I will give you the tools to build the necessary communication, mutual respect, and trust between you and your dog.
Q: What is the difference between basic training and behavior modification?
A: It all fits under the term training, but basic training, or good manners training usually deals with putting normal dog behaviors on cue. Teaching a dog to Sit, Stay, or Down on cue fits under that category. It can also include management or training a dog to stop doing things that are perfectly normal dog behaviors ( from the dog's perspective) but that don't usually go over well in our homes. That could be anything from jumping up or barking at the mailman to chewing shoes, couches or worse.
Behavior Modification tends to deal with problem behavior solving. It most often involves dealing with behaviors the dog has no control over (not making a conscious choice), like separation anxiety, Obsessive compulsive disorders, fear issues, etc. Aggression is one of the more complicated problems dog trainers are faced with. All aggression is fear based, but depending on what the root, the trigger or the context of the aggression is, the Behavior Modification protocol for aggression cases can vary greatly.
Q:Why don't dogs always do what we tell them to do?
A: They would and they will if they understand what we are asking from them. Dogs and humans communicate and learn very differently. Dogs do not have the ability to speak or have abstract thought, but they are masters of reading body language and are quick learners if we give them very clear and specific information. We are constantly asking our pet dogs to step outside of their own paradigm by projecting our values and ways of communicating onto them and expecting them to live by our rules. For Instance: dogs do not by nature love the way we touch them and the sound of the human voice. It is learned through association and repeated reassurance that human interaction is a good thing. Some of the ways we show affection, like walking straight up to someone and hugging them or kissing them on their face would be considered impolite or even aggressive in the dog world and perhaps even as a threat that warrants a defensive response. Considering how often we overstep our pets' natural boundaries, it is amazing how patient they are with us.
Q: My dog stands in front of the back door and barks when he wants to go out and it's beginning to be a pain. He's doing it more and more often and a dog trainer told me to ignore him completely and eventually he would stop. I followed the advice and hung in there for a few days, but after having gotten better, my dog suddenly began barking even louder than before. What have I gotten myself into?
A: The advice you got was fine. What the trainer may have forgotten to tell you is that you might experience something called extinction bursts before the barking goes away completely. An extinction burst is a frustration driven reaction that occurs when the dog is suddenly not receiving the customary reinforcement for his behavior. He may start barking even louder or harder as if saying: Perhaps you didn't hear me, I WANT TO GO OUT! WHY ARE YOU NOT OPENING THE DOOR?
Hang in there, if you don't respond, he will realize that barking louder will get him nowhere and he will stop for good. Be aware however, that in the beginning, even if you dog stops barking one day, he might start back up the next day. The technical term for this is Spontaneous Recovery. It means that from your dog's point of view, even if the door didn't open when he barked yesterday, maybe it will today. Eventually, the barking will get less and less until he finally stops completely. Make sure you never respond to any of the barking, though. If you get tired of the barking after 1/2 hour and break down and let him out, you've just taught him that barking for 1/2 hour will get him what he wants.
Q: We're having a baby and we're worried about how our dog will react to the baby. Help!
A: I understand why you're nervous. There's nothing more precious and vulnerable than an infant and it's your job to protect your baby. However, more times than not, bringing a baby into a "dog" can be a positive and pleasant experience.
You probably wouldn't bring a new baby home without ever mentioning it to your other children, right? You would probably try to best prepare them for the arrival for the new child and for what change that would bring in their lives. You would also make sure your children knew they would still be loved and that a new baby wouldn't mean that they would be pushed aside. That's exactly what you can do with your dog. Of course, since your dog doesn't understand English and doesn't understand the concept of the arrival of a child several months, weeks, days, even hours down the road you would do things he would understand. Begin mixing up his usual routine ahead of the baby's arrival so he doesn't associate the end of the world as he knew it with the baby's arrival. Try to not walk him at the exact time every day even if this is how you've done it for years. Once the baby comes, it highly unlikely that you'll be able to take your customary two-hour walks in the park at seven AM every morning. But if you've already changed up his walking and play schedule ahead of time, you avoid having him associate the new baby with the end of fun. You want your dog to think the baby is the coolest thing since the invention of tennis balls, so why not present him with a favorite treat when the baby is in the room in the beginning. Baby= yummy hot dogs is a lot better than baby=no more fun and love.
While this tip just helps illustrate the mindset you need to be in in order to help puppy welcome baby, there are lots of other things you can do to make the transition easier. This is a subject close to my heart so I'll be happy to help.
Q: I think my dog suffers from Separation Anxiety. Every time I come home, she has chewed up some of the furniture or a favorite pair of shoes. The neighbors say she's barking while I'm gone. What can I do?
A: She could be. She could also be over the moon excited about you being gone so she could engage in her favorite fun activity: couch wrestling, shoe chewing, and barking at people passing by outside. I would have to know a lot more about the specifics of your dog's behavior in order to determine whether I thought she was suffering from separation anxiety or not. Real separation anxiety is somewhat similar to a panic attack in people. While barking and destructive behavior often occur when SA dogs are left alone, a few cues can help determine whether we're talking about SA or a bored, ill mannered dog. With dogs who panic when their owners leave, the destructive behavior will often occur just minutes after the human leaves and it will often be focused on or around the exit areas (door knobs, door frames, window sills) or on the owner's clothing (things that smell of the owner.) If you have a chance to videotape how your dog behaves when you leave, it might help give you some clues. If you find that your dog happily jumps on the couch after you leave and then starts finding stuff to chew after she wakes up from a nap an hour later, my bet is that she is just fine being alone but could use some appropriate toys to chew on and perhaps could benefit from having a restricted area, perhaps even a crate, while you're gone until she can handle having the run of the house without destroying it. Be aware, though, that dogs that really do suffer from Separation Anxiety often panic completely when being crated or caged, so you need to be sure. (If you're going to crate your dog it is also important to get your dog used to the crate before you start using it.) Is your dog always glued to your side when you're home and can't stand being separated from you even by a door while you're home and must sleep and be right by you at all times, then that's another possible clue that you might be looking at the real deal. Also, does you dog begin to get distressed as soon as you begin thinking about leaving and is completely worked up by the time you put on your coat and pick up your keys? The good news about SA is that it is highly treatable (in most cases), but it takes time and patience and the love of a dedicated owner.