FREE dog training advice!
Top tips on how to solve ANY behavior struggle
Ok, so that headline was clearly clickbait. I’m sorry. That’s not really my style.
But since you’re here, it obviously worked. Please don’t feel cheated. There will actually be free advice on how to solve your dog’s behavior problems – it just might not be what you expected.
There is sooo much information on how to train your dog on the internet: videos, blog posts, Facebook groups, ebooks… Type in any kind of struggle like “How do I stop my dog from barking?” or “How do I get my dog to stop jumping up?” and you’ll get more search results than you can read. Some of it is really great, competent advice. Some of it is mediocre. Some of it is truly bad – as in “you’ll make it so much worse” bad. None of it is taking YOUR dog into account. It can’t. There’s no interaction.
It’s kind of like self-diagnosing via Dr. Google
It’s kind of like self-diagnosing via Dr. Google. All of a sudden you have every possible illness, your head is spinning with which supplement to buy first or you’re now certain it’s so bad there’s no point seeing a doctor. Yet the internet is an incredible resource that gives you access to a wealth of peer-reviewed research, published specialist information, and genuine first-hand shared experience.
The crucial bit is knowing when you can be sure you’ve correctly identified the problem.
The crucial bit is knowing when you can be sure you’ve correctly identified the problem (“Phew, so that’s what happens when you eat beets.”) and when you need to confirm your hunch with someone who can actually examine YOU as a person.
The solution really needs to take into account the function of the behavior.
This is where we get back to dogs. Yes, your dog’s incessant barking is annoying. Yes, you have a right not to have your clothes peeled off your body. But as simple as the problem may seem, there are many reasons your dog might bark or jump up, and the solution really needs to take into account the function of the behavior. Sometimes that’s easy to figure out. Much of the time it can be tricky to identify.
You might not even be asking the right questions.
That’s why many competent dog trainers will answer a generic behavior question with “Well, that depends…” I know that doesn’t seem very helpful, but it is true. In fact, you might not even be asking the right questions. The first question often isn’t “How do I fix this?” but “Why is MY dog doing this?”
While the solution will never be “Put a prong collar on the dog,” it’s also not as simple as “Feed him treats” (even if it likely involves feeding treats). Context matters. Anyone who gives you a 100% guaranteed solution that works for any dog and hasn’t seen your dog or asked you a bunch of questions is handing out snake oil! The stuff might be harmless, or it could be toxic. Consume at your own risk.
The solution will never be “Put a prong collar on the dog”
So if you’re facing a behavior struggle with your dog, by all means peruse the internet. Read blog posts, watch videos – and then THINK: Does what I see here seem to take MY dog’s character, background, experiences and lifestyle into account? Can I be sure the solution fits MY dog’s personal struggle? If you have any doubts, please get in touch with a qualified force-free professional dog trainer or behaviorist who will take the time to get to know YOU and YOUR dog so that she can offer you a well-thought-out customized action plan and guide you along the way if you struggle or have questions.
Read blog posts, watch videos – and then THINK
By the way – don’t hesitate to tell your trainer about the stuff you found online. They should welcome your search for information and interest in your dog’s behavior by explaining the things you saw and relating them to YOUR situation. Although they may be right to tell you “not to believe everything you read on the internet,” if they scoff at your information seeking, move on. (I’m sad to say I’ve lost respect for many a doctor that way.) Because one thing is certain, curiosity is the first step to solving any problem.
So there you have it – my free advice on how to solve any behavior problem: be curious about dog behavior, absorb information, then get to know YOUR dog and make sure you find the solution that is right for YOUR team.
And if you have any doubts, get in touch with a pro who will ask YOU questions before suggesting a possible solution. If you can’t or don’t want to meet face to face, take an online class or book a virtual consultation. Most qualified trainers and behaviorists now offer these options.
If you’d like to book a session with me, drop me a message in the contact box or get in touch on Facebook. I’d love to get to know your pup.