Here are a few reasons why you should try again

Many of our clients are motivated to call us at Pro Dog Training because group classes they had previously attended had not worked out for them.

A high percentage of these clients have adult dogs with an ingrained behavioural issue. Many are dog aggressive or are really hard to handle (hyper-aroused) when walking on a lead when they see other dogs, making walking problematic and adding significant stress to all parties when out and about.

They may have received a whole range of generally good advice at the training school, but the overall results have not changed the unwanted behaviour. Having dedicated training facilities enables us to do a large volume of this work in a safe, purpose built facility with all of the equipment and apparatus required to ensure a smooth, productive and successful session. Much of our facility design and program development has been motivated by our desire to assist dogs with these types of issues. The key here is to ensure training lessons or classes operate in a productive and structured way.

Clients with dogs that are aggressive or hyper-aroused on lead require the following key elements in their training program if they are to be successful:

  • An understanding of the motivation behind their dog’s behaviour.
  • Initial training sessions should take place in a controlled, low distraction environment.
  • Foundation obedience must be mastered before other elements can be introduced.
  • Learning good leash handling skills is vital.
  • Developing and maintaining highly effective markers and reward systems.
  • Access to stable and suitable dogs that can carefully used for exposure.

When it comes to rewarding desirable responses, we need exceptionally strong markers and rewards that hold significant value to the dog. Timing needs to be precise and the prize must be worth it to get the results we desire. A higher currency reward doesn’t necessarily involve more food or longer play, it means more effective food reward or more effective toy play as a reward. Building real value in food/toys is a skillset that we need to learn. We carefully manage these lessons or classes to ensure your dog starts to shift their energy and starts placing value in the handler through the use of more effective reward systems and engagement strategies.

Once these elements come together through regular and highly effective training strategies, you should see improvements with your dog’s behavioural modification program.

Group Classes Vs Private Lessons

Some of the elements listed above can be challenging to create in a group class environment for a few reasons.

  1. You need a layer of foundation work before you can start working on the issue. This requires absolute focus and attention from the handler and dog = no distractions.
  2. It isn’t possible to control all of the other dogs behaviour in the group as they are there to achieve their own goals.
  3. You are not going to get the level of specialised, focussed coaching and information you need from the instructor to develop the skill set you require.
  4. Each time your dog explodes on lead you are taking a back step. Barking/growling/lunging on lead is self-rewarding and the more it’s practiced the more likely it is to reoccur.

Whilst group training classes have significant benefits such as they are affordable and your dog is exposed to other dogs – so if carefully managed it can assist in neutralising their presence; individual coaching sessions typically work best when starting out so you can focus on specific developmental areas. Dogs with these issues require a tailored approach.

Leash Aggression

Another factor to consider is that off-leash behaviour is very different from walking your dog on a lead.  It’s not unusual for a dog to behave well with dogs off lead but show considerable issue when on a lead. A restrained dog can quickly become frustrated or anxious, which can trigger a strong emotional and behavioural response.

Adrenaline

Dog parks are the root cause of many behavioural issues in dogs. The main issue is the style of play you will see in a dog park environment. This type of social interaction is akin to a human mosh pit!  If this is the only type of interaction the dog has with other dogs, then every time it sees another dog, it will likely have an involuntary adrenaline response, resulting in hyper-arousal, frustration (if on lead and they can’t get to the other dog) and associated behaviours.  Social time with known dogs in a familiar and safe environment is a better alternative, providing that you can exercise a level of control – periodically recall the dogs out of the group to the handler and practice some basic training around the other dogs.

If your dog is significantly hard to handle on the lead when near other dogs, then it is very likely you would ‘slip through the cracks’ in a traditional group class environment and you will finish the course feeling very underwhelmed and frustrated.

A tailored program in a controlled environment is what you need to achieve the desired results. Private lessons may cost more initially, but in the long run, they are a worthy investment. At Pro Dog, we offer a  Difficult Dog class, which requires each dog/handler to have completed a private lesson 3 pack prior to commencing the class. This ensures all dogs have sufficient foundation obedience prior to introducing other dogs into the equation. If we think your dog needs more than 3 private lessons, then we will advise that you do more before joining the class – our goal is for you to be successful and there’s no point rushing the process if your dog isn’t ready.  Once we are satisfied that your dog is ready for a class environment, we ensure class sizes are small so that we can ensure that your dog’s specific needs are met. In the long run these protocols save you time, money and a great deal of frustration along the way, and allow you to develop a happier relationship with your dog.

Dave