More Training Isn't Always the Answer
Sometimes, the answer to helping your dog change his behavior is not just more training. Don't get me wrong -- nothing replaces structure and leadership with a strong obedience foundation. It's essential to behavioral changes. But -- Sometimes, the answer is to take a day off and relax. Get to a calm state of mind. Do something that is just completely enriching for the dog, you and the relationship.
I am once worked with couple and their 3 dogs. I was initially called to work with the male dog in their home. He had demonstrated some serious aggression behaviors and they were quite worried about the future. My arrival at their home told me instantly, that we had a pack problem. All 3 dogs were in a very heightened state of adrenaline. Literally, 1 of the dogs lept head level towards me. I'm 5'10. It wasn't with aggression -- but it was very much out of control and very much over adrenalized.
The 3 dogs fueled each other. It was not an option to work with only one.
We begin a series of lessons working all 3 dogs. What I quickly learned is that the dogs not only needed a tune-up in obedience, but structure and leadership needed to be implemented in a BIG way. The owners also needed to make some pretty big changes, too.
Mainly - let go of the past, change the emotional state of mind, trust the process, and stop babying the dogs.
We were making really good progress -- but we hit a plateau and even had a set back.
The family doesn't have a fenced in backyard. So the only outings are on leash. These dogs need to get out and run. Because they are over adrenalized most of the time, and potty breaks require a walk through a busy neighborhood, there is very little down-time for these dogs. With some breeds, we often have high energy and many times a high prey drive on genetic instincts. So we need to burn off energy, manage impulse control and teach them how to not give into drive at all times.
Bringing the dogs in for a Board and Train would clearly make a huge difference in their learning and behavior. BUT -- sending them back to a leash-based environment was not the solution. I recommended to the client that they best money they could spend at this time is on a fence -- not just more training.
In the meanwhile, I invited them down for off leash play time on Saturday. They ran off leash for the first time in many months. It was a joy to watch. It took the dogs well over and hour to actually start to demonstrate relaxation . And we all know 1 day isn't enough. They need an outlet for energy daily, they need to not be tethered to their people 100% of the time when outdoors and not under command 24x7 -- under control yes, but we all need a break to just be. These dogs need to just be dogs -- eat sticks, run, play, lay in the dirt and completely relax. We need adrenaline out of the body so the brain can move forward and learn more, and make better decision.
We're going to get there.
The answer to helping your dog isn't always more training. It's often changing the daily way of life. And sometimes it's giving the dog a chance to clear his head, get the body out of adrenaline, and just be a dog -- to just BE.
My goal as a trainer is to do what the dog needs. To do what the family needs to be successful. Sometimes that's not more training. I hope every trainer does the right thing, not just the money thing.