The choice for dog owners to find help with their dog’ s problem behaviors can be emotional and difficult. What can dog owners do to help prevent anxiety and fear-based reactivity in dogs already on The Fear/Anxiety Spectrum? What should the Dog-Family Team expect from that first meeting with a Behavior Consultant?
The Initial Assessment and Consult are important. Assessments are useful tools in determining what baseline behaviors need to be taught to or required of, and between the Client Teammates. A Family-Dog Team that improves their fluency with basic obedience behaviors will have an easier time managing, modifying, and preventing, many undesired behavior issues.This can be especially important when dealing with dogs that are anxious or fearful to begin with. Basic obedience behaviors are one piece of the foundation upon which appropriate behavioral and emotional change can be built.
It is easy to understand the frustration of Dog-Families’. It can feel like they are starting over. Except now the families have to manage undesired habits and possibly injurious behavior while teaching behaviors the families often believe the dogs already know. In the case of reactive behavior the humans are often suffering from as much anxiety and fear with what they often describe as aggressive behaviors as the Reacting Dog.
Most families have tried a lot of different things on their own before they reach out for help. The first Consult should begin setting the Dog-Family Team up for success by providing supervised practice and written directions of the exercises used to begin behavioral change.
The efficacy of the Homework relies upon the Behavior Consultant being able to observe the dog and its environment, to measure and moderate the dogs’ anxiety, fear, and/or reactivity; and to use science-based learning theories to change the little pieces of the things that the Dog-Family Teams are already doing to prevent practice of the old behaviors, improve communication between all members of the Dog-Family Team, and build desired behavior choices for the dogs.
All Dog-Family Teams should periodically take a Basic Obedience Class. Even if previously taken a Basic Class will help by refining cues such as “Sit”, “Down”, “Wait”, “Stay”, “Off”, and appropriate Leash Walking skills. These skills are always valuable. Training these basic behaviors helps improve communication between the Team Members. Behavior Consultants incorporate these skills into science-based desensitization and counter-conditioned behavior change programs as the first step in creating positive emotional associations, durable, long-term changes in behavior, to improve coping skills in fearful and anxious dogs, and to reduce the risk of reactive dogs practicing bad habits.
With time, patience, and practice the most wonderful change can be seen in an improved relationship between the members of the Dog-Family Team. Solid Basic Obedience behaviors can help save lives by reducing the risk of dogs losing their homes and being surrendered to shelters.