training.

In a different session I have another dog that has the exact opposite personality. She is more hyper, still just a puppy in some aspects only being about 14 months old as of June 2016. She loves to play, has high energy and is great with other dogs. We will call her June. When I introduce her to the dog in training, I receive the exact opposite reaction. The dog in training will almost always forget their training and it will be almost like starting all over again with the discipline and corrections. The energy that comes from June seems to feed the dog in training, no matter what their demeanor is.

These different distractions are great tools I use to help with the discipline of the dogs in training, slowly working them towards the energy of June, testing and elevating their level of training along the way. June is blessed to have a calm environment she resides in or it is possible she could be one of those energetic dogs that wind up in a shelter. Scout needs to be removed periodically from the chaos that he is surrounded by in order to get back to his obedient self. With his constant visitations he has shown me he has the potential to be well-behaved dog, but his lack of leadership and the consistent distractions at his home has slowed his progress and may have an impact on his prolonged behavior. This will be an ongoing study for me, seeing what impact my training and behavior modification can have on an inconsistent regimen.

Of course there are always going to be exceptions and other factors will also help in determining the behavior of any dog. But sometimes it can be something as simple as changing the mood or "feel" of the current environment to help make adjustments in the way your dog is acting.

Take care

Rebecca

Dog training is a process requiring time and patience .

I have noticed many people have an expectation of dog training that is so unrealistic it is unfair to the dog. Social media is flooded with people posting their dogs doing amazing things – balancing treats on their head, skate boarding, dancing with their human partner, etc etc etc.  As entertaining as this is, being a dog trainer I know the hours and hours and HOURS that went into getting the dog to that level. Granted, there are a select few that just “click” and makes the training easier, but like humans not all dogs are built the same!

Dogs are not machines. And dog training is not a quick fix to all your doggy issues. It is a process, it requires work on the owners part, dedication and commitment as well as time and patience. You don’t have to put hours a day into your dog to get them to learn the basics and behave, but you will need to set aside time each day to work on commands, especially in the beginning of any training program. Be true to what you need from your dog and what you can actually get from the dog. Dog’s are amazing and I love working with them, but they do have limitations to what tasks they can perform and what they can do.

If you are looking for them to have fun with you (“I want my dog to play fetch with me.”), then you need to find something THEY enjoy doing, not something you WANT them to do. You can’t make a dog want to fetch. My doberman has absolutely no desire to play with toys, at all. None of them. She never has. I tried introducing several different toys, absolutely no interest. Why would I want to try and stress her out by making her do something for my enjoyment that is not fun for her? This is not about training, this is you projecting your desires onto your dog. Find their funzone and let them be a dog!

Not all dogs make good protection dogs. Some dogs would lick the bad guy to death, others would cower behind the owner. There is no amount of training you can do that is going to change that. If you are not sure of your dogs qualifications, seek out the advice and help of a professional so they can better assess if your dog is fit to perform as you need/wish them to.

Even in training a dog should enjoy what they do. It is work at times, it is not always fun but it should not be too stressful or put too much pressure on the dog to where it breaks their spirit or makes them apprehensive. I was working a German Shepherd Dog on just hand signals, no verbal commands, with a very loose leash. The owner was across the way observing while practicing with their other dog. They made a comment later about how happy the Shepherd was, his tail was wagging the entire time. Other dogs I have trained or am training get so excited when I come for the classes or to pick them up, the owners are thrilled they are learning AND are happy doing it. They look forward to it (dog and owner both)! I insist on that, the dog MUST enjoy the training. Which is why they should not be forced to be something they are not.

So, at the end of the day not every dog is going to be the latest YouTube sensation, but they can be a star in your eyes!! Having a well-mannered dog is a goal nearly every dog owner can reach.

Happy Tails!

Rebecca