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DogPACT Canine Behavior Modification

Behavior modification simply means changing, or modifying, behavior. Most commonly, we use the term behavior modification when we are talking about addressing complex or serious behavior problems such as:

  • Unruliness, including mounting, tugging at clothes, and biting
  • Separation anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Fearfulness
  • Noise/sound phobias
  • Destructivenss
  • Barking
    • Territorial
    • Alarm
    • Attention-seeking
    • Fear-induced
    • Excitement
    • Frustration
  • Male marking in the house

Overview of Behavior Modification Programs

All behavior modification cases are handled on a private basis since these types of behaviors cannot be worked on in a group class setting. We schedule a two-hour initial consult during which time we take an in-depth history, evaluate the behavior in action (when appropriate; we will not provoke aggression just so we can see it), and then outline an overall program that includes the following components:

Management

Controlling the environment so that the behavior cannot occur serves several purposes:

  • Eliminates the opportunity for the dog to continue “practicing” behavior we are trying to modify or eliminate
  • Reduces the chances that the behavior will get worse with practice
  • Keeps all parties (people, dogs, etc.) safe
  • Reduces the underlying stress for the dog
  • Reduces financial liability (in the case of aggression towards other dogs or people)

VIP Training

Establishes yourself as a Very Influential Person by controlling the dog’s access to all the things s/he finds rewarding. In other words, instead of giving things away for free, ask her to do something (e.g., sit, down, a trick, etc.) before you pet, praise, throw the ball, scratch her tummy, or give her a treat. Specific behaviors will also be taught that will augment the overall behavior modification program, e.g., “Leave It!” for cueing the dog to look away from another dog with whom s/he shows aggression. A high level of cue response is often integral to the success of behavior modification programs.

Changing the Association

Desensitization/Counterconditioning is a process that utilizes a concept called “classical” or “Pavlovian” conditioning, and it works very well with dogs. By changing your dog’s internal emotional feelings about specific things, we can change her behavior in the presence of those things (triggers).

The Role of Punishment

Although we at DogPACT would like to say we simply choose not to use many of the most common aversive methods because we feel they are inhumane, we know that that is often not enough to convince our clients to eschew them.

It is the opinion of many veterinary behaviorists (board-certified vets with advanced studies in behavior) and certified applied animal behaviorists (non-veterinarian PhDs) under whom the trainers of DogPACT have studied that most punishment is contraindicated in behavior modification cases. Specifically avoided are things that can easily raise stress levels or inadvertently make negatives associations. These include:

  • The use of choke chains where hard collar corrections are applied
  • The use of pinch/prong collars because of the discomfort/pain that is applied through their use
  • Yelling
  • Hitting
  • Alpha-rolling or scruff shakes
  • Dominance exercises (forcing a dog onto its back, usually done as a well-intentioned puppy exercise that often backfires)
  • Threatening (verbal and intimidating body language)

Not only can pet manners training be accomplished without the use of aversives, it is imperative to avoid their use in behavior modification cases where underlying stress is often what is causing the behavior in the first place. Adding more stress often makes the behavior worse.

In all our consultations, we provide many alternatives to the use of aversives and explain why, in each case, they are not recommended.

Pricing Information

Our pricing is specific to the exact issues your dog is experiencing. Please call us at 562-423-0793 for pricing information.

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