Monday, April 30, 2012

Troubled Dogs

How many people out there have a dog who seems depressed, stressed out, scared of his shadow or just rarely moves? This dog could have been abused, neglected, not socialized properly, taken away from it's mother and siblings too early or is just very sensitive and never learned how to handle an alien (human) world.

In most cases, dog's become "depressed" because people misunderstand them and try to assign human emotion, human reasoning and human responses to the dog. Certainly, dogs need love and attention to thrive, but some think that feeding them is enough.  Dogs love structure and rules and knowing where they belong in their social group.  Without that structure, most dogs will seek to figure things out on their own and when not the way the human would respond, is "punished".

Whatever your dogs past was, it's time to look towards the future. Most dogs can bounce back quite easily and quickly with a little direction and compassion. However, it is possible that a dog's past may haunt her. That's why you need to evaluate and analyze your dog's behavior. Break each behavior into small parts and determine what is holding each of the parts in place.  What is reinforcing that behavior.

When dogs are puppies, they learn about their world. The majority of a dogs fears begin with a bad experience as a pup. Even simple things like a fear of taking a bath most likely started as a puppy. Dogs need socialization and training when they are young. This is very important to raising a well balanced dog.
But what if you adopted your pet as an adult? How do you handle it then?
The first thing you need to do is to figure out exactly what it is that scares your dog. Is he afraid of taking a bath, or something that occurs during the bath? To figure this out you need to break down the elements of bath time. Take him outside and play with him with some water. Is he afraid of the water? If not move on to something else. Try putting him in the bath tub. Is he afraid of the tub?
Continue to break down the routine of bath time until you figure out what he is afraid of. Then you can isolate the problem and correct it. To do so, you want to reverse his fear into a positive experience. For instance, if he's afraid of the tub, then introduce him to it in a new way. Try sticking him in the tub with no water on and then play with him. Use his favorite toys and treats to show him that the tub is not such a bad place after all. Make sure he is comfortable with this and then add the water. Continue to play with him and give him treats for not freaking out once the water is turned on. It may help to have a partner with you to keep him occupied when you turn on the water.
Once he is comfortable enough for you to start bathing him in the tub, do so. Then make it a routine. Give him a bath every day for a few days, then move to once a week, and eventually every two weeks if you like. You want him to get used to the fact that bath time is going to happen, and you want him to look forward to it as well. When you get to this level, you have completed the training. You should now be able to give your pooch a bath without the fear. Don't worry if in the beginning you have to repeat steps, that's ok.
The idea is to make him feel as comfortable as possible while in the tub. Make it a fun activity for him. Stay positive and don't get frustrated or mad at him, this will only make things worse for you. Make sure you go and get him for bath time until it is postive for him, you wouldn't want to call him to something he sees as negative, or he'll be afraid to come to you. This method can be applied to just about any fear, and if you have any trouble contact a local trainer to help or leave me a comment and I will try to help.

Here is the method in steps:
Observe: Observe you dog and figure out exactly what scares her.
Isolate: Isolate the fear.
Reverse: Reverse the fear into a positive experience.
Routine: Make a routine and practice it religiously.
Complete: Complete the behavior without the fear. Make certain to keep the dog comfortable.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.