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Special Challenges

Help With Fearful Dog Behavior

Truly fearful dogs practice avoidance and many shut down to avoid unwanted interactions. They start showing fear during puppyhood and remain fearful past 16 weeks into adulthood. We call this maladaptive fear because it is not normal dog behavior to remain chronically fearful past 16 weeks of age.

Many fearful dogs never fully adapt and struggle constantly with new environments, people, dogs, noises, changes within their own environments. They may bark excessively, hide, cower, retreat, freeze, shut-down, shake, pant, pace, try to escape the situation, and seem extremely uncomfortable in their own skin.  

Common advice is to get them out more and socialize them, but this poor advice often backfires as the fearful dog faces continual overexposure, making things worse instead of better. If this sounds like your dog, we can help.

Help With Aggressive Dog Behavior

A large percentage of once fearful dogs advance from fear-avoidant behaviors into displays of fear-aggression as the dog ages and gains more confidence and maturity. 

We see this shift starting in many dogs at around 6months-old as they approach sexual maturity and progressively worsen as they reach social maturity in years 1 through 3. In more concerning cases, we see dogs show signs as early as 9 – 16 weeks-old, which places these dogs at risk of becoming high bite-risk dogs. 

The once displayed distance increasing signals are still used but are now pre-behaviors before a bite. Everything about their displays when challenged is forward: hard stare with unwavering direct eye contact, forward ears, forward leaning bodies, tall-body language, and forward motion towards their target. Some may bark, growl, lunge, snap, or full on bite as they reach their target. 

And because people do not like these “aggressive displays” many people punish away the warning signals of an impending bite, creating a dog who bites without any warning signals at all. If this sounds like your dog, we can help.

Help With Anxious Dog Behavior

Anxiety and fear are closely related. Think of their differences this way. Fear is comprised of the emotional responses related to the presence of anything that makes you uncomfortable (trigger). Anxiety has to do with the “worry” aspect associated with the uncomfortable trigger. 

Human Example: I feel physically uncomfortable when I walk in the dentist office (fear). I worry the dentist may find a cavity and have to use his drill (anxiety). 

Dog Example: Dog displays fear behavior and balks about going into his crate. Once inside the crate and when the guardians are gone, the dog pants, drools, barks, whines, tries to escape, urinates (shows anxiety related and fear related behaviors). After several days of this the dog starts to show anxiety related behaviors as the humans are getting ready to leave the house and before he’s put into the crate (anxiety).  

Anxiety wares greatly on all body systems. It’s extremely unhealthy to live with untreated daily, chronic anxiety. Dogs, like people, who suffer from daily, chronic anxiety are not emotionally sound, and they need help. 

Anxious dogs may show a wide variety of behaviors as their anxiety climbs: pant, pace, whine, hide, drool, urinate, defecate, attention seek, bark excessively, jump on you excessively, destroy household items, and cycle between fear-related and anxiety-related behaviors. But please know this: they are not doing ANY of these behaviors to be naughty or to “get back at you.” They are in a physically panicked state. 

Many anxious dogs may often seem like “hard-to-train” dogs that “just don’t listen” or “won’t do what their told” even though they’ve been properly trained. If this sounds like your dog, we can help.

Help With Reactive Dog Behavior

Dogs who are showing typical “reactive dog” behaviors are those who also embody extremely low thresholds-of-tolerance for a troublesome stimulus or a variety of troublesome stimuli.

Their hallmark is that they display “over-the-top” behavioral responses to troublesome triggers, and their behavioral reactions are often worsened by barriers: windows, crates, gates, the physical restraint of guardians, leashes and anything else that does not allow them to move their bodies freely so they may escape or move closer to a stimulus. 

A classic example of this is a dog who interacts well with other dogs while off-leash but emits over-the-top behaviors in the presence of dogs while on a leash. 

Reactive dogs also have trouble with environmental change. They may go over-the-top when meeting new people, when the doorbell rings, as you try to put on their walking gear, and in a variety of other situations, especially those in which restraint is involved.

Another hallmark is “they just won’t listen” or “cannot perform” known cues once even slightly stimulated. They completely ignore, seem not to hear, or try to do what you ask but fall way short at performing any duration related behaviors such as being still when you ask, keeping four paws on the floor, doing duration sits, duration lie downs, and duration stays. 

Because they very often also have trouble with unwanted restraint, they can be hard to vet, struggle with nail trims and with other husbandry maneuvers requiring restraint. 

If this sounds like your dog, we can help.

Changing Unwanted Behaviors

No pain. Just Gain. Even if your dog is displaying problematic behaviors not mentioned here, we can help. We utilize treats, love, praise, play, natural drive, and life-rewards to desensitize, counter-condition, and operationalize dogs to offer desirable behaviors instead of undesirable behaviors.

Dogs showing fear, anxiety, and aggression respond very well to our methods because they do not need harsh or punishment-based methods to learn new behaviors or to modify existing behaviors. We have tremendous success working with all dogs, all breed, and all issues.

Behaviors Assessments:

Rest assured that all of our trainers are capable of conducting behavior evaluations and creating training plans to address specific issues. Our trainers will vet through each client case and determine if they can begin working immediately or if the case needs to be referred to IAABC Certified Dog Behavior Consultant Lisa Matthews or to another behavior expert before training can successfully begin.

This vetting process helps us effectively identify if a dog’s fear, anxiety, or aggression is so intense that training cannot easily begin without the employment of pre-training intervention strategies aimed at lowering a dog’s fear, anxiety, or stress (FAS).

Contact the trainer in your area for a free 15-minute phone consultation to determine the best next steps for your behavior case. Or if you’ve been referred directly to IAABC Certified Dog Behavior Consultant Lisa Matthews, contact her using the link below.