Behavioral dog training, or dog behavior training, takes a look at your dog’s behavior to alter and change unwanted reactions or circumstances. The methods of behavioral dog training that we use in our Dog Training Courses address your dog’s behavior at the basic level by attacking why a behavior is occurring in the first place.
In our training, we use positive reinforcement methods to alter behavior, but our training goes much deeper than that. It’s important to address and assess behavior on multiple levels to determine the best way to change what is occurring.
Only by utilizing multiple angles can you permanently and successfully change a dog’s behavior and help them become happier, healthier, and a better family member.
The Why of Dog Behavior
Before delving into or even attempting to begin changing a dog’s behavior, it’s important to understand the real reason or motivation behind the behavior you’re trying to alter. Why do dogs do what they do? This isn’t a rhetorical question or a riddle, like when you ask “why do women do what they do?” In fact, dogs never do anything without cause or reason.
Though this obviously varies on a case by case basis, all roots of dog behavioral issues tend to stem back to their brain chemistry and essentially how much mentally stimulating activity they are receiving. When a dog’s behavior is off the walls and based on excitement and hyperactivity, that tends to stem from a lack of mentally stimulating activity.
Conversely, when a dog is reactive or anxious, the intense reactions in their brain can also be alleviated and reduced by providing adequate amounts of enriching activity that they find relaxing or soothing. Essentially, mental stimulation tends to heal most wounds!
Whether your dog’s misbehavior stems from an intense level of excitement, or some type of unpleasant stressor, these stress levels can be alleviated in the same way. However, you can target the type of mental stimulation you use to tailor to the specific needs and instincts of your dog and their breed.
The How of Dog Behavior
If I haven’t beaten this dead horse enough for you, mental stimulation can benefit your dog in many different ways. Fancy-sounding as it is, mentally stimulating activities are really quite simple at their core.
You’re simply providing your dog with some type of activity that stimulates their brain to perform behaviors they feel intrinsically motivated to do, such as chew, sniff, chase, grab, and more.
Sure, a standard walk around the block gets your dog some mentally stimulating activity, but the best types of enrichment will provide your dog with a way to use their brain. Critical thinking is a fantastic skill to hone and improve in your dog, and it can really help them improve their all-around behavior.
While a ball that dispenses treats might seem simple to you, your dog sniffs the treats and has to figure out to manipulate the ball to get them out, and it actually requires quite a bit of critical thinking to accomplish this! You can even take this a step further by researching your dog’s breed history.
Breeds that had various jobs tend to enjoy some activities more than others. For example, a scenthound might find great pleasure in snuffling around searching for treats in a snuffle mat, while a border collie might prefer honing in on a good game of frisbee instead. Even when it comes to breeds, all dogs are individuals.
Look at your dog’s preferences and tailor their activities to reflect what they enjoy the most!
Your Behavior as it Relates to Your Dog
Your dog certainly isn’t the only aspect when it comes to their unwanted behavior. Sure, they are the ones doing the behavior, but that why the aspect we discussed earlier doesn’t just fall on them. Oftentimes, we pet parents fail to realize that our reactions actually increase the likelihood our dog will repeat an unwanted behavior.
Let’s say for example your dog is barking at your guests, and you are at your wit’s end. You grab a good ol’ spray bottle and it makes quick work of your dog’s barking. That is, until next time. And until you put the spray bottle down.
You see, even if your dog dislikes that spray bottle, getting splashed in the face causes a nice little spike of adrenaline for your dog’s brain to feast on. Now, next time a guest comes over, your dog is even more amped up and their adrenaline might even amp up in response to the previous experience when a guest was over.
What happens when a dog gets worked up and overexcited? They bark!
As you can see, we can make unanticipated connections for our dogs and cause unintended consequences. You need to take a look at why your dog is doing a given behavior before you decide how you should react to it. When in doubt, seek the help and guidance of our trainers.
Altering and Adjusting Behavior
Frankly, the smallest portion of behavioral dog training is actually altering specific behaviors and teaching alternatives. Sure, it’s incredibly important, but so much more goes into it than that. There are so many different levels to changing behavior, including lots that we haven’t even addressed here.
When we are adjusting a behavior, we want to make sure we do so gradually. You can’t anticipate a magical change in behavior overnight. Instead, you want to target what you’d like your dog to do instead, and then start setting the foundations for that behavior in less distressing or exciting scenarios.
Dog behavior training is all about consistent and steady changes. Address your dog’s needs, take a bit of a look inward, set the solid foundations of behavior before jumping into the deep end, and make sure that you reach out for more help if you need it.
All dogs are different, and honestly, some react really strangely to different scenarios! Tailor your training based on your dog’s behavior, and always seek help if needed.