Working with dogs typically involves changes in three areas: Behavior Modification, Changes in Owner Management, and Skill Development. Each part interacts with the other, but it is useful to separate them to understand what to expect when training your dog.
1.) Behavior Modification. Behaviors are responses dogs have to various stimuli. To change these responses involves long term use of special methods and techniques, and a deep understanding of normal and abnormal behaviors, considering different breed tendencies, to change how a dog feels about those stimuli. There are typically no “quick fixes” to behavioral issues: dog fighting, reactivity, separation anxiety, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral disturbances. These issues take THE MOST owner commitment, the most diligent application of the homework, often over long periods of time. Quitting early means your dog never gets over whatever problems are causing you and your dog harm. Owners should NOT do these things on their own, such as taking advice by looking for answers on the internet or from friends and relatives: owners can get discouraged, or get frustrated and get angry with their dogs, when they aren’t seeing instant progress, as if behavior modification is like we see on some 30-minute TV show. It just doesn’t go that way in the real world. Owners must be committed to change for as long as it takes and maintain their love for their dogs as their primary motivation. It is important to know, many behavioral issues could have been prevented by raising the young puppy correctly before 16 weeks of age. Most likely you are a dog training novice, and I have many years of experience to unravel these problems. Please, give me sufficient effort so we can work on issues that often have been building up for years or because of significant traumas.
2.) Changes in Owner Management often require lifestyle changes. Some dogs need changes in exercise intensity or duration, changes in the layout of furniture or landscaping, a different leash or bowl or dog bed, setting appropriate rules for family and friends when interacting with the dog, locks on gates, setting new rules for contractors (pool techs, landscapers, etc.), changes in feeding schedules, and such. These issues sometimes are easy to fix and implement, or sometimes are difficult if the family won’t change how they are managing their dog.
3.) Skill Development involves all the obedience training work: Sit, Down, Come, Heel, and such. Owners want their dogs to listen and not be stubborn. That requires proper Skill Development, for the dog and the owner. Owners, and many trainers, often make a mistake thinking that Skill Development can substitute for Behavior Modification when a dog has behavioral disturbances. For example, no amount of Skill Development obedience training will fix Separation Anxiety. The crying, destructive behaviors, barking, trembling and other symptoms can’t be fixed by enrolling in an obedience-oriented class. Sometimes Skill Development can help with behavior problems, but skills are different than behaviors. For example, let’s say you have a dog that reacts whenever it sees another dog… lunging, barking, growling, pulling, or jumping. The primary focus will be on Behavior Modification for those encounters, but if your dog doesn’t have the skills to properly walk and obey on and off a leash, whether another dog is around or not, then both issues will need to be addressed for a complete solution. Skill Development is what owners need for their dogs to be obedient, in the home and in public. Short, frequent, regular homework lessons need to be done to build skills over time, from Basic to Advanced Obedience. It is important to do the homework between lessons.
All of this requires the development of Handler Engagement with their dog, with the dog wanting to work with the owner and the owner wanting to work with the dog. Every trainer encounters owners who won’t work with their dogs, who eventually drop out of the program because they lack the love and commitment to obtain what they have started. Dogs can’t train themselves, and owners must be “all in” to get the results they say they want at the beginning.