What Now? My Dog has behavior problems and I don’t know how to decide what to do!

Serious behavior problems are not the norm in the competitive sports world, but they do happen. Training can certainly affect behavior, and behavior can influence training! They are not the same!

Most behavior problems have underlying 'emotional' issues and training alone isn't the answer. If your dog is barking at someone, which is commonly a 'distance increasing' behavior that comes from the place of fear, we need to acknowledge that emotion, not suppress it. We can certainly use positively trained skills like obedience to replace an undesired behavior, but it needs to come from a place of confidence and choice, not force or coercion. 

Although I have helped sport and working dogs with behavior problems, most dogs I evaluate and work with are 'normal' pet dogs that are either in a shelter, rescue, or a home environment. Serious behavior problems can be quite complex and there are limited options for dogs that present physical or psychological harm to themselves, their owners, their housemates, or the community.

Evaluating Options for Behaviorally Problematic Dogs

Management as an only option is not foolproof and can allow for further incidents. 

Management along with training and behavior modification is when someone like me gets involved to help reduce the severity and the frequency of the problem. Rehoming the dog into a more appropriate environment is something that I have seen work out well, but it does require honesty about the behavior problem and the ability for the new adopter or owner to commit to management and/or training and behavior modification. There are many variables that contribute to the success of a training and behavior modification plan. Analysis of these same variables can help to determine what option is best for that dog, home, or community.

Unfortunately, the first three options are not always feasible and that leaves one other option: humane behavioral euthanasia. It is obviously a very sensitive topic and a decision that needs to come from a place of logic and critical thinking. I think this information is valuable whether you are a shelter, rescue, veterinarian, pet dog owner, trainer or consultant that works with clients with behaviorally challenged dogs.

Making Hard Decisions: Some Guidance

In my upcoming webinar, "In Whose Best Interest?" I offer an opportunity for you to consider a variety of factors that will help anyone struggling with a decision about what option is best and to give you peace of mind that you have made a logical one. Even if you do not have a dog with a serious behavior problem yourself, you likely will know someone who has and this information will enable you to support their decision, regardless of what they do.

Interested? Join us Thurs. January 25th for Karen's webinar: In Whose Best Interest?

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