Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The difference between Dog Training and Canine Behavior Modification

Training and Behavior Modification are two very different things.

You can train a third grader to play the violin, he may be the best trained violin player in town, but he beats up kids in the playground.  

Violin playing is training.
Fighting with fellow third graders is behavior.

It is probably easier to train a child with a reasonable amount of musical ability to scratch out a tune on the violin than it is to modify the behavior of a child who gets into fights in the playground.

Currently I have a client in my Savannah Dog Training Classes with a young dog who is sweet in every way.  She is friendly and gentle with people, and loves to play with other four month old puppies.  She is doing very well in her puppy class, quickly picking up commands and seems engaged with the training process.  Her training progress is excellent.

However, she had a very unfortunate experience with a groomer during her fear impact period.  During this experience she was brought in a back room, lifted from the ground, restrained, and her toe nails were blunted with an electric dremel.  

This is a perfect storm of fear for a young dog.  She was
1. removed from her person
2. lifted and restrained by a stranger
3. she was exposed to an unfamiliar electric implement (think of your dog's reaction to perhaps vacuums or leaf blowers)
4. and while she was struggling the implement was applied to her feet in an unpleasant way.

The groomer came out and said that the dogs was, "The Worst Puppy she had ever seen."

Honestly, I think this may be one of the Worst Groomers I have ever heard of.  The first puppy appointment at a groomer should be nothing but happy.  The owner should be in the room, there should be treats, a little gentle brushing, the dremel can softly tap the puppy's toes when it is turned off, and be turned on when it is not near the puppy.  The puppy should get to sniff the things in the room.  It should stand on the table, maybe get it's toes wet in the tub, and go home.

The unfortunate result of this experience is, when anyone but the owner tries to life the puppy from the floor she becomes hysterical, tries to escape, and if she can't she will snarl and bite, hard.

To help the puppy get over this experience we will be engaging in behavior modification techniques, particularly desensitization and counter conditioning.  Gradually we will try to build positive associations with strangers handling the puppy, touching the puppy's feet, and gently elevating the puppy.  This may take a long time, but since the dog is young and has not been practicing this behavior very long, we will make quicker progress than if the dog were mature and this were deeply ingrained into their personality.

This behavior modification is for the sweet little puppy who picks up training cues like SIT, DOWN, and WAIT almost immediately.