Dog Psychology

In order to begin explaining our services and what we address in our programs it’s important that we first explain a few areas of Dog Psychology.

The first characteristic to understand is that dogs learn through Association which is caused by consistency and repetition. How we think as humans is Rationalization. Rationalization is the ability to have forethought. (Knowing that this ‘action’ will cause this ‘action’ to happen and then deciding whether it is good or bad, whether to do it or not.) Dogs do not do this. So the first problem is that we need to understand how to teach our dog what we want them to know, but to do it in the manner of which THEY learn, not how we learn.

When dogs learn behaviors they have 2 classifications. 1. Learned behavior 2. Owner absent learned behavior. There is a very big difference between the two. The first behavior is one that is learned outright. (jumping on you, chewing on things in front of you, mouthing on your hands, etc.) The second behavior is associated with your absence. (getting into the trash, digging in the yard, eliminating in the home, jumping on counters, etc.)

An example: You have a dog that gets into the trash when you’re not watching. This type of behavior begins once the dog associates YOU with the correction and NOT the act of the behavior itself. Here is a detailed explanation on how a dog will learn this behavior. One of the first times your dog gets into the trash you see him do it, so you correct him. The next time he does it you see him again and correct him. Now because dogs learn through association, which is caused by consistency and repetition the dog is beginning to understand that you give him a correction when he gets into the trash. However because the dog is still interested in the trash and coupled with the fact the consistency part doesn’t include a correction only twice, your dog gets into the trash again. (This does not happen all in one day.) This time however, you are in your bedroom and don’t know that the dog is in the kitchen trash. So now the dog that was starting to figure out that getting into the trash is negative and causes a correction is now getting into the trash and is not receiving any correction. Therefore now through association the dog begins to associate that you correct him for getting into the trash but that getting into the trash when you are not there does not cause a correction. Now if you are saying to yourself “well I always give him a correction, even if I have to drag him over to it, show it to him, and ask him what he did, I still give him a correction.” Once again your dog doesn’t have the ability to rationalize so this will only cause secondary behavior problems. Showing your dog the trash and then correcting him for it does not cause any association with getting into the trash. Your dog will hear your tone of voice and react accordingly. If you want to test this theory put some trash on the floor when your dog is just resting in another room. Go get your dog, drag him over to the trash and say to him what you normally do, just as if he were the one who did it and see how he responds. He will act the same way as he does when he is the guilty party. He will tuck his tail, lower his head, and act ‘shameful’ just as he always does. So if your dog understood what you were doing he would know that he wasn’t the one that got into the trash and would look at you with his tail wagging as if to say ‘no wasn’t me this time’. This is the difference between learned behaviors and owner absent learned behaviors.

The second characteristic to understand is that dogs are PACK members, which means they live by Rank Structures. This is a very important process to understand to prevent your dog from becoming protective as well as to have your dog become obedient to you. Developing a rank structure so your dog understands where it fits within the pack is very important. This will develop a great bond and will also give him a positive outlet for his energy. He will now use his energy up for mental thought rather than for physical activity. You can channel the energy into good obedience work to mentally challenge him as well as make him mentally tired. Then when you want your dog to relax and not be over-excited or anxious, this is how you will accomplish this. Families with children can struggle the most when developing rank structures because the dog will normally try to challenge the kids first. This is due in part to the physical comparisons. The dog sees the child as the same size or smaller than him so it makes the child an easy target for dominance. You can have a very nice, sweet puppy that can turn into a very dominant, protective adult dog because of failure to develop a proper rank structure with your dog. Just because a dog BITES someone does not AT ALL make that dog an aggressive or mean dog. 99.9% of all dog bites are because the dog is on top of the rank structure. However, once a dog learns to bite or growl it will not go away on its own. It’s the same as jumping on you; if he does it once he will continue until correctly shown what to do.

So as a result we have designed our programs to be individualized for each family and their situation.

Contact us at 616-262-7536 to learn more!

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