Is Your Dog an Addict? Why Your Training Program Isn’t Working
I was trying to reason with a client just the other day.
She has an extremely dog aggressive dog.
The dog has no leash manners.
He doesn’t listen to her commands or pleas or yelling.
Once he is locked onto another dog she has little to no control at all.
Yet, I give her props for trying to work through his behaviors!
Can she work with a dog that is this out of control?
OF COURSE SHE CAN!!!
But she needs to stop walking him!
Yes, I said it!
I know it sounds ridiculous.
Dogs need exercise, right?
Of course he does!
But even if she spends 99% (which of course is not realistic) of the time at home training, once she takes him out and about and loses control, her training goes back to zero.
Mine, for example, enjoy retrieve games with obedience.
Your Dog is an Addict
She just wasn’t getting it.
She didn’t want to give up their twice daily walks, but she wasn’t seeing much if any progress with training when they were on walks.
So I told her, her dog is an addict.
His addiction or drug is getting aggressive when he sees other dogs. Add any other addictive dog behavior here.
But, alternate behaviors and conditioning your dog to new training and teaching him to calm himself all takes time. This could take many weeks or even months before your dog is ready to challenge his addiction with his newly learned behavior head on.
Just like being in recovery takes time.
They Tell You to Change Your Behaviors
My ex decided he was going to quit smoking.
The doctors told him that he needed to change his trigger behaviors.
For instance, he would get up, make coffee and sit in front of the computer each morning while he smoked.
He would turn the windows down and smoke in the car on the way to work.
They told him, that in order to be successful he would need to change many of these trigger behaviors.
Instead of having his coffee by the computer, instead perhaps he should go sit outside to change his habit.
Instead of turning the windows down, perhaps putting on the air conditioning and driving a different way to work would help him not get into the zone of needing a cigarette.
If you have ever tried to break some kind of addiction, you know how difficult it is and we are the humans making a choice to break those habits or addictions.
Why, Then, Do We Expect Our Dogs to be Stronger?
Why, then, do we expect our dogs to be stronger than us?
By continuing to throw our dogs into an addictive situation we are enabling the behavior.
We become enablers, instead of trying to help them stop the addictive behavior.
As owners, that want change, we need to understand that our dogs are often not strong enough to deal with their addictive behavior until we have solidified and conditioned changed behavior.
We wouldn’t walk the addict past the drug house, we shouldn’t walk the dog past his addiction, if at all possible either.
Lots of Training Can be Done at Home
Lots and lots of training can be done at home!
The BEST place to work on new behaviors is at home where it is safe and there are little to no distractions.
Slowly, as the dog is conditioned and shows success you may begin adding distractions.
The point is not to ignore the problem or keep the dog from his trigger forever.
The point is to give the dog the tools that he needs to deal with those triggers and work, slowly for small successes.
The dog will learn to have other dogs in his environment, just like the addict learns to pass the drug houses or the cigarettes in the store.
We just need to give him the time, training and conditioning he needs to be able to be successful.
All too often, I think people push too hard and their expectations are waaaay too high, and therefore unrealistic, meaning the dog will fail.
Set your dog up for success and give him the time and training he needs!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.