I was recently asked by somebody why she should hire a professional dog trainer. This person was of a mature age and she told me that she has owned dogs all of her life and has never hired a dog trainer before; she didn’t see how paying somebody else to train her dog was a wise financial decision. The funny thing was, this nice lady stopped to talk to me because she was having a problem with barking that she has been unable to resolve, and she was hoping for a few tidbits of information to help her out. Hmm, I guess having dogs all of your life doesn’t really teach you how to effectively resolve behavior problems.
As our conversation progressed, I learned that she got her now 2 year old dog as a puppy from a breeder and the dog has always been inquisitive, an investigator and is quite the couch cuddler. I also learned the dog lives on 20 acres and runs free and has a wonderful time all day, he is just very dominant when friends or family come to visit; he barks continuously at them and refuses to go lay down when told. I also learned that other than going to the vet, the dog rarely leaves the property unless it’s for a quick ride to the grocery store where he waits in the truck for his owner to shop and come out.
So now I’m getting an idea about why the dog might be barking at strangers. We talk about Puppy Socialization and the critical role it plays in the development of a dogs confidence with the world around him, learning that things in the human world are either safe or dangerous from the dog’s point of view. This person was looking for help, a good thing, but what she was expecting was for me to validate that her dog was a dud and needed to be corrected. She was not buying into my suggestion that maybe the reason her dog was barking at strangers is he is not comfortable in their presence and not the over confident dominant Labrador Retriever she thought he was AND maybe the “stimulation” collar she was using to solve the barking problem was making it worse and why?
So, in thinking about how to answer this lady’s question, I came up with a couple of examples to talk to her about. I like pulling human examples out of my hat, even if they sometimes only almost apply, because most of us humans can at least understand and put ourselves in the position of experiencing the example. So I asked her how she felt about rattle snakes, was she particularly fond of them? She looked at me quizzically and said no, she hates them. Further, she said she gets the shivers even thinking about them. Ah, I said. So if a snake were to be in the parking lot over there, you would be a bit uncomfortable? Yes! she said. So I followed up, if that snake were to start moving in our direction, you might get nervous? Maybe look for a stick or weapon or maybe want to run away? Most definitely! So then I asked why? Have you ever been bitten by a snake? So few people ever are, why are you so afraid. I just am! That my friend is how your dog feels about the strangers. He didn’t get to meet a variety of different people during his critical development period, he may even have had a bad experience in his perspective with a stranger and so he hates them, he just wants them to leave…to go away. To your dog, strangers ARE snakes; Bark!, Bark!, Bark!
The good news? Because I am a Professional Dog Trainer with education in behavior and learning theory and experience working with this type of problem, I can help you:)
I often tell folks that I have been driving cars for a long time but if mine breaks down, I call a mechanic. If I get a toothache I go to the dentist. If I have a plumbing leak, I don’t ask the grocery store clerk, my sister or the mailman how to fix it.
If you have a dog behavior or training question…call a Professional Dog Trainer who has experience with your type of problem and who has had education in behavior and learning theory and can help you train your dog or resolve a behavior problem using modern, scientific, proven methods.