April Magazines 2018 89123 - Page 41

dog and, thus, being able to better handle them. In fact, knowing before you GET the dog can help you find a dog that fits with your own temperament. If this were done by more people it most likely would result in fewer dogs end- ing up in shelters due to owner/pup mismatching. What to Do If your dog exhibits any of the above behaviors, the logical next question is: “How do I fix that?” Here is the challenge. Stopping the behavior won’t address the bigger problem. The behavior is a symptom of the larger issue–the dog’s confusion about its role in the group and the absence of necessary leadership. Merely stopping a dog from one behavior will, without fail, give rise to other behaviors. Think of it like Whack-a-Mole. Remove one manifestation and another one pops up. Behavioral modification is unique to every situation and is based on breed, breeding, environment and, of course, indi- vidual circumstances (both the dog and its humans). This is why proposing a one-size-fits-all method for addressing dominant behavior is the stuff of dog training snake oil salesmen. If you’re concerned about your pet’s behavior, it’s important to engage a trained professional, ideally someone schooled in canine cognition or behavioral modification, who can help you learn the context (a.k.a. cause) of the dog’s behavior and then provide you with the tools neces- sary to modify it. Dominance isn’t one thing but a sliding scale of myriad behav- iors that exist on a spectrum. It is only when that behavior evolves into the dog laying its teeth on something (or some- one) that it has become “aggressive”. In today’s society, we are very quick to call something an ‘attack’ or ‘aggression’ when the truth is, especially for dogs who don’t have language or reasoning skills, the use of snarling and snapping merely reflects communication along that spectrum. Understanding these behaviors in both your own pet and those of others will go a long way in socializing and training your animal, creating a happy and healthy living arrangement for all. ◆ Cathy Brooks is the owner of The Hydrant Club. Known as a “canine conversationalist,” her focus is teaching people to communicate with their dogs in a language the dog already understands. For information on classes, contact her at 702-721-WOOF (9663) or visit www.hydrantclub.com