|A Prong Collar|
Sometimes the dog eventually does stop growling, barking, and baring teeth when it’s uncomfortable and the owner thinks problem solved, their dog is no longer aggressive. Down the road however the dog may be again presented with that uncomfortable stimuli, a young child tugging on their fur for example. Then all of a sudden the dog just “snaps” and the child is bitten. The family of course is horrified, the child traumatized, and the owners are wondering how a good dog turned bad. Many cases the dog is euthanized because they've become so "unpredictable". I hear this all the time.
But the problem isn't the dog, it’s what the dog was taught. When aversive methods are used on dogs to stop an unwanted behavior it never really stops that behavior; it turns off the warning signal. It teaches the dog that growling, barking, and baring teeth are bad and therefore not acceptable. But it doesn't stop the emotion behind that growl. So now you have a dog that won’t warn someone when they are uncomfortable. They get more and more tense as that negative stimuli is presented until eventually the dog does the only thing it knows to get out of that situation… biting. Would you rather have you car’s check engine light come on before a problem becomes serious or simply have the vehicle breakdown on the highway?
So in reality growling is good. It’s the dog giving you feedback that something is making them uncomfortable. So what do you do about it?
It’s important to get down to the root of the problem; why is the dog uncomfortable? We’ll use the young child tugging on their fur as an example. First, was the dog ever introduced to the child appropriately or did the parents simply give the child free reign expecting the dog to handle the abuse? A trainer that believes in positive reinforcement will slowly introduce the dog to the child always remaining under threshold. Threshold is the point at which the dog says, “I've had enough. I can’t take this anymore.” By working a dog under threshold so much more can be accomplished because the dog doesn't shut down or panic. They are never pushed too far too fast. In the case of the young child we would work on teaching the dog from a distance that the presence of the child equals a yummy reward slowly moving closer to that child as the dog is comfortable. With time the dog realizes that one, children equal yummy food, and two, you, their owner, won’t put them into harms way and “got their back”.
There are ways to curb your dogs insecurities without shutting off their warning system. This can be accomplished in a kind and respectful way. Please don’t punish your dog the next time they growl, bark, or bare teeth but work with a true professional to get to the root of the problem; their emotions.
If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation please check out my website at www.HighlandSpringsPetServices.com or email me at: info@HighlandSpringsPetServices.com