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Here at the Clicker Leash Co. we believe you can shape the dog of your dreams through positive reinforcement training but we also recognize that sometimes our dogs’ personalities or natural instincts may make some of our goals unrealistic. We have all felt moments of disappointment when we realize we are trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. That is why we found this video of a dog who had been bred and trained from birth to be a service dog so touching. This special dog’s instinct to chase birds unravelled her handler’s plans but instead of giving up on the dog completely, the inspired handler transformed her into a “Surfice Dog.” This is an inspiring story for anyone dealing with a challenging dog. Sometimes they won’t be what we want them to but they may make an even greater contribution to this world than we could have imagined.
One of the most important responsibilities as a dog owner is to train your four-legged pal so he will be a welcome member in the community and a treasured part of your life. Many of us quickly realize though that our dogs have just as much to teach us as we have to teach them. Some of the best doggy teachers are often the ones that initially come with the greatest challenges, including many adopted dogs who have suffered from abuse and neglect in their previous lives. Dogs with behavioural issues teach us valuable life lessons when we take the time to help them overcome challenges. These life lessons include the ability to think creatively, patience and how to communicate effectively.
When dealing with behavioural issues there are no quick fixes. What works with one dog, may fail miserably with another. The easiest way to assess and treat a behavioural issue is by imagining the world through your dog’s eyes. Analyze what triggers are provoking the unwanted behaviour and what may be rewarding your dog for their response. Then make a plan to control your dog’s environment so you can prevent or prepare yourself for theses triggers and teach your dog a more appropriate response. Remember to be creative, breeds like Terriers and Hounds are independent thinkers while other dogs who lack confidence are fearful and often wrongly labeled as being stubborn or dominant. Make sure to set up your training sessions so the dog can only make the right choice and make sure the dog’s rewards match your expectations. Most humans wouldn’t go work at their jobs everyday for a pat on the back but will endure sometimes awful jobs for a big reward like a paycheck.
Because there are no effective quick fixes for behavioural issues, dogs are great at teaching humans patience. Bad behaviours take time to become habit and changing bad habits to good ones doesn’t happen overnight. It is essential to be calm, consistent and have a clear training plan. Having patience with problem dogs will transform nervous and insecure dogs into happy-go-lucky, relaxed animals. This transformation is a powerful, rewarding and can give you the strength and patience you will need to face future life challenges, knowing there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
The final skill set our challenging dogs teach us is effective communication. We learn that yelling and nagging won’t work to change a dog’s behaviour any better than it does to change a spouse or co-worker. When we learn to focus on and acknowledge the small successes our dogs experience when overcoming a behavioural issue, this will often transfer to the rest of our lives and we will be more likely to see the good in people which results in healthier professional and personal relationships.
Get started on the road to success with a challenging dog by contacting a qualified trainer who focuses on modern, positive training technique. Enjoy teaching your dog new tricks while you learn a few yourself!