JoAnna Lou
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Myth of the Quick Fix for Behavior Problems
Contrary to popular belief, changing behavior takes time
Teaching Remy to settle in his exercise pen didn't happen overnight, but taking the time to teach him paid off!

In January, I welcomed a new puppy into my home, a 7-week-old Border Collie named Remy. With any new dog, there is always a growing list of things to train—learning not to chase the cat, greeting people politely, walking nicely on a leash, settling in a crate, just to name a few.

Most times, the solution is simple, reward good behavior and ignore bad behavior, but changing any behavior takes time, patience and dedication. For instance, Remy used to bark at other dogs making noise in the neighborhood. I wanted to stop this behavior for obvious reasons, but also because he had to learn to settle at agility competitions when there will be other dogs barking. 

So I started counter-conditioning Remy so he would learn to associate barking with getting yummy treats for being quiet. First, I played a CD of dogs barking, starting at a low volume and working up to a high volume. Every time a dog barked, I fed Remy some yummy treats. When this was going well, I progressed to working in harder “environments”—staying quiet walking around the neighborhood where there is a barking dog a few houses down, at our training club where there are several dogs barking in crates, and eventually at a competition, where dogs are barking and running around.

Our animal shelters are filled with pets abandoned because people don’t realize the time and dedication required to train good manners. 

Recently, I was annoyed to discover a new training tool that promises to stop your dog’s unwanted behavior in 7 minutes or less. I know it’s a marketing ploy, but products like the shakeTrainer are frustrating because it promotes the fallacy that any behavior issue can be solved instantly. In addition, this blanket solution ignores any possible underlying reasons, such as fear or a health issue. 

As any responsible dog lover knows, there is rarely a quick fix for anything. If we could only get the word out, maybe there would be less abandoned pets in the world.

Do you have a training story to share?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
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Submitted by Divilla | March 21 2011 |

This is so true. I recently worked with a fearful, AGGRESSIVE dog who has bitten repeatedly. I could tell from the first conversation with the owner that the commitment wasn't really there but, for the dog's sake, I took on the challenge. Despite the fact that, during SEVERAL calls, I told her this would be a LONG process requiring tremendous commitment, consistency and patience, the owner expected me to solve aggression, biting AND separation anxiety right away. I couldn't get her to understand that I had to deal with getting the dog to accept me in the home and not see me as a threat before we could even begin tackling any other issues. As expected, she never scheduled a second session.

While I am grateful she rescued both her dogs and she is not the type of person to get rid of them, it stuns me that I could not make her see the tremendous stress her dog is experiencing on a daily basis. They have lived with this aggression for five years . . . five years of her dog being in constant fear and stress . . . and given her unrealistic outlook on the situation, I see years ahead of the same problems. How sad.

Submitted by Calm Energy Dog... | March 21 2011 |

So true! I always say, a product or tool can't create a calm, obedient, balanced dog any more than your car can go run errands for you. Products and tools are just that - things that, if used correctly, can help US establish trust, respect, and understanding with our dogs. But the work is always psychology to psychology, and as such always takes time, consistency, and patience!

Submitted by Lalis mom | March 23 2011 |

You know that expression, "be calm, and have a cupcake". Do it.
Wait to get the new carpeting until after the housebreaking is done...and if the vet tech points out your weeks old puppy's behavior is a cause for euthanasia on a first visit, find a new vet asap.
Training happens...but for some I think it is slower than for others...and we all know regrettably it all depends on we, the people. I have the additional challenge of living with two elders who absolutely refuse to listen so my poor little one is constantly misbehaving in their opinion, and she is told "golaydowngolaydowngolaydown", down when they mean off. Slowly she's learning in spite of it all. We still have a ways to go with "come" and "drop it" though I'm not so sure she doesn't know exactly what is expected and is strong-willed and wants to do it her way anyhow LOL.

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