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Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Tony Soprano Style Dog Training

A lot of people experience behavior problems with their dogs. The dog will do a lot of behaviors like chewing, digging, barking, mouthy behavior etc. We often think our dogs are doing the behavior for one reason when your dog could be doing it for a completely different reason. The big secret to fixing your dog's behavior problems is to learn to think like your dog.

"Revenge is like serving cold cuts" - Tony Soprano That saying was the first thought to pop into my head as I hung up the phone. I am a big Soprano's fan. I thought the show was very funny and had me rolling on the ground laughing sometimes. Especially when they would mess up common quotes like, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." Anyway, let me explain why I was thinking about the classic Tony Soprano misquote. I had just spent about 20 minutes trying to explain dog behavior to a very angry person. This person was upset with his dog because every time he leaves his house his dog destroys something. Today he was especially angry because his dog ate the TV remote. Add to this that his dog already destroyed his shoes, the corners of his coffee table and his couch cushions. And guess what? The behavior was getting worse. He was convinced that his dog was mad at him and doing it out of spite. I asked him how he handled the situation when he came home and found that his dog had chewed up something. He was honest with me and told me that he would yell and sometimes smack his dog. It was at this point that I tried explaining that dogs do have emotions. I don't care what anyone tells you, dogs are capable of experiencing fear, happiness, anger, etc. I strongly believe that dogs do have emotions BUT I also believe that dogs operate on a much more basic level than we do. When you look up the definition for spite it states: 1. A malicious, usually petty, desire to harm, annoy, frustrate, or humiliate another person; bitter ill will; malice. 2. A particular instance of such an attitude or action; grudge. 3. To annoy or thwart, out of spite. Spite, revenge, gratitude, etc. are much more complex emotions. Dogs truly live in the moment. Are dogs capable of revenge, spite, etc? None of us really know. But from my observations we often project our feelings and emotions on our dogs. It reminds me of another favorite quote from J. Allen Boone: "There are opinions about dogs and there are facts about dogs. We have all the opinions and the dogs have all the facts." When you leave your house your dog does not sit there and think about how mad they are that you left. What happens is that your dog is an extremely social animal that is hard wired to be with other dogs or humans. Because they are wired that way they become stressed when left alone. To relieve the stress they chew, usually on something with your scent on it. The dog owner comes home and finds some item has been chewed. It's not much fun to come home after a tough day and find your favorite pair of shoes destroyed. Out of anger and frustration the dog gets punished. But here's the rub - and it's really ironic. Your dog does not associate the punishment with chewing your shoes your dog associates the punishment with your homecoming. If this happens enough times your dog will learn that homecomings are associated with punishment. Much the same way your dog can learn when it's time to eat if you feed at the same time every day. Much the same way as your dog can learn when your spouse is coming home, if they come home at the same time every day. Your dog can learn that when you come home they are going to get punished which leads to stress. Now destructive behavior can become a real problem because... Dogs relieve stress by... You guessed it. Chewing. See how the whole problem can spiral out of control. But... I couldn't get the guy I was talking to, to believe me. He wanted to think that his dog was getting revenge. Too bad, I really feel bad for the dog. Unfortunately it's hard for some people to think like a dog which is the real secret to dealing with behavior problems. Don't think like a human; learn to think like a dog. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe our dogs do walk around thinking: "How can I get back at him for leaving me here? What can I do? I got it, I'll chew his shoes and then to get him really, really mad I'll chew the TV remote, ha ha, that will make him mad. I'll show him for leaving me here." The great trainer Jean Donaldson states it perfectly when she said: "Expect your dog to act like a dog. Don't take it personally when he exhibits typical canine behavior. He's not being "bad, " he's just being a dog."

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