Friday, September 2, 2022

September Theme: Struggles & Strategies


Over the last few months I've had several posts beginning with the January Theme: Setting Up for Success and moving through different topics that involve creating plans, teaching behaviors you love, setting up the environment, choosing gear, and understanding your dog's needs.  But one thing all dog owners have to face is struggles that impact their relationship with their dog or jeopardies the safety of others.  Common struggles that I work with regularly are reactive behaviors, resource guarding, motivational challenges, leash skills, dealing with big emotions from the dog and the human.  As much as each dog owner is an individual so is each dog, which creates a need for an individualized plan.  However many of the strategies involved in tackling the challenging struggles are often very similar for many of the common struggles.  Throughout September I will be doing several posts focused on one common struggle and give you some tips to help you get started with that struggle.  Keep in mind that many of these struggles take time and skill, so the posts will not be designed to solve all your problems, but should help you to get started.  I also hope to include info about how to know when you need to reach out for help and where to find that help.  

Common Behaviors & Basic Definitions

Poor Leash Manners - This is a huge topic because every owner has a different set of rules that they expect from their dog while on leash.   Often discussed is loose leash walking, training dogs to heel, preventing poor greetings on leash.

Reactivity - This is an over-reaction to a distraction often caused by fear or other strong emotions and can be linked with aggressive behaviors including barking/growling, lunging/jumping, nipping/biting or other examples of big or over-the-top behaviors.

Resource Guarding - There are 2 forms of this that are most common.  Dogs may refuse to give up items or treasures to their owner including balls, chew toys, something raided from the trash can, etc.  Dogs may chase other animals away from resources such as food, water, their main person, etc.  The first situation often starts as a game of keep away which is often an over-excitement issue while the second situation is often based on fear of that resource being limited or will disappear forever.

Super Athlete, Go-Go-Go Attitude - Some dogs seem to have never ending energy with a need for a ton of exercise before they can settle or give calm behaviors.  This is often exhausting to the owners and often stems from an issue with the dog's brain development having never learned to settle.

Attention Seeking Behaviors - When dogs struggle to settle, they can easily develop a pattern of seeking out a continuous state of engagement with their owner.  They may ask to go, come in, go out, come in, beg for cookies or petting and often will prefer negative attention to no attention at all.

Separation Anxiety - When dogs struggle to be home alone, be out of sight of their owner, or be prevented from getting to their owner due to a gate, tie out, or fence that keeps the dog and owner separate.  This often starts based on fear, but when practiced becomes more distressful to the point of trying to escape or even self harm.

Owner Based Emotional Struggles - Many dogs will feel the owners stress, anxiety, or other extreme emotions and will either mirror those emotions.  Sometimes the dog may become fearful of the same things that the owner is fearful of such as being around strangers or being outside after dark.  And sometimes this becomes a revolving circle pattern of the dog reacts when they see another dog, stressing the person out when they see another dog dog which then stresses the dog out to cause even bigger reactions in a repetitive circle.

Owner Confidence Struggles - Often owners go through stages where they believe they are messing their dog up or doing training in all the wrong ways.  This is really common among Service Dog Owners who train their own dog, but I've seen this in pet parents as well.  This can lead to the owner stopping training all together or giving up feeling helpless.  Often owners will accept any and all advice from family, friends, even strangers because they simply don't know what to do anymore.  This can lead to choosing training methods that are harsher then the owner wants but they feel as though its the only way.  Some of this stems from real or perceived judgement from others.  Other times this may stem from unrealistic expectations of what a dog should be able to do or is expected to be able to do.

There are many other issues that are common struggles and I will get to as many of them as possible.  If you'd like to suggest a struggle to address, please email me at

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