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February 2024 - Time is of the Essence




Dog Rehabilitation Tip - Time is of the Essence

This is a reprint from the February 2024 newsletter.

 

I can't stress enough the importance of addressing behavior issues the moment they arise. Behavior issues will not go away on their own. You have to work with the dog using the right methods in order to resolve the behavior.

 

Lots of people come to me and ask for my advice. For some, they are at the point where the behavior is just starting so it is relatively easy to address. I have had folks in this situation come back to me after implementing the recommended exercises and training with stories of great success. This just warms my heart! Life for them and their dogs has gotten so much sweeter because they recognized there was a problem, sought out help to find a solution, and did the work to implement the solution.

 

However, for others, the behavior has persisted for a long time and continues to get worse. Without proper intervention the problem will only continue to get worse.

 

  • Some think the dog will "grow out of it" - in most cases they won't.  

  • Some have been mislead to believe that spay/neuter is going to solve the problem - in most cases, it won't.  

  • Others have been told to take an obedience training class - if you are dealing with a serious behavior issue, behavior modification (aka rehabilitation) is what is needed. "Obedience" exercises (I actually do not like the word "obedience" because it implies the notion of dominance; I prefer "Life Skills" because that is what we should be teaching) can be used as a tool in rehabilitation, but "obedience" (or "Life Skills" training) on its own will do nothing to solve the behavior issue. See my blog post explaining the Difference between Rehabilitation and Training.  

  • And worse of all, many of these people have been advised by trainers to use aversive methods and tools such as prong collars, shock collars, bark collars, choke chains, dominance theory, etc. As a result of doing this, the behavior issue can get significantly worse and unwanted behavior side effects can result. Aversive methods will only make things worse.

  

If your dog is exhibiting a behavior issue, and especially if it is a serious behavior issue, your best course of action is to get to a behavior professional who is properly qualified and uses only positive reinforcement/reward based methods. This is going to cost you some money. SPEND THE MONEY!  The longer you take to address the issue, the worse things will get and the harder it will be to find a behavior professional who actually has experience with a dog at the advanced aggression level.

 

When I say "experience", I am talking about someone who actually has lived with the dog and DONE the rehabilitation (using only positive reinforcement/reward based methods), not someone who has learned about it, but never actually been 'in the trenches' doing the rehab first hand. It is not until you live with a dog with a serious aggression issue, and have done the rehab yourself, that you can truly understand all the nuances involved.

 

I speak from experience. Buddy is a serious aggression case with a bite level of 4 (read about bite levels HERE). There aren't many people with first hand experience rehabilitating a dog at that level, and this is because most dogs at that level get euthanized. While there are many trainers who are properly educated in how to rehabilitate a fearful and aggressive dog, if they haven't actually lived with a dog with these serious behavior issues, they may not fully understand all you are dealing with on a daily basis. I am not saying that they can't provide you with help if they haven't done a similar rehab first hand, but once you get into serious issues, and compound issues, like Buddy has, it is more difficult to find someone who has that exact experience, has 'been there', and really understands what you are going through on a daily basis, and as a result you may be left to figure out quite a bit of it on your own.

 

This frustration is what I believe causes so many people with dogs like Buddy to end up either bringing them to a shelter or resorting to the aversives. PLEASE don't ever resort to doing either of these things - believe me - it will only make things worse! Instead, just keep searching for someone who understands what you are dealing with and will best be able to help you.  If you are struggling and haven't been able to find appropriate help, please contact me so I can point you in the right direction.

 

 I am fortunate that I spent 23 years studying behavior as a hobby, so I had an idea of what to do when I started working with Buddy, and I had access to some very helpful resources, but most people with a dog with behavior issues don't have that experience or information. Even with those resources, it still wasn't enough information for me to do Buddy's rehab without asking for help. I needed to find someone who had done this before and knew more than I did. Those people are very hard to find. For a very long time, when I ran into steps in Buddy's rehab that I needed help and advice with, there was nobody I could ask who could actually help me so I was left to figure out much of it on my own.

 

Don't put yourself into that situation by hesitating to get help early on. The sooner you address the problem, the better chance you will have at being able to turn things around. The longer you let it go on, the worse things will get and the harder it will be to undo the damage. SPEND THE MONEY now or you will end up having to do what I am doing and it will cost you not only sooooo much more time, but also sooooo much more money than what you would spend if you got the help earlier, and it will be harder for you to find appropriate help. To give you an idea of what it might cost you if you wait too long, at this point Buddy's rehab costs are at $18,000!

 

If only Buddy's previous owners had known who to go to to get appropriate help, Buddy's issues would never have escalated to the point they were when I started working with him...

 

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE


 


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Note and disclaimer: All information in the blog posts on this site is my opinion based on my own experience rehabilitating an aggressive dog. I am not a professional behaviorist or otherwise involved in the Veterinary profession. If you are dealing with an aggressive dog, I recommend you seek the advice of a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist.

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