k9 issues & association

Being a dog trainer I have had to deal with many k9 issues. From fear based behavior, over excitement, pushy or phobic. Most dogs have some sort of issue just like humans; and it is not always an understandable issue. Many suffer from fallout behaviors, a behavior that was set in place by an occurrence. It is great when we know what caused an issue for our dogs but often we just don't know why they act the way they do.

For example; a dog may clearly dislike or fear children. Every time a child comes near the dog goes into a Cujo mode; is there a reason? There may be, I worked with a dog like this that had been living with a family and a young child. The dog was then placed into another family with teenage children. But the dog displayed awful aggression towards small children; which would seem like maybe the first life was not a happy one with the small child.

No matter where this issue stemmed from it had to be dealt with. Creating a positive association to small children from a far and then moving closer and closer to the trigger (a child) was the solution. This is one of the worst issues a dog can have; no one wants their dog to bite a child or anyone else for that matter. So extra caution and supervision is always a must.

Another dog I worked with had hidden issues. All seemed fine until we started with hand signals. Each time we raised a hand over the dogs head level he would cringe and leave the room. This dog was far from being mistreated and was a cherished member of the family. After much pondering I felt that is was clearly a confidence and submissive issue. So we then moved on to create a positive association to hands in the air.

How you behave during a display of unwanted behavior really helps or hinders. As I have said many times before; your dog is watching you. I happen to have one of the most obviously watching dogs I've ever met so through Luke I have learned just how much our dogs watch us.

The other day it was breezy which puts Luke into an uncomfortable state. His association to wind was caused by a slamming door; caused by the wind. This slamming door awoke him out of a deep sleep and he slipped into a seizure. Now when the wind blows he watches the doors. I am very careful to make sure that all slamming doors have stops at them. But I'm only human and errors occur occasionally.

So the other day as I came in off the balcony; the stage was set. Luke was standing in the middle of my bed; his eyes flying from the slowly closing door to me. He had panic written all over him but I was too far from the door to stop it. With the impending slam I flew into action immediately. Cool as a cucumber; Luke circled me, tail down, crouched posture and seeking eye contact. I wouldn't give it to him.

So as I busied myself around the room he followed at my heels. I opened several doors and closed them loudly, picked up some clothes off the floor and asked the dogs then to follow me onto the deck where I sat and rocked. Luke shook off his fear very quickly but never stopped watching me. How you react is EVERYTHING.

If you can figure out what happened to your dog to create an issue then great. If there is no explanation to some sort of issue it makes no difference. You need to best map out a solution and deal with it. By taking baby steps you can help your dog with their "issues."

Often you will need a professional to get you going in the right direction. Just like when a human has an issue; flooding is not a good idea. I am not a fan of flooding; which means to completely submerge a dog into its fear. Sort of like throwing someone with arachnophobia into a room filled with spiders. One step at a time is always the best way to truly help your dog.

And remember; your dog is watching you.

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