• Lisa Mullinax, CDBC


BEHAVIOR - an observable and measurable change in the dog.

You probably already have a good idea of what behavior means, but when you describe your dog's behavior, do you describe it in terms of what she is or what she does?

For example, I get a lot of dog owners who call me and tell me that their dog IS really dominant around other dogs. Depending on who you are and your views on dog behavior, that could mean a lot of different things. This is why my next question is always, "What does your dog DO?"

If we focus on what the dog DOES in certain situations, and look at the behavior in terms of distance, duration, intensity, etc., we can measure whether or not the behavior is increasing or decreasing as a result of our efforts.

For example, you may be able to stop your dog from barking at other dogs by giving him a sharp correction on the leash, but is the barking decreasing the more he sees other dogs or is it increasing in intensity, duration, or from further away than before?

When we use labels that describe what our dog IS, we tend to take it personally. How dare this dog, who I feed, take for walks, provide with dog toys to eviscerate and couches to shed on, try to dominate me by growling when I take his bone???

On the other hand, if we just look at behavior as information, such as "Whenever I approach my dog while he's eating, his body tenses and he starts to eat faster," we can take that data and use it to determine where the training needs to start, when we've pushed too far, what we would like him to do instead, and whether or not our training efforts are increasing or decreasing the unwanted behavior.