Disclaimer: Lucy is not qualified to provide veterinary advice. She will refer you for a complete check up with your veterinarian to address any physical or emotional distress that may be affecting your dog’s behavior. Lucy is happy to provide training and behavior support as recommended by your veterinarian.
It is not fair to ask a dog to perform a behavior that it is physically incapable of doing
If a dog will not perform a behavior that you think it should be able to do, have it checked out completely by a veterinarian to be sure that there is no injury or other physical reason that is preventing the dog from performing.
After veterinary clearance, training may proceed, perhaps with adjustments to accommodate the physical needs of the dog.
Extra Emotional Dogs
Whether these dogs display their anxiety by appearing fearful or over-aroused the help they need is the same. They both have an emotional response to something in the environment. Usually this is based in prior experience that causes them to be apprehensive. They anticipate something worrisome whenever they are in a similar situation.
Depending on the dog’s life history, some emotional responses may be so strong that training alone will not be helpful and it may be necessary to talk with your veterinarian about medication. The medication can help the dog relax and become more open to learning.
After veterinary clearance, training may proceed. The goal is to create a new association that produces different feelings. We start by observing carefully. What is the trigger that the dog reacts to? We set up the environment and train consistently so that we can systematically show the dog that the once frightening thing now regularly predicts morsels of roast chicken.
Out of Control Dogs
Often these dogs who are overflowing with behavior can be confused with over-aroused, extra emotional dogs
To figure out which it is we need to separate the out-of-control behavior from any rewards the dog may be getting from the behavior. Most often, the dog is continuing to offer the behavior because it is working for the dog – it is getting something it wants.
- What is in it for the dog?
- What are the people doing when the dog offers this behavior?
- What happens right after the dog offers the behavior?
- Is the dog getting attention?
- Is anyone looking at, speaking to, or touching the dog in response to that behavior?
Try providing the same consequence for a calmer, more acceptable behavior. If, after several repetitions, the dog responds by offering calmer behavior, then the dog is not in an emotional state, but weighing its options and choosing a behavior that results in desirable (from the dog’s point of view) consequences.
For extremely wild dogs it may be necessary to change the environment to prevent the opportunity to do the unwanted behavior. For example, a large jumping dog could be started behind a barrier.