Definitely Dogs

Puppy Primer

The Challenging Dog

Kids and Dogs


The Challenging Dog

Culture Clash

Owners can find their dogs challenging for many reasons, including basic incompatibility or lack of knowledge and skill.  All dogs are simply their natural self - a product of breed, temperament and life experience. They are considered ‘challenging’ when their interactions with the world or their owners become problematic.

It is easy to forget that dogs are a different species from us! Nature designed them to be great at what was needed for survival.  Just as dogs behave in their typical canine manner, so do people behave in patterns natural to their own heritage (primate and human culture).

Many similarities between people and dogs make dogs the most successfully domesticated animal in the world; however, significant differences in culture exist and can cause misunderstandings and problems. Find out more about this fascinating topic and how it applies to you and your dog by reading such thought-provoking books as The Other End of the Leash by P. McConnell or Culture Clash by J. Donaldson.


Basic Incompatibility

Dogs are generally not very well understood in our culture. Often, people fall in love with a dog without understanding the particular requirements for living with that individual or with dogs in general. Humans are not born great dog trainers; however, they often have to become knowledgeable to satisfy the special challenges of a beloved pet.

Novice owners commonly learn the slow or the ‘hard way’ as they follow their natural instincts in dealing with their dog’s strong impulses. Even experienced owners are not immune to suddenly find themselves ‘in over their head’. This might happen when they get a dog of significantly different temperament (such as more dominant or more fearful) or at another life stage (e.g. puppies and adolescent dogs are in a more challenging phase of development).


Breed Challenges

Despite having wholeheartedly opened our home to our ‘pet’ dog we are often unaware of the particularities of our breed. Selection pressures have affected breeds for centuries. On closer inspection, history shows that very few breeds (or mutts) were selected to excel as ‘pets’!

Most breeds have their origins in working ability. A large number of breeds were selected to ‘work’ other animals, which meant selection for at least one of the following skills: herding or driving of livestock, or guarding thereof; fighting; hunting with specialties in tracking, treeing, flushing, retrieving, pointing or unearthing; catching and dispatching. A much smaller group of dogs were selected for the services delivered directly to humans such as rescuing, sledding or pulling other loads; being used for food or clothing; property or people guarding; and finally, companionship.

Breeds also differ substantially in their degree of independence from people. While hounds and terriers exemplify the greatest independence, sporting dogs for example were selected to work closely under the direction of humans and are therefore more easily guided and trained.

When choosing a dog, most people dramatically underestimate the strong effects that breed or genetics will have on their dog’s behaviour. It is easy to make one’s selection based on information advertising a breed (from sources such as the Canadian Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, or some breeder info). It takes special skill to understand the "small print". 


Behaviour Problems

“Call before small problems develop into big headaches!”

Living with behaviour problems means exasperation for owner and dog alike. Unfortunately, we humans unintentionally often contribute to the development of behaviour problems. Separation anxiety, elimination or destructive habits, and many forms of aggression are some of these examples. As well, people often wait far too long to seek help! By the time a professional is called problems have become deeply ingrained habits, well practised and generalized, and the household has commonly gone into ‘crisis mode’!

The good news is that, with competent help, most behaviour problems can be fixed or managed appropriately! Do not wait! It will take significantly less time to stop problems early on than to cure a long-term habit. Essential ingredients to success are a commitment of time and energy, willingness to change and using the services of a skilled professional. To read more about this topic consider books by N. Dodman or W.E. Campbell. For training help on Vancouver Island using humane, dog-friendly and non-confrontational methods contact me

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The Dirty Dozen - 12 Obstacles on the Path of Training Success:

1. Lack of understanding of how and what dogs communicate
2. Inattention
3. Lack of effective, non-confrontational leadership
4. Reacting rather than preventing and managing
5. Explaining things in words 
6. Focussing on things gone wrong
7. Letting things escalate until traumatic events occur
8. Expecting changes in the dog  without making changes in one’s own behaviour
9. Snail timing (reaction time in humans is about 10 times slower than in dogs)
10. Lack of positive reinforcement (meaningful rewards, repeatedly and on time)
11. Lack of patience when teaching and consolidating new behaviours
12. Underestimating the role of distractions in training dogs

For a list of the twelve solutions to the dirty dozen, or for help with your dogs, contact me or another competent trainer in your area!

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