But, He Really Is A Good Dog!

I have been involved in dog training all my life and one thing that I have seen over and over again is how we make excuses for our dogs.

I get quite a few calls from dog owners telling me about their dog problems.  No matter how bad the problem is they always seem to end the statement with “but he is really a good dog”.  Does this sound familiar?  We even make the same type of excuses for our children.

So my job as a behavior specialist is to make my client understand that the bad behavior their dog is exhibiting is not acceptable and needs to be changed.  This isn’t always easy and MUST be done with tact.

For example I have a client currently who has a 6 month old dog that she wants to train as a service dog for herself.  This dog would perform simple tasks for her like picking up items that she has dropped.  The dog is fearful of people but at this point shows no aggression, it just simply does anything to keep away from strangers.

My client doesn’t see this as a problem and simply feels the dog is going thru a “phase”.  The problem is either genetics or a lack of socialization.  The parents appeared to be outgoing and social so the problem is probably due to a lack of socialization.

The window of opportunity for socialization starts at birth and last until week 20 of the dog’s life.  If socialization to other dogs, people, children and new places doesn’t happen by that age the dog may never be comfortable with other people, dogs and places.

Sometimes we can help the dog after the 20 week mark… sometimes?  I suggested to my client that she take this puppy to 3 different places a week and allow it to be around new people.  An exercise that works really well is to stand in front of a grocery store or Wall-Mart with your puppy on leash as if you are waiting for someone to come out of the store.  As new people approach many will ask if they can pet your cute dog and of course you will allow it.  If your dog does not want to be petted have the stranger offer the puppy a treat.  The treat makes your dog realize that meeting new people is fun and has rewards.

Currently I have another client with a similar problem but much more serious.  This clients dog is showing aggression and has actually bitten a couple of people.

My client feels that since the dog is such a sweetheart at home with the family that the aggression isn’t that big of a deal.  That feeling went away recently when she was sued by the dog’s latest victim.

She also has become aware that if this happens again the dog may very well be ordered to be put to sleep.  Changing her attitude about her dog has been just as important as working with the dog and changing its behavior.

These are just two examples.  I can tell you that my clients don’t want to hear that their dogs have a problem.  However it’s my job to point out the problems and help the owner and the dog change their attitudes.

Mark Mansfield
 

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