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Behavior Modification

Behavior Modification

These types of behaviors should be curbed as they are not only annoying but can also be potentially dangerous to the dog and people as well. It is important to teach dogs desired behaviors (choose the chew toy over your new designer shoes, focus on you instead of lunging at the sight of other dogs etc.). 

Common behavioral problems we address:

  • Food possessiveness/aggression
  • Toy possessiveness/aggression
  • Play biting / nipping
  • Pulling on the leash
  • Fear
  • Shyness
  • Separation anxiety
  • Inappropriate marking (urination)
  • Housebreaking issues
  • Hyperactivity
  • Destructive (property) behaviors
  • Chewing
  • Digging
  • Not listening/lack of focus
  • Begging
  • Jumping Up
  • Playing too rough
  • Dog on dog aggression
  • Aggression towards their owner or family members
  • Aggression/Reactivity/Fear towards strangers/guests
  • Leash Pulling and Reactivity

While some behavior modification uses obedience training techniques (such as teaching a dog to sit or lie down) these are taught behaviors which we call ‘tools’ which are part of a program that seeks to change how the dog thinks, feels and acts in response to certain situations or stimuli. For example, asking a dog to lie down, sit or stay may encourage self-control, deference or relaxation thus eliciting more desirable behaviors  (i.e. a dog that stays calm or ignores the stimulus rather than reacting to it.)

At Canine Path we help you set your dog up for success by teaching him what you want and expect rather than always reacting to his reactive or unwanted behaviors.

Traits of a Behaviorally Sound (Healthy) Dog:

  • Is not afraid of new people, objects, sounds, or smells.
  • Is comfortable being petted by children and people of all types without growling or shying away.
  •  Tolerates being groomed or examined by the vet and by owners without growling or trying to bite.
  • Does not growl, lunge, or shy away from strangers
  • Has not bitten a person (with the exception of “puppy mouthing”)
  • Does not patrol windows, doors, car or yard, barking at strangers or other dogs.
  • Does not resource guard i.e. growl or bite to guard food, toys, or resting areas.
  • Eliminates in the correct the location.
  • Lives peacefully with all people and with other animals in the household.
  • Can be in a room with other dogs and settles down fairly quickly.
  • Is able to walk down the street on a leash or ride in a car and pass another dog and/or person without growling, lunging or barking.
  • When owners are present – allows guests to enter the house without growling, lunging or barking.

Operant Conditioning is a method of learning that occurs through the use of rewards and consequences (we do not use harsh techniques- we focus on positive methods) to modify behavior. Most living things learn via operant conditioning. Humans, dogs and all other animals all learn via operant conditioning. ‘Through operant conditioning, an individual makes an association between a particular behavior and a consequence ‘(Skinner, 1938).

(*Note this consequence is positive or negative e.g. reward or punishment)- we don’t use harsh techniques – for example, punishment might be withholding the treat, giving a dog a verbal command such as ‘leave it’ or ‘no’.)

Some of the methods we use to modify a dog’s behavior are:

  • Habituation
  • Conditioning
  • Reinforcement
  • Punishment (no harsh methods)
  • Extinction
  • Shaping
  • Avoidance
  • Desensitization
  • Counterconditioning
  • Flooding​

Regardless of breed, many dogs will have behavioral challenges at some point in their lives. Many factors go into the disposition and physical make up of an individual dog such as:

  • Genetics (breed characteristics and specific characteristics passed down from the parents).
  • Quality of mother dog’s nurturing and mothering ability.
  • Environmental factors.
  • Quantity and quality of socialization and at what age was it started.
  • Age at which the dog was weaned from their mother and left the litter.
  • Life experience (with other dogs, people and situations).
  • Quality and quantity of obedience and other types of training.

The good news is that the majority of behavioral problems can be resolved or improved upon with training and behavior modification. We cannot change genetics, but by implementing the appropriate behavior modification and training program we can influence behavior and achieve more desirable behaviors despite genetic predispositions.

Our philosophy at Canine Path when dealing with behavioral issues is to consider the whole dog (age, breed, environmental factors etc.). Correcting a behavioral problem takes time, patience and also an understanding of how the dog is perceiving things. Additionally, the longer an issue has been going on, the more difficult it can be to successfully extinguish an unwanted behavior. However, training and management can help improve a dog’s behavior and the overall situation.

Together, with you (and perhaps your veterinarian) and your dog, Canine path will seek a reasonable and successful solution to the behavioral problems that you and your dog are experiencing.

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