I always have the greatest of admiration for anyone who does the best for their dogs, particularly when a dog is displaying reactivity to a stimulus such as other dogs. Whether we term these behaviours as ‘reactivity’, or ‘aggression’ is individual to each particular case. In todays world the word ‘aggression’ is a contentious one, owners are often embarrassed by their dog reacting to the presence of another dog and struggle for a solution. It is not an easy thing to live with for people, nor is it easy for the dog who is experiencing the world around them as a troublesome place.
Discovering understanding of why a dog is responding to something in a negative manner is the first stage in the process of helping them. If a dog has come from a rescue centre there can often be a lack of information about the history of the dog, and therefore the origins of any behavioural issues are unknown. With the correct assessments we can gain awareness of what the dog is experiencing about the world around them, this needs to be carried out through listening to the owners, and exploring with them all of the factors involved.
As canine behavioural consultants we should be considering how the owners are feeling about what the dog is going through, as this is a huge factor in helping them to reform their dogs issues in the best possible outcome. Does the owner feel frustrated, angry, confused, embarrassed, helpless or sometimes even fearful about how their dog behaves?
My respect goes out to all the dog owners who admit they need help to provide a better life for their dogs, as this is the greatest gift we can give them in seeking out the relevant professionals who can guide them in the right direction. The process in creating a better life for our dogs is often a long & winding path, with ups & downs along the way. And with most dogs we will always need to check their reactions if they have history of behaving negatively.
Some people begin to help their dogs, then cease to continue by making excuses or blaming the dog or other outside influences. If we cannot provide the greatest support for our dogs then I believe we need to look at other options for them, whether that is professional guidance, or a more appropriate home for them. There are groups that reside on the internet where people gather who have ‘reactive’ dogs, yet they continue to do nothing to help their dogs, and often say derogatory comments about canine professionals who do not align with concepts they believe in.
Aggression in dogs is the most common behaviour that I am requested to help dog owners to change, and after having a lengthy telephone conversation to gain information on the situation, I ask the owners if they are ready to put the effort into creating the most positive outcome with my guidance. Whatever the behaviour is labelled, we need to help the dog to have as happy a life as possible. I believe that is our unwritten agreement when we bring a dog into our homes, dogs will find balance if they lived in their natural habitat as nature makes the most of life. When we home a dog it is at our choice and not the dogs to live inside of walls, this is against their own natural state.
Therefore I feel sad for those dogs whose owners refuse to seek guidance in helping their dogs.
Such dogs are crying out for help by the behaviours they are experiencing, we owe it to them to let go of our preconceived judgments of training concepts, and actually look at repeated evidence of positive outcomes. The key to helping a dog is to learn about what it requires to bring it to balance, and when my clients tell me they have tried certain training concepts which have been unsuccessful it is clear that these concepts are proving to fail our dogs miserably.
Is it not cruel to allow our dogs to remain unhappy by just talking about it and condemning certain approaches due to a judgemental attitude?
I believe that we should be considering the outcome of training concepts, not just the concepts themselves. What is the long term outcome for a particular approach? Does it have proven consistent success? or does it perpetuate the negative behaviour by having no impact at all?
I am open minded to continually learn and improve what I do, in all areas in my life. And if I experience something new that works well, and consistently over time then it needs to be considered with the welfare of the dog always in mind of course.
So I say to those people who just talk about their dogs issues and criticise others to do your research, look at reviews from owners who’s dogs have improved their troublesome behaviours then take the best action for your dog.That is being a great owner for our dogs.