Why do so many dog behaviour problems seem to come back a few weeks or months after a dog has been trained by an expert?
Dog guardians often blame themselves, when in reality, usually the training method is at fault. You see a lot of current dog training misses out on something extremely important, read on to see exactly what that is.
The Dog’s Beliefs
What is belief? It’s exactly what the dog has learned in his life so far. For example:
A low self-belief/confidence level.
A fear of something.
A fear of everything.
Think of resource guarding (as it’s a common dog behaviour problem). When a dog believes that he needs to be scared of losing his food because he has gone hungry before, his belief is deep set and focussed directly on his survival instinct.
If we then take away his food or resources, we are making that belief stronger. We might mask the response by threatening the dog or powerfully/physically overwhelming the animal but nonetheless (not only is this unfair and nasty) we are strengthening the underlying belief.
Making the Behaviour Stronger
So, as soon as the short term overwhelm has worn off, up pops the behaviour and it’s probably going to be worse than ever. Not because the dog is bad, but because his natural survival instinct is screaming at him to keep the resources or he may die. And now, because he has been stressed, scared and trust in his guardian is shaky too.
We can do things very differently here and show the dog that resources are plentiful. Over time he will no longer feel threatened and happily share. Simply adding resources, with careful observation, can change the negative belief about resources to a positive one.
Belief Applies to EVERYTHING
This is true 100% of the time. If a dog believes that he must run aggressively towards other dogs or people (often a well-hidden fear reaction) then no amount of powerful training and hurtful devices will change the belief. They will just change the behaviour but even then only temporarily.
The dog will still feel scared. In fact, when a behaviour is squashed under a nasty collar or a trainer that he is scared of, the fear (the belief) actually gets worse. Not only is the treatment adding to the initial anxiety but the dog now has even less control when facing his fears.
When a dog’s fear is pushed back into the body and mind there has to be an outlet at some point. It might be a behaviour relapse or it could be much worse. This kind of scenario can easily lead to a dog that is labelled unpredictable, volatile or in a state of being shut down.
The fact that belief drives all behaviour is exactly why dog training must always focus on it.
Trainers and behaviour consultants must work with the dog, way beyond the simpler approach of behaviour change and well into the dog’s belief system. To do so will lead to lasting, positive and kind change for everyone involved.