Good Dog Training is more than just the tool you choose

Mar 24

Good Dog Training is more than just the tool you choose

Anyone who spends more than 10 seconds on this blog can figure out that it’s primary purpose is to explore ideas and concepts surrounding the use of electronic dog training collars.  A bit of browsing and you can find advice on some of the basic concepts for successfully using an electronic collar, read about other peoples experiences with this training and enjoy a guest post from some of my professional colleagues.

But when trying to resolve behavior problems it is important that we are also aware of possible underlying conditions contributing to the issues. Electronic dog training collars are great tools, but  I want to make certain that we all understand that training and successfully solving behavioral issues is a complex process. There are a myriad of tools and techniques that are helpful in providing solutions, but IF there are underlying health issues that are unresolved or other foundational issues, no amount of work and practice is going to make a significant difference.

There are so many considerations to take into account when you are trying to resolve problems with your dog but I’d like to offer a foundation to consider before you move forward on deciding what direction to go. With that in mind, here are some questions to ask yourself;

Do I provide my dog with adequate exercise?

Having a big yard does not fill a dog’s need for exercise. Just because the dog has a large amount of space does not mean they will take advantage of it and diligently ‘work out’ on their own in order to release pent up energy. A dog who does not have an adequate exercise routine will generally work out their frustration in ways that we find unacceptable. Inappropriate chewing, whining, digging, and general restlessness are often resolved with an increase in exercise.

Do I feed my dog a highly nutritious diet?

The advertising on T.V. isn’t all what it is cracked up to be. Most of the slick ads you see in print and other media are for foods that range from barely adequate to lousy in terms of the nutrient requirements for our dogs. What you feed your dog is what fuels their body and mind. Junk in = junk out. Need to brush up your knowledge about dog food? Check out this site to see how your dog food rates in terms of quality. For those who are curious, here is what I feed my dogs.

Have I created structure and leadership routines in my daily interactions with my dog?

Dogs flourish best in environments that have clear leadership protocols established. They don’t get bored with routine and structure. They actually feel secure and exhibit far fewer behavioral problems when they have someone else (ie. the humans in the household) making the decisions about what is and what is not allowable. Our dogs don’t need us to over think their level of ‘happiness’. They need us to be fair, reliable leaders they can trust to keep their best interest at heart. That means rules, structure and consistency in their daily lifestyle. If you haven’t already downloaded the 7 Tips for Stress Free Living with Your Dog, give it a read. It will start you on a much better path to good behavior with your canine.

Have I explored possible underlying health issues that may be the root cause of my dog’s behavioral problems?

In my experience this is commonly overlooked by many trainers and even many veterinarians. Too often, we leap to assumptions that the dog is ” very dominant”,  “just shy” or “fearful and reactive” or some other personality trait we label them with when the fact is there IS something physically wrong at the root of it all. A blood chem panel, a Complete thyroid test, a physical and gait analysis are just a few of the things to look for when evaluating many behavioral problems. Quite often dog-dog aggression has some root in past injury to the hind quarters that leads to the dog learning protectiveness when approached by other dogs. I’ve also seen tail chasing, OCD behavior resolve when the dog has realignment of the spine through chiropractic adjustments.

I’ve seen dogs labeled with “unprovoked human aggressive” behavior who are suffering ear or mouth infections that likely create such discomfort it is no wonder they bite someone who has tried to pet them. We’ve found dogs labeled by other trainers as “stubborn” to have Lyme disease with titers so high I can only assume their reluctance to do as told lies in the fact they are indeed in pain and have sore muscles. Shyness, odd fear reactions, unprovoked aggression problems, are just a few of the host of behavioral issues that can be related to thyroid disease, which according to Dr. Jean Dodds, a leading researcher in the field,  is often under diagnosed. Our dogs are not good at telling us they don’t feel well, at least not until the problem is so severe that it  becomes readily apparent. We need to be better detectives at exploring the possible underlying causes to some of these problems.

What I LOVE about training with an e-collar is that it is a fabulous tool that can truly enhance a relationship by supporting a solid training plan. What I HATE about promoting the use of an e-collar is when people jump to conclusions that they just have a bad dog and thus need to run to the store and purchase an electronic collar so they can take it home to “show the dog who’s boss”. That mindset needs to change. Do your dog a favor when you run into problems, hire a real professional who will help you rule out underlying causes and set you on the path of a solid training plan so you can build a better relationship together.

Whether it is a head halter, a clicker, a handful of treats, a leash, a prong collar, an electronic dog training collar, or a piece of rope…it is the tool between your two ears that is the most important, use it well.

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2 comments

  1. I just had a client who’s dog steals food from them boldly off their counter and out of their hands. Dog’s been on a veterinarian recommended food whose first ingredient is starch basically from 4 months old and is now 2. This is a great article to share with her. It just reinforces my thoughts and evaluation of her dog. Thanks Robin!

    • Hi Katy, It is a big job to help owners understand a dog’s nutritional needs and unfortunate that a good many DVM’s only repeat what they were taught through a program of indoctrination by Hills Science Diet. :-( One of the most simplistic things I tell clients is “If 2 of the first 3 ingredients on the food panel are not meat, do not buy the product”. Dogs are primarily carnivores. How often do you see wolves, dingos, coyotes etc. eating grains in the field on a routine basis? They get small amounts of carbs from the stomach contents of their kill, beyond that they eat muscle and organ meats. Our domestic dogs are essentially the same. Selective breeding and evolution has not changed the stomach and digestive system so much that they can thrive on grain based products.

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