Hectic Owner, Hectic Dog – Phoenix Scottsdale AZ Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
OR, if you are out of this area, inquire about a telephone or e-Lesson
Email: [email protected]
I have worked with numerous dogs that people describe as being afflicted with AD/HD (Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder). When we describing a child this way, we are referring to traits of inappropriate inattention, over-activity, and impulsiveness. When we are talking about a “hectic” dog, we are pretty much describing the same thing. Related to this, a good proportion of kids with AD/HD also are diagnosed as being ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), resulting in disobedient, defiant and hostile attitudes and behaviors. When AD/HD combines with ODD, it develops later into a conduct disorder, meaning anti-social behavior, a much worse condition. The same develops in dogs. I have worked with a number of hectic dogs, “hyper” and also very bratty, becoming practically impossible to live with or manage.
It takes a lot of experience and study to deal with hectic dogs. Some of it is a result of the home environment, and some of it is a result of the dog’s temperament. I have seen extremes where the home environment was almost the sole reason for the problems. They were in homes in a state of chaos. And I have worked with dogs that were truly hyperactive, doing things just because they couldn’t stop moving around and couldn’t inhibit themselves, and of a defiant nature, fighting any kind of control you tried to put on the dog. Either way, these situations have to be properly managed, otherwise the owner generally either banishes the dog to an isolated lifestyle in a backyard, kennel or crate; the dog is given away or abandoned; or the dog runs away or is seriously injured.
The first thing I do with a dog like this is examine the household environment, meaning how the people live their lives, the places the dog lives and visits, the daily schedule, the training that has been completed on the dog, what the people know about dog training and behavior, what incidents have happened in the past, the temperament of the people the dog interacts with, and examination of the other animals in the home. This takes time, starting with the initial Evaluation interview. I need to measure how much the home life is causing the resulting behaviors and attitudes in the dog.
Next, I work with the dog. The best way to get to know a dog is to start training it. Not always do I have the chance to do that because the owners want to make a decision as to whether they want to hire a dog trainer. Some are at the point of getting rid of the dog, and they are meeting me just as a way of justifying, of marking off on their checklist, that they saw a trainer and it’s now ok to get rid of the dog. So, I am often limited in terms of doing a few behavioral tests right there with the dog, to get an idea of what that dog is all about.
Finally, I have to combine the information I have collected with what I know about that particular breed, line that up with what I know about canine behavior, and develop a game plan for unraveling the problems. It’s this last part that is hardest, because it takes many years of study and experience. The more of these types of dogs you’ve encountered, and successfully helped become a good pet, the better chances the next time you’ll be able to do it again.
I have yet to find a situation like this that didn’t require starting everyone all over, from the beginning, with Basic Obedience. Even if all the problems stem from the genetic temperament of the dog, the student wouldn’t have hired me if they knew what to do. And they don’t. So, I have to walk them through the entire re-training their dog. This is where the teaching of Advanced Handler Skills comes in. I can get better results from a dog than you can because I have better skills than you do, regardless of what’s going on with the dog. And there are special things you can do with inattentive, hyperactive, defiant dogs that can mask over their temperamental weaknesses. Thus, a Behavioral Management Program must be implemented and strictly adhered to.
There are no quick fixes; it requires a change in lifestyle for the dog. No one simple thing will change what is going on. I have had numerous people tell me, when they have these types of dogs, that they have tried either an electric collar or a board and train program, but that none of that worked. That’s because the dog’s behavior will only change for the better when the owners manage the dog differently. The hardest thing is to get the people to be 100% consistent in whatever program I devise, especially if the dog is defiant. Defiant dogs will try to defeat the changes we are making, and inconsistent and less determined owners will slack up after a while, and go right back to the old ways they were doing things before they hired me.
The most difficult challenge is when the owners are just as AD/HD ODD as their dogs. Getting them to focus, be consistent, and not fight with me over making changes can be a major challenge. I’ve had a handful of students so defiant, not open to doing things differently, that it made every lesson a struggle. I have to get the owners to buy into the idea that they will need to change, otherwise the dog won’t change. I don’t always win those confrontations. As the saying goes, “you can’t change people”, which is true.
I have had good success in most of these cases. I can think of one particular case of a Husky / Shepherd mix I trained a few years back. The owner was just under 5 feet tall. Her dog was almost bigger than she was, and was definitely stronger than her. When I first met her, she had scabs all over her hands and wrists. When she’d try to put a leash on her dog, the dog would bite at her hands. When she put the leash on, the dog would tug and tug, snap it out of her hands, and run away, taunting her. If she opened the front door, the dog would run out, jump the fence, and run away. She also had no leadership or handler skills with a dog, so she couldn’t issue commands and didn’t know how to deal with the dog’s defiance. In the end, we changed all of that. A few months after the lessons were over, I received a thank you email. The front door had been left open, the dog ran out, jumped the fence, and was running towards heavy traffic. She commanded the dog to Sit. The dog stopped instantly, she ran over, put the leash on the dog, and walked her home. Clearly, this started because in that one instant, the dog wasn’t being properly supervised. But the training paid off, and the dog didn’t get hit by a car. Training didn’t turn the dog magically into another dog. Nor did it make this student into a 6 foot tall macho man. What it did was make the dog into a pet they could control and live with peaceably. They still needed to properly manage her. That would never change. But that testimonial letter said it all and proved that you can make these dogs into good family companions if you are diligent and will go with the program.
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.
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