The voice on the other end of the line was not one I recognized. “I’m having a problem with my dog and my vet says you’re the person to call. Can you help me?” I listen as she describes a problem I’ve dealt with many times before, assure her that I can help and arrange to meet her and her dog the following week - you will meet them later in this book.
These days when my phone rings, it is usually someone looking for help with their dog. Most often the dog is intended as a companion for the family. A small percentage of those contacting me will be looking to prevent problems before they start; while a larger group seeks help resolving behaviours that have already become troublesome. In many instances the relationship has already reached a crisis point where quick intervention is called for. This crisis is not only a problem for the individual owner but is rapidly emerging as a collective, societal problem where legislators feel compelled to explore, and at times implement, various kinds of anti-dog legislation.
Judging by the type and number of “issues” people are having with their dogs, someone who didn’t know better might conclude dogs just arrived on this planet - certainly not the loyal friend we’ve lived with for thousands of years! What has gone so wrong, in the past few decades, to threaten such a long and enduring relationship? Can something be done to get this relationship back on track? I believe the answer is a definite yes. Once we understand what the problems really are and what needs to be done, I believe the motivations are there to resolve the issues and the solutions are not that difficult to implement.
With this message of hope in mind, I want to look at the whole dog, all of his behaviour and everything surrounding him that influences how he is/acts. These postings, therefore, are intended to be much more than yet another ‘how to’ about training. While training is certainly an important factor, it is far from being the only important consideration. Far too many trainers teach/view training in isolation but fail when it comes to generalizing the training experience to normal everyday life. I get calls all the time (and I’m guessing other trainers do as well) complaining that their dog has already been “trained” and is still behaving in a completely unacceptable manner. Sometimes the dog has been through more than one course of training and can perform many behaviours in a circus-like manner; but outside those performances, the dog remains out of control. The good news is that many of the ingredients for successfully resolving most issues and gaining the control you need, are already within your grasp.