My Dog Is Unpredictable
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Most dog behaviors, and most dogs, are predictable. With a predictable dog, you can guess pretty accurately what a dog is going to do in a given circumstance. And if the dog is presented with that same circumstance, the probability is very high that the dog will do exactly the same thing it did the last time. An unpredictable dog is just the opposite, you can put the dog in exactly the same situation, and get significantly different responses.
Two Directions: Truly unpredictable dogs are typically not medically well. Medically well dogs are almost always predictable… Even abused dogs will do predictable behaviors when placed in the same circumstances over and over again.
It Takes A Trained Eye: Now, when I say this, I’m assuming that the person watching the dog has the observation skills to be able to read their dogs leading up to, during, and after a given situation. Oftentimes, when someone says their dog is unpredictable, they are really saying that THEY can’t predict what the dog is going to do. It doesn’t mean that the dog is responding in random ways to the same situations.
Proper Qualifications For An Evaluation: Part of being a good dog behaviorist is being able to read dogs. It takes years of practice and a lot of study to become highly accurate. Being a good professional behaviorist also involves being a good enough teacher to educate your students in how to read their dogs. If the behaviorist isn’t experienced and educated, then the diagnosis will be wrong. If the behaviorist isn’t a good teacher and good with people, then it doesn’t really matter what they know, the student won’t understand what they are seeing or what to do about it. I have mentioned many times my scorn for so-called behaviorists that speak a lot of uneducated, but authoritative sounding dog mumbo jumbo. They don’t know what they are talking about. They go to this guy’s seminar, and imitate what he said. They read that famous lady’s book, and then say what she says… must be right, because it’s right there in writing. Or, the head trainer at their facility says it, so they have to say it to remain consistent in their marketing message… and to keep their job. In addition, a lot of new dog trainers and behaviorists have come into the marketplace (yes it is also a business) since about 2006. They are still novices, but they promote themselves as if they are Master Trainers. They aren’t. Some are also quite arrogant, and literally run over their students with this foolish mumbo jumbo, and the people and dogs suffer as a result. They know things that aren’t true, and say things they know in their hearts don’t add up.
Typical Situation: Most of the time, when someone says their dog is unpredictable, they are saying they don’t know if their dog is going to like or dislike someone or another animal. In some circumstances the dog likes the person or animal. In other circumstances, the dog doesn’t like or trust the other person or animal, it is possibly embarrassing, and sometimes a serious danger. And then there is the question as to what they should do upon greetings, and what they should do if it all starts going downhill. Or, the dog seems fine with someone it knows, but then, at other times the dog will attack them. We see this with kids and dogs. The dog seems to like the kid, but then one day, the kid does something and the dog bites the kid… and everyone is shocked, and the parents are immediately thinking they need to punish the dog, or take it to the veterinarian and have it put to death.
What Should You Do? Dog owners are in over their heads, trying to figure this stuff out on their own. The last thing they need is bad advice. So, it is important to find a qualified dog behaviorist, who can read what is going on, and accurately instruct the the owner. If the dog is truly unpredictable, then the behaviorist is going to send you off to the veterinarian to give the dog a number of suggested medical tests. If the problem is behavioral, then you’ll get an accurate diagnosis, homework, and suggestions for the future. There are no standard answers regarding this type of problem. It needs proper evaluation, and then some kind of a plan. So, if you find yourself in this position, your immediate objective is to hire a good, professional dog behaviorist, and then take it from there.
Sam Basso is a professional dog trainer and behaviorist, in the Phoenix/ Scottsdale metropolitan area. He’s known for being fun, kind, intelligent, and humane. Sam Basso has a unique personal touch. He has appeared on his own TV show, been a guest radio expert, gives seminars, publishes a dog related blog, does rescue volunteering, and is active in promoting animal welfare and fair dog laws.