Become a Dog Behavior Specialist – A Focus on Behavior Modification
Teaching a dog to sit , down, stay and come are all basic skills that are required of any dog trainer. Being able to teach these skills; however, does not make you a successful and productive dog trainer or dog behavior specialist. Understanding and being able to successfully resolve and rehabilitate inappropriate canine behavior is the foundation for being a successful dog trainer. Dog owners who have dogs that aren’t problematic and simply desire to teach their dog to sit, down and other basic commands will sign up for a group class and attend training when they have the time and money. However, the owner who has a dog that is destructive or bites will often spend the money to work with a trainer or dog behavior specialist to have the dog rehabilitated right away. By working with and being successful with rehabilitating dog problems, you will have a consistent flow of clients wanting your dog training services.
The first step to successfully rehabilitating problem dog behaviors is proper diagnosis of the root cause of the behavior. I often see owners and dog trainers attempting to treat the symptoms of a problem instead of the actual root cause of the problem. For example, if we are working with a dog that is growling, barking, and biting because it is fearful of people, we do not simply want to train the dog to stop growling and barking. If, for example, we correct the dog each time it barks or growls, soon these behaviors will go away. Now, all of a sudden, we have a dog that continues to be fearful of people but no longer gives a warning before it bites. This dog is now far more unpredictable than it was before.
Another example that I commonly see is the mix up in diagnoses of dominance aggression and fear-based aggression. Because the symptoms are very similar, it can quickly be misdiagnosed by someone who does not have the proper experience in diagnosing and resolving these dog aggression problems. When these two behavior problems are mixed up it will cause major problems for all of those involved. The approach to treating fear-based problems is often the opposite approach that we would want to take with a dog suffering from dominance aggression. If we treat a dog with fear-based aggression as if he is dominant aggressive, we will definitely make the problem worse. If we treat the dominant aggressive dog as if he has fear-based aggression, this problem will also get worse.
There are a number of key elements of properly diagnosing problems behaviors. First, we must have a solid understanding of the dogs’ history. This is most often accomplished by asking questions of the owner, foster, or rescue group. They should be able to give some information about the dogs’ previous life and some of the things that have occurred that are likely causes the behavior. Second, we must observe the dog and interpret their body language and non-verbal communication. Lastly, we test our theories of what we believe the problem behavior to be. If our theories do not lead us to the appropriate conclusion, we begin the process again, by asking questions, making observations, and testing new theories.
It is critically important that we fully understand the root cause of the problem before beginning any type of treatment. If we do not believe that we have a solid understanding of the behavioral problem, no treatment to correct the problem should begin. Understanding the problem in order to resolve a dog behavior problem is a critically important skill to any successful dog trainer or dog behavior specialist. Whether it is a pet dog, police K9, search and rescue dog, or service dog, all dogs can fall victim to behavior problems.
If you are interested in learning more about behavior analysis and becoming a professional dog trainer, apply for our dog trainer school now or contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via toll-free telephone at 866.200.2207.