Every Behaviour has a Function. How can we help dogs overcome problem behaviours?

Every Behaviour has a Function.

When we analyse a specific behaviour by what we see we must do our best to understand its function so that we can find a way to treat it successfully.

Unfortunately, there are still many families, and more unfortunate, many dog trainers who will simply use tools and methods to “delete” the undesired behaviour without considering its function or even the wellbeing of the dog.

Such methods and tools are choke chains, prong collars, e-collars, the use of force, intimidation and overall dominance.

These, if correctly applied, might stop the undesired behaviours, although they do not take into consideration their function, or the dogs’ needs and overall wellbeing.

An example:

Dog A barks and lunges towards dog B because he feels insecure and uses such behaviours to protect himself.

By using any of the methods and tools mentioned above, I could stop the barking and lunging, but I would not help the dog A to feel more secure around other dogs B.

In fact, I would do the opposite.

Besides the stress created by the presence of other dogs B, dog A would now feel extremely stressed due to the discomfort, pain and overall fear and intimidation due to the use of such tools.

Dog A would also stop to trust his family or handler because these are the ones who implement the pain, discomfort and stress with such tools.

In short, the Relationship and Trust between dog A and his handler or family would be completely broken.

But there is more…

When a dog finds himself in so stressful situations without the capacity to avoid them, they may very well enter a state of Learned Helplessness.

Learned Helplessness is a syndrome that dogs might enter if they are under punishing/aversive events repeated times without the possibility to escape them, until the point where they shut down, they give up, they simply stop to behave (ever seen a dog wearing a choke, prong or electronic collar looking extremely calm?).

We could label such syndrome as a deep depression to be easily understood by humans…

Instead, what we must do the help dogs, is to analyse their behaviour and its function. And how it is related to the dogs’ environment.

We must use methods and tools to change behaviour positively. Methods and tools that tackle the root of the behaviour problem and can diminish and eventually erase that behaviour problem through positive experiences that provide confidence and choice to the dog being helped.

If you have a dog with any behaviour problems and you get help from a trainer or any other human really… That will advise any type of training or therapy which uses aversive/punishing/intimidating methods and tools, move away and search for another trainer!

To help dogs to overcome their issues, we must use Positive Reinforcement based training only, that means, positive experiences and outcomes.

Be helpful, be respectful, be kind.

Help your dog.

Thank you,

Ricardo Ministro

Dog Behaviourist Ricardo Ministro




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