Science-Based Dog Training (with Feeling) - Day 1

Dr. Ian Dunbar

Day 1 - We Continue to Waste Puppyhood

Are we going to raise puppies to be well-behaved, good natured, friendly and confident adult dogs, or are we going to continue to manufacture large numbers of shelter dogs — dogs that soil the house, chew, bark excessively, become anxious when left at home alone and are wary, fearful, snappy, or aggressive towards people?

Many behavior, temperament and training problems are caused primarily in puppyhood yet are seldom manifested until adolescence and adulthood, namely — housesoiling, destructive chewing, excessive barking, separation anxiety, hyperactivity, lack of attention, fearfulness and dog-human and dog-dog aggression. These problems are predictable and preventable but we are simply not doing one tenth of the training, one hundredth of the socialization, or one thousandth of the classical conditioning. We are not socializing puppies sufficiently and so, many become fearful, scared, anxious and snappy around people. We are wasting a golden opportunity by missing the socialization and impressionable training window.

Puppies need to be safely (at home) socialized and handled when very young (starting with neonatal handling) and require housetraining, chewtoy-training and basic manners programs to be up and running from the outset. Many prospective puppy owners would much rather pay premium prices for housetrained, chewtoy-trained, well-socialized and well-mannered puppies, rather than paying bargain prices for peeing-pooping, chewing, barking, shy/fearful and unruly puppies.

We must teach people how to prevent behavior problems otherwise we’ll be out of a job. Common and predictable behavior problems are the most common reason why people become dissatisfied with and eventually get rid of their dogs. Sadly, preventable behavior problems are the #1 terminal illness for domestic dogs. Dogs will still develop behavior problems, but the earlier we act, the easier they are to resolve. Or, to put it another way, the longer the dog has a bad habit, the harder it becomes to break. And if owners think that retraining will require a lot of time and effort, often they won’t seek help from a trainer.

We must super-socialize dogs to prevent the development of temperament problems such as anxiety, fearfulness, and aggression towards people and other dogs, otherwise we won’t be able to do our job. The whole point of early socialization is that when dogs develop temperament problems, the prognosis is good and trainers can help the owners resolve the problems quickly, easily and safely. Successful rehabilitation usually only takes a few days with a three-month old dog that is fearful around people, however, it would take several weeks for a five-month-old dog and many months or a couple of years for an eight-month old dog. And for dogs that are fearful of people, their life becomes a living nightmare.

Trying to resolve temperament problems in adult dogs is not only time-consuming but also, difficult and sometimes potentially dangerous — often well beyond the budget and capabilities of many owners. For trainers to be able to help owners resolve aggression towards people and other dogs, the dog must have acquired bite inhibition during puppyhood (during socialization and play). When dogs have good bite inhibition, the prognosis is good and the problems may be resolved fairly quickly and safely. Such cases are the most rewarding and fulfilling in dog training. They are pretty straightforward but the owners are relieved and thankful. However, if the adult dog does not have bite inhibition, the dog is dangerous and there is not much that you can do to help.

The secret of a successful dog training business is to promote early socialization and handling to breeders, pet store owners and veterinarians by explaining that is in their best interests (to keep their clients alive) to convince owners of the extreme urgency of errorless housetraining, chew-toy training, preventing habitual barking, home-alone preparation programs and safe (at home) socialization with people before three months of age.

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