I get a lot of perspective clients that will say they want to fix a dog’s barking or running around the house tearing toys up in a frenzy, or a variety of behaviors that they see at home. I have this exact situation right now with one of our Jumpstart Lite clients.
When I first met Jasmine and her owner, their biggest issue was barking at noises and strangers. The first thing I noticed was a nervous dog who needed socialization and some control around distractions. An easy fix could’ve been a bark collar or a variety of different corrections that get suggested to owners of barking dogs. That wouldn’t fix the real issue at hand. Jasmine barks like that because she is edgy when it comes to the world around her.
She didn’t understand where the noises were coming from or know what to do when she met someone she didn’t know. So instead of “correcting her barking”, we started bringing Jasmine out to parks, stores like Cabela’s, and around a ton of people and dogs. After the second day, her owner had already seen a huge difference in the barking. Why? We were approaching the initial issue from what was really going on. A lot of times this is the case with the dogs that we train. We get some aggressive dogs that are acting out of fear. Growling, barking, lunging hasn’t worked to keep people away when I’m nervous so let me try biting.
While this is a whole other topic to go into, we still approach it the same as we did with Jasmine. What about the client’s dog who runs around the house like a tornado destroying things? Can we fix that in the moment? We can correct her and give her something to do, but we’re not truly “fixing” it. So we give her structure. Get them to a point where her owner can bring her out to a park or even just for a walk. Get the mind working as well as exercising the body. Sometimes it sounds easy. A lot of times, it requires work from the basic levels of obedience and paying attention up to some of the advanced training. Then getting her to be able to go for a walk without injuring an owner because she saw a squirrel or another dog. So when we teach that dog to pay attention and how to walk, how to play, etc. we are also enabling the owner to start fulfilling that dogs requirements. The two things are connected. Yeah, you could put her in a crate, or yell at her to stop and make her go lie down, but she’ll do it again or redirect that energy into something else. Then she gets anxious in her crate or in the other room. You see more and more separation anxiety when you leave. You’re not teaching anything in that moment that will address the underlying cause. That’s one of the reasons I always tell client’s that we teach habits more than commands. Not just for the dog’s sake, but for the owners. You can’t help a dog with these issues until you’re able to do things like take her for a walk, play fetch, socialize her around other dogs and people, and all the other things that we work on with owners.
So can I fix your dog’s barking? Absolutely. It will get “fixed” as a side effect of the training that we’ll do together to get to the real behaviors at hand. What we’re doing, is building habits and creating tools that will help with any of the behaviors that you see with your dog. We’re also building a happy, fulfilled dog when we do that, and that is the real reason people hire a dog trainer.