Animal expert Karen Wild from Baston looks at the reality of dog behaviour classes and what to expect
This week we are looking at the ‘bark side’ of training your dog for better behaviour, writes animal behaviour expert Karen Wild.
It's essential to inject a dose of realism. Instant transformations are just not ‘as seen on TV’. Dogs are unique individuals and your upbringing of them has been specific to your lifestyle, so one-size-fits-all solutions rarely hit the mark. Tailoring behaviour modification methods to suit the individual quirks of your dog, and family, are where the real expertise lies.
Results are a collaboration between the family, the dog, and time. Blaming the behaviourist for slow progress is a bit like blaming the weatherman for the rain – not very fair or productive. The key is to channel some patience, resilience, learn from setbacks, and adapt accordingly.
You will need to understand exactly what your dog is like, what they are seeing, hearing, smelling and experiencing. Your dog may find you, or others scary, and have learned a lot of things you didn’t want. You may think your dog is being deliberately ‘naughty’, but this isn’t fair. You are their owner and you are responsible for what they do, so you will be in the driving seat when it comes to change.
When you embark on this canine adventure to help your dog, remember, it's not just about the destination; it's about enjoying the journey. This is because it will take daily work, and for the rest of your dog’s life. It will become a habit eventually, so it does get easier.
While teaching a pup to ‘sit’ is something you can do whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, or on your normal walk, resolving deeper behaviour issues is more of a marathon than a sprint. It’s not going to be something you can ‘cure’ in a few months if your dog has spent their entire lives doing things differently. This is a gradual process and we cannot rush it. In some cases, change isn’t going to be possible. This is particularly so where risk of biting is concerned. We can do our best to prevent future bites but it will always be a possibility.
Success is all about integrating the new behaviours into daily life, rain or shine, for every season of the year – it requires planning, a map, wellies, suncream, and a hearty dose of optimism. I think this is one time where the phrase ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ probably applies more than any other.
It’s not just about teaching your dog to ‘not do’ whatever they used to do - it's about weaving a tapestry of good behaviour over time. So, grab your metaphorical umbrella and get ready to splash in some puddles, because, in the end, the behaviour modification journey is as rewarding as reaching the destination. I think we would agree, our dogs are worth it.