My approach to addressing any/all Canine Behaviour issues can be summed up by quote from the late Stephen Hovey,
"Seek First to Understand and then be Understood"
The first step in dealing with any behavioural issues is to understand the root cause of that behaviour. The actual act itself is a reaction to a belief the dog has and thus, feels it necessary to act in the way they do. There can often be multiple factors feeding into that belief, and it is my job to identify those factors and then create a strategy that works the dog through the process of creating a new and more balanced belief . This allows a dog to change their behaviour in a more natural and more permanent way ... as opposed to just being always told to "stop doing it."
Dogs make life better, they just do. And once you have experienced the bond that comes from the exchange of trust & respect with an animal, it changes your life. You can't help it, you can't fight it, you just have to move forward knowing that you will always be a better person because of it.
But here is the crazy part, so many people completely miss out on that because they are so caught up in the frustrations of how their dog is behaving at a particular moment. I am not suggesting that the dog's behaviour is necessarily correct, but that perhaps it is grounded with the best of intentions and love for you, or what they believe is best for the pack. The first step to changing a dog's behaviour or mind set, is to figure out why they are doing it is the first place. Pinpointing that moment where your dog starts to make the shift from a healthy balanced mind set, to becoming un-easy or anxious abut something in their environment. That shift happens in different dogs in different ways, in different environments, and at different thresholds. There are numerous factors which play into that, and the best way to recognize the very first indicators of shift towards unbalanced is to be tuned into your dog, and having them tuned into you. It is right here, where I feel I can help.
There needs to be a better understanding of dogs in our current culture, and I feel an obligation to help those who seek that greater understanding. I know the impact it can have not only on the lives of the humans, but in the life of the dog as well. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a healthy balanced dog hanging out and being comfortable with the family which provides that balance for them.
When some advice can be really helpful...
BEFORE you bring a dog into your life.
This can be the most important decision of your entire (future) relationship with that character. Most dog breeds were purpose bread, meaning that the breed line was carefully selected to ensure that the dogs displayed the proper qualities & traits for it's intended purpose. Some where bred to hunt, some to run & pull, and even some solely for the purpose of human companionship. Choosing the dog that is best suited for your family and lifestyle will help with your relationship immensely as they settle into your home. This can be a great time to have a conversation with someone knowledgable about selecting the right breed/mix, based on the relationship you may have envisioned for the future. This is also a great time to put together a game plan for managing all the needs that your new dog will bring with them. For my clients, I prepare an "Owner's Manual" that matches the needs of the dog, with the typical day to day of the owner's lifestyle. This helps bring structure & confidence to a new dog owner, and is great when you need to go away and leave the dog with family, friends or a kennel.
When Selecting a puppy (from the litter).
Early canine behaviour can be a big predictor of future behaviours/characteristics. How a pup interacts with his/her litter mates can reveal some characteristics that you may like in your family and others that you may not. If you are fortunate enough to be able to pick your pup out of a litter, it is certainly worth the advice on some things to consider, and be on the look for.
Planning to bring your new puppy home.
Ok, so you have a dog all lined up, and hopefully you have some time to prepare your home (and yourselves) for the Joys of Puppyhood. You are in for some of the most adorable moments of your life, and you will be surprised how quickly you will fall in love with your new family member. Your number one job is to keep them safe, and provide a stable environment for them to develop. Puppies get into everything, and the things you don't think they will get into.. they will. If you have never had a dog before, you should especially talk to someone knowledgable about the process. I recommend developing a plan to manage the needs, responsibilities and other logistics that you will need to employ to keep your puppy and your home safe. I provide written plans for my clients after consulting with them and going over their patterns, so that they can have a plan in hand. This helps people feel more confident and prepared on Puppy arrival day, exactly what a puppy in a new environment needs. These plans is also excellent to share with other family members or anyone who may be caring for the dog in the future. (Trust me, when you drop your dog off for the weekend at a friends house and say, "oh, and here is his manual," they feel much better about the whole experience.)
Socialization concerns with other dogs and/or people (any age)
Dogs can have problems getting along, it happens, but its not because they are Jerks. They are displaying a pattern of behaviour that they think works for them, or may have worked for them in the past. What is important to keep in mind is that while some may be perceiving the dog as "acting up" or "being a bad dog" what the dog is doing is communicating. "Hey I am unsure what the right thing to do is" It is our jobs as leaders to listen to that, and carefully figure out why/what they are unsure, and then address that underlying issue. Remember, most times when you observe undesirable behaviour, you are only witnessing their reaction to an issue they may hold with them. Often times identifying/addressing even one issue can be helpful to multiple "unwanted" behaviours. They have an opinion about something, and it is our job to convince them of a better idea.
Bad habits can present themselves in numerous way, for numerous reasons. Some can be a minor nuisance, while others can pose a serious risk to property, people, or even the dog itself. The problems can sometimes be a symptom of a larger issue, or as easy as just teaching the dog properly that the particular behaviour is not anted or acceptable. If you are scratching your head trying to make sense of the behavior, this may be something that needs to be evaluated by someone who has experience identifying problem sources. Then you can establish a game plan to block the dogs mind from and/or someone who can communicate
A dogs that barks is not a bad dog at all. Barking is communication, and it should be listened to. An example of Healthy Barking, would be when some comes to the door. It is in a dog's nature to alert the pack when someone new is approaching. Different dogs & different breeds will have different levels of alerting and no two dogs are the same.
Where it crosses that line to an unhealthy behaviour is when it becomes excessive. Most commonly we notice this as a "yappy" dog that just won't stop. You can be in, welcomed by the owners having tea and a still 20 minutes later, the dog is still barking. trust me, I have seen it. I have also seen the look on the face of the owner. Part of them is used to it, and may try to ignore it, but overtime, you can see a part f the owner who is just cringing inside. Like that poor mother in Isle 2 who's kid is having a meltdown. You know its not your fault, but it is still upsetting on some level.