Proper Canine Behavior Analysis is Key to Rehabilitating Dog Problems
Often times, dog owners deal with frustrating issues and behavioral problems because they don’t have the understanding or resources to fix them. These behaviors can be as simple as jumping on people, barging out the door, pulling on the leash or chasing a cat. At times these behaviors are more serious and include; biting, fighting, nipping, resource guarding, fear of people, fear of dogs, dominance and territorial aggression.
Most owners will employ the help of a dog trainer to assist in rehabilitating these more serious behavior problems. At times, this behavior modification is unsuccessful and can even makes the problems worse. Lately, we have rehabilitated a number of dogs that have been seen by other trainers. We have realized that their behaviors have escalated because there was a misdiagnosis of their problem by the other trainer. Therefore, the trainer and owner have been utilizing methods of rehabilitation and treatment that conflict with the behavior problem that the dog actually has.
Proper behavior analysis is critical in order to successfully rehabilitate a problem dog. In order to decide on a plan of rehabilitation, we must first take the time to understand the root cause of the problem or problems. In order to understand the problem completely, the trainer should take the time to interview the owner(s) of the dog, ask questions about the dog’s behavior and any previous incidents with the dog and then observe the dog under the same circumstances where it has displayed the problem behaviors in the past. This should only be the beginning of the evaluation. The trainer will often have to test theories about the trigger(s) for the behavior in order to accurately determine the root cause of the problem behavior.
If we are working with a dog that we have determined is fear aggressive (biting because they are fearful of something or someone), it is not acceptable to simply say the dog is fearful and they will bite when put into a situation where they are scared. We must first dissect the problem so that we can treat it properly. For example, we may find that this particular dog is fearful and this causes them to bite. By dissecting the problem, we may find that the dog is only fearful in situations with other dogs. If we further evaluate the problem, we may learn that the dog is only fearful of large dogs that are brown. By taking the evaluation further we may often find that the dog is only fearful with males of this type.
So, our original assessment was that the dog was fearful and that the dog would display aggression when placed in fearful situations. But by taking the assessment further, we have found that the dog is fear aggressive when placed in situations with large, brown, male dogs. Our course of rehabilitation would require inclusion of training and exposure with large, brown, male dogs in order to be successful.
This example is only one of many combinations that is possible in a behavioral analysis examination. These problems can be less or more specific than the example listed above. What is important to understand is that we cannot successfully rehabilitate a problem or undesired behavior unless we fully understand what the problem truly is.
Once we have determined the cause of the behavior, only then can we efficiently begin to treat it. Fortunately, the majority of behavioral problems are treatable with a consistent training and rehabilitation program.