I heard recently of a ‘trainer’ working with an anxious dog. The dog leaned on them and they corrected the dog. The dog whined and they sprayed water with vinegar down her throat, no surprise the dog withdrew further into her shell and stopped trusting people completely.
The problem with this scenario and this trainer is that they’re using one strategy for all dogs. One strategy can’t be used on all dogs any more than one teaching method works with all kids. It’s true that I would not let a punky dog lean on me – a dog who punks another than leans on me like it’s alright, but I will always let an anxious dog lean on me for support.
At pranaDOGS we utilize different strategies and training methods depending on the types of dogs we’re dealing with. The two most popular types are 1) the anxious dogs and 2) the over-the-top dogs (those that never settle, never listen, think go go go go). These are the two most common personalities that are surrendered to humane societies and I believe the two most challenging to deal with.
These two types of dogs are at different ends of the spectrum and trying to use the same strategy with each will not only not succeed, it can cause long-term damage in your relationship with what should be your best friend.
An anxious dog needs to build trust in their people and their environment. These dogs have often come from a world of scarcity or fear, it takes time for them to let their guard down. A household with a lot of chaos is often too much for them. They need predictability and consistency – and a lot of holding-the-space for them while they heal. Once trust is built then you can begin expanding their universe – slowly! And with the people they trust the most present.
An over-the-top dog is often moving at a quick pace and seems to be three-steps ahead of us. These are often the dogs you have to repeat yourself with and who come-on-strong with other dogs. The key to having success with these guys is to take a deep breath and try not to get caught up in their pace. Calm confidence is key here, not pain for your dog or losing your cool – just calm and continued effort. I often use low-value treats (think kibble) for these dogs as high-values can be too much for them.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult for dog-people to know who is a good trainer and who isn’t. And many trainers have charged folks a fortune without providing any results, or even piece of mind. Trust your gut and watch your dog, often they’re trying to tell you what’s going on, we just have to stop and listen – and realize that they are as individual as each of us.