November and December are the months of the year when the Cold Nose College phone rings with urgent training needs for a family dog.
Example requests: “Help! My son’s family will be visiting over the holidays. They’re bringing their dog and my dog doesn’t get along with other dogs. I need you to help her like other dogs.”
Reread that sentence and replace children with dogs. Those calls come in too.
It’s not uncommon for a dog to not like other dogs or children.
If a dog hasn’t been properly socialized at a young age to either, the dog maybe be uncomfortable.
Distance increasing behaviors a dog may display are barking, lunging or growling attempt to make the “scary thing” go away.
Remember, a growl is a good thing. It’s information that your dog is uncomfortable and needs help…..from you.
Your dog is not giving you a hard time, your dog is having a hard time.
It’s possible to modify unwanted behaviors through counter conditioning and desensitization, though major behavior change for dogs and humans takes time. It rarely happens in a few weeks.
Is it easy for you to immediately decide to diet and reach your goal weight in two or three weeks? Or perhaps it’s quitting smoking or eliminating sugar from your diet. Easy or challenging?
When there isn’t time to embark on a behavior modification protocol, then it’s “management” to the rescue!
Management means manipulating the dog’s environment so that you prevent the dog from practicing unwanted behaviors.
Suggested management strategies for the two scenarios above:
My dog doesn’t like other dogs
As my dog’s advocate, I have learned to offer a polite “no” response to well-meaning friends who ask if their dog can accompany them to our home.
Not all dogs immediately enjoy an interloper in their own home.
Besides, we have cats in our house, so I don’t trust unknown dogs around our furry felines. And just because your own dog has always interacted well with new, unknown dogs, you need to be proactive and consider leaving your dog at home when visiting a friend or relative or use a reputable boarding facility, such as our local Camp Happy Dog. It’s much more fun to visit with without worrying about how the dogs get along.
My dog doesn’t like children
This is different, because you DO want your family to bring their children. You can board your dog at a reputable boarding facility or when children are in the room with the family, place the dog in another room of the house. Make that area a veritable Disneyland for the dog (soft mat, food toys, chew items such as bully sticks or stuffed Kongs, squeaky toys).
Be creative. Add an appropriate management strategy and you’ll have a more relaxed visit with family and friends. And if you need help being creative in determining appropriate management plans, we’re here to help!
Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a CPDT-KA, a CSAT (Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer), a Pat Miller Certified Trainer Level 2, Faculty for the Victoria Stilwell Academy of Dog Training and Behavior, a dog*biz Certified Professional Dog Walker and the founder of Cold Nose College in Murphy, North Carolina. She enjoys providing behavior consulting and training solutions to clients in the tri-state area of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, as well as offering educational opportunities and distance consults for clients, dog trainers and dog hobbyists throughout the U.S. and Europe.