Let’s face it, as pet parents, we love our furry kids but sometimes there are things they do that is flat out embarrassing. The good news is that many pet behaviors can be modified with a little pet parenting effort and some tasty little bribes most pooches will flip for.
I caught up with dog trainer Lou Goaziou, owner of Boise’s Good CitiZEN Dog, to talk about the top 3 dog behaviors most pet owners he deals with complain about. It appeared that time and time again, dog on dog aggression, excessive barking and jumping up on people were on top of his complaint list. But that’s not all…after further digging, it turns out that these behaviors are also logged at animals shelters as some of the reasons why many pet owners relinquish give up on their pets.Pet training can fix aggressive behaviors vs millions relinquished. Click To Tweet
Here’s The Skinny
I’ve had pets all of my life. I’ve been blessed with the smartest, sweetest cats and dogs EVER! Or was it my grandmother’s insistence for raising well-mannered pets which led to always guiding them that made them that way? Maybe a combination of both. I don’t know. What I do know is that their lives are too short and they deserve the best of me I can offer. I admit, I’m not always at my best and my training methods weren’t always right from what I’m now learning. But they know I love them and they are much better pets than if they wouldn’t have received any direction at all.
Lou too has had pets most of his life so training them to be well behaved is like second nature. Lou runs a positive reinforcement pet training program helping dogs with behavior modification. He also helps animal shelters and rescues as a foster and works with many rescues with “problem” behaviors so they can be placed in good homes.
The funny thing is as Lou shared, many of these “problem dogs” aren’t that big of a problem. Lou says that most dogs with the right training routine and consistency more often than not leave those bad habits behind.Dogs with behavior problems can be trained to become the perfect pet. Click To Tweet
So why then relinquish a pet when these behaviors can be modified with the proper pet training?…
A Trained Pet Makes For A Happy Pet Parent
Pets aren’t always the cause of the behavior problem and pet owners don’t often know enough to figure it out and fix the problem. It’s up to pet owners to take the proper actions to raise a pet they can be proud of. According to Lou, the best and quickest results are achieved when dogs are trained as puppies. But at the end of the day if you missed that window, the reality is that most dogs can be trained to be the perfect model dog we want. Ok fine, perfect might be a bit of a stretch but you’ll definitely be happier with the results.
Having made it my mission to do my share to help reduce the number of abandoned, relinquished and euthanized pets, I decided it would be a good idea to run a series of responsible pet owner informative sessions. Lou was kind enough to join me. Off we went on a mission. I was to bring together pet owners whose pets displayed habits of dog on dog aggression, barking or jumping and Lou would do the honors to address these concerns and offer tips to break those bad habits.
Dealing With The Top 3 Pet Behavior Problems
The day of our session came up. It was really nice to gather with neighboring pet parents to share about our pets want to learn what can be done to improve our coexistence. It takes a responsible pet owner to take time from their weekend to learn what can be done to modify embarrassing bad habits.
The session was quaint, informal and personal. Lou asked each of the attendees to share their concern and asked what they were doing to solve the problem. This insight gave him enough information to provide feedback and suggest alternate solutions specific to their situation. It was great! Just like having your own personal consultant.
Here’s what I took from this session which I hope it helps pet owners everywhere…
Dog On Dog Aggression
Dog on dog aggression experienced during pet walks is very common. The aggression is most often exhibited when dogs are leashed and the problem is exasperated when the leash is yanked by a pet parent who isn’t quite sure how to handle the situation. Stress level is high and the pet knows there’s a problem so Fido reacts accordingly with its masters queues.
Taking Fido for a daily walk is not only necessary to stimulate their senses but the exercise is essential to their and our health. It’s a mutual benefit. The thing is, when dogs exhibit aggression on walks, many pet parents think twice and will sometimes make up excuses to avoid the whole experience. Unfortunately, this leads to more problems…
According to Lou, “Walking is an important tool – a way to give your dog a purpose…A troubled dog on a walk without human “direction” is nothing but an invitation for trouble.”
To be successful arm yourself with the proper items starting with the right type of leash and collar like the gentle leaders, easy walker harness or a Martindale. These tools will make it easier for you to better control and work with your dog.
It’s important to note, that both you and your pet will be working together to break bad habits. It’s not just your pet that will undergo a behavior modification. You too must keep your own reactions in check, be calm and firm with your dog in order for this to work.
The great news is that most dogs are food motivated. So make sure to load yourself up with high value food treats bound to get your dogs attention. If that doesn’t work for you then Lou suggests that you bring along your dog’s favorite toy or ball. Whatever it takes, the point is to get and keep its attention diverting it from oncoming dogs. If you can keep its attention you’ll have the upper hand.
How To Solve Dog Aggression
Here’s what you do, pay attention to the distance that normally starts to make your dog uncomfortable when you see the oncoming pooch. It is just before this point that you want to begin diverting your dogs attention to you.
Next, start changing your tune from tensing up and tightening the leash to cheerfully engaging your dog. What I mean is, talk to your dog in a positive tone and pick a keyword like “look at me” as you walk along or ask it to sit facing away from the oncoming dog. Make sure to have that yummy treat handy and that it knows it’s coming once a job well done has been completed. Tell your dog what it needs to do (“look at me” or “sit, stay”) and when all has passed, reward your dog for good behavior with a treat or two.Dogs are smart. Bad behaviors can be modified with a little training. Click To Tweet
The change starts with you. So just remember, relax, get its attention and reward it for good behavior.
You know your dog best and through observation you’ll identify the best way to divert its attention. The most important thing is that you keep at it because eventually, oncoming dogs will no longer be associated with a defensive reaction and neither will you.
Barking & Jumping
We ran out of time and didn’t dive into these pet behaviors as much as I would have liked to. Plus these behaviors didn’t happen to be an issue among the attending group. However, Lou did state that what it boils down to is “desensitizing and counter-conditioning.” He said that “every time you replace a negative reaction with no response or a positive response, you are counter-conditioning your dog to respond differently.”
My dog Max, is not much of a barker; however, he will bark when someone is outside our door. Each time he barks, I’ll say “shhhhh,” he looks at me and I wave him to come to me. Usually, I just scratch his head and tell him he’s a good boy. It works about 7 out of 10 times (treats increase positive response every time). How much he barks is always dependent upon the level of threat he perceives and of course, my reaction. I suppose I could work on that…
Now You Know So Get To It
If your dog exhibits one of these behaviors that gets under your skin and makes you wonder why you’re keeping the pet around, don’t give up. The solution may not be too far out of reach. Turning to a pet trainer who preferably uses positive reinforcement for behavior modification may turn out to be the smartest decision you make.
If you know someone who might be a little frustrated with their pet, share this article with them. It just might make a world of difference.
Thank you for reading and happy trails to you and your pooch!
Have you used a special technique with your dog that could help others? If so, do tell.