What should an owner do to maintain his dog’s good behavior patterns?
Behavior management in dogs will only bring an owner long-term and permanent success if the following factors are present:
- Pack leadership or full time management of a dog’s behavior through the enforcement of boundaries and rules.
- Consistent reward and correction to ensure that both old and new concepts are remembered and put into practice by the animal.
III. Conceptual reorganization or the process of reopening a dog’s learning cycle to modify old behaviors or teach new ones.
What happens when dog owners are unable to meet these requirements?
Dog owners often have difficulty with factors 2 and 3 because it can be difficult to sustain a lifelong training regimen to enforce good behavior and suppress responses to instinctual impulses such as excessive barking or mouthing.
People often tell me that they just don’t have the time and energy to train their dogs regularly so once they’ve taught a few commands; they stop and never return to reinforce what they’ve taught their pets.
The main problem brought about by inconsistent behavior management is that it often causes dogs to forget concepts and revert to older and easier behavior patterns.
Essentially what happens is that, over time, without the necessary “oiling and tightening,” the behavior patterns that you have instilled in your dog will slowly fade and disappear altogether.
What is behavioral collapse?
Another major risk presented by inconsistent/irregular behavior management is behavioral collapse. Dogs often experience behavioral collapse due to loss of natural pack leadership.
Remember: a dog instinctually needs a pack leader.
Without a pack leader, a dog feels that it is no longer part of a secure social structure (the pack itself). Eventually, this isolation elicits a high level of stress and negative mental responses from the animal.
Since dogs can’t talk, you would have no way of knowing if your dog is about to experience a behavioral collapse. You would only know that a behavioral collapse has already occurred when your dog starts showing negative behaviors that you thought you’ve already “fixed” with obedience training in the past.
What can you do to help a dog that is suffering from behavioral problems?
The first thing that you should do is to closely observe when the undesirable behavior pattern occurs so you can figure out why it is surfacing in the first place. Too often, dog owners focus on the behavior itself and they completely forget that each canine behavior has a cause or root.
Unless a dog has psychological problems such as mental trauma from physical abuse, the majority of a dog’s behaviors can be traced to commonly-encountered stimuli.
Often, it is external stimuli that drive a dog to behave in a negative manner. For example, a dog that is perfectly behaved may suddenly decide to nip or bite when a brand new dog is introduced to the family.
The dog owner may not be able to create a direct correlation between the two events, but in reality, it is this new situation that may have triggered the unwanted behavior in the first place. If the pack leader (that’s you) fails to see the potential causes of problems within the pack, then the undesirable behavior/s will certainly remain.
What is “mixed messages” and why is it harmful to dog behavior?
Yet another common cause of behavioral problems especially in adult dogs is having received mixed messages during puppyhood and adolescence. These two prior stages of a dog’s development are vital for concretizing the dog’s position and function within the social structure or human pack.
When an owner’s training method is not firmly grounded on the central concept of pack leadership, the animal will end up receiving inconsistent codes or signals as to how it should behave.
A dog should be a calm and submissive animal from puppyhood to adulthood. You must not “spoil” your dog while it is young because it will not learn its proper place in the social structure.
Unlike humans, we can’t explain to our dogs how they should behave so every teaching process is a lived experience.
This is the only way that dogs learn so these lived experiences must be reviewed and reinforced as regularly as possible. When a dog finally matures and reaches adulthood, the core concepts that it has been taught will finally crystallize in the dog’s mind.
Adulthood is the time where you finally see the real fruits of your labor. Your effectiveness as a trainer will show when you see how your adult dog behaves regardless of its instinctual drives and its irregular canine impulses.