A lot of what I do as a professional is to troubleshoot dog owner handling errors and dog behavior abnormalities. My expertise helps trace errors and problems back to their root causes and then I can propose effective solutions. Here is a simple example…
I’m working with a 16 week old Bernadoodle. She’s a funny and spunky puppy, but she is also aggravating her owners as a result. She’s a bit too funny and too spunky!
We have started doing obedience lessons in public over the past week. This is new to her, and so any new sight or sound interrupts whatever we are trying to do. The dog next door inevitably has barked the last 2 times we’ve been out in the driveway. So, she spooks and wants to run back inside the home. The neighbors across the street opened their garage door, so she had to spend some time sizing up what was going on. A lady was walking her small dog on the sidewalk across the street. Little bits of detritus blow across the driveway, which triggers her to lunge after each piece. She also doesn’t have an adult level attention span, so you can only work her for just so long before you lose her attention, and then she starts fooling around. In the meantime, we are just getting into the beginnings of teaching Sit, Down, Come and Heel. So, on Sunday, our second lesson outside, she didn’t have much physical or emotional control.
My job was to coach the owners on how to unravel all of these things without using any harsh methods. I don’t use harsh methods, so different solutions needed to be applied here. Some people get very frustrated and really start cracking down pups like this. That is the wrong approach, and I have to show them how to get improvements in other ways. Here are some of the parts…
Socialization: The previous week, we started basic socialization and exposure outdoors to help her adapt to the real world. She was less afraid yesterday than a week ago, but with the holiday, she didn’t get as much outdoor time as would have been ideal. However, we don’t live in an ideal world, and students have to do as best they can while still living their lives. No problem, just some continued work and patience on that homework.
Focus: I demonstrated how to get their dogs focus with the blowing leaves, passersby, cars and such. I use certain exercises I developed to get dogs into the work.
Obedience: Once we got their puppy less focused on all of that surrounding stimuli, then she started doing some pretty work. Really nice and peppy. Then, I had them try all of this themselves, and they then had her working nicely.
Leadership: Lastly, I showed a leadership exercise to help their dog to see the owners higher in the rank order of the family. Nothing rough or harsh. Social animals spend more time paying attention to higher ranked members of their group than the lower ranked members. This work took her to the next level and she worked even better. However, at this point, we were losing her. Her little brain was tiring out, and it was time to end the session.
I’ve seen Bernadoodle owners get exasperated with their puppies, not knowing what to do. If I can get them to understand their nature, then things start lining up. If not, then they start getting harsh on them, and I won’t have anything to do with that kind of reaction.
This is what troubleshooting is all about. The owners were having handling issues with her. I had to address how they were working with, and relating to, their puppy. I also had to read their puppy and diagnose what her behaviors were saying. She wasn’t being a bad dog, she was just being a typical Bernese Mountain Dog type dog. I’ve trained a lot of BMD’s over the years, and the doodles are very much like them, especially as puppies. I knew what I was seeing and could explain it to their owners so they would exercise proper methods and not get angry with her.
If your dog isn’t doing things the way you want, let’s get you better trained. Maybe your dog needs a tune up or doesn’t understand what to do. Most likely, both of you need some troubleshooting. A little professional problem solving can go a long way!