5 Insights from an Animal Behaviorist


magician and dog1. The dog is not the problem—it’s the owner.

We’ve all heard the classic break-up line, “It’s not you, it’s me.”  There is a similar line we’d sometimes like to say to dog owners, “It’s not your dog, it’s you…”  Most of the time, the dog is not the problem. The problem is the owner; specifically, an owner who needs some help learning how to communicate with the dog or puppy, and how to use good training practices.

2. Personality goes down the leash.

Many owners seem to pass their own personality traits and emotional needs right down the leash. We often see Toy breeds (the tiny dogs) being dressed in clothes and carried everywhere they go. Owners with a need to be needed treat their dogs like babies; owners who have a serious need for attention always carry their dressed-to-the-nines canines so that people will take notice, and some owners have a macho dog to improve their own self-esteem. A good instructor can be an advocate for the dog and teach owners about canine needs. To teach the dog, you have to start by teaching the owner.

3. Most behavior problems aren’t behavior problems.

“My Border Collie is so hyper,” is a typical call at the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program. This case isn’t a dog with a behavior problem; it’s a situation where an owner needs to understand the exercise needs of this particular breed. “I need an animal behaviorist. My puppy chews everything in sight!” The puppy doesn’t have a behavior problem. Chewing is developmental and related to teething. The teething pup needs plenty of appropriate chew toys. As for the owner who leaves shoes laying around—now that’s a behavior problem.

4. Early training prevents behavioral issues later on.

Research shows that the majority of dogs relinquished to shelters have had no training. Training enhances your bond with your dog and prevents behavior problems later in the dog’s life.

5. Animal behaviorists and dog trainers aren’t magicians.

An owner called in tears to tell us her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was painfully shy. We explained that socialization, exposure to new experiences, and basic training in the presence of other people and dogs were the answer. “I’m really busy,” the owner said. “I just want a few tips for what I can do at home.” If your dog develops a behavior problem, in order to solve it, you may have to invest time, work hard,  and attend training classes. Your dog deserves it.

You can help your dog be all that she can be by enrolling in an AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy or Canine Good Citizen class near you. http://www.akc.org/events/cgc/index.cfm

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About Canine Good Citizen

AKC Canine Good Citizen Director, Author of the AKC's official CGC book, "CITIZEN CANINE"
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2 Responses to 5 Insights from an Animal Behaviorist

  1. Karin says:

    AMEN!! EXACTLY!!!!!

  2. Yes…AMEN!!! WELL SAID!

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