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Posted on 03-14-2016

Welcome to the first in a series of Behavior Modification Mondays! 

By: Harline Larkey, B.S., M.Ed., APDTThis week’s topic:  Early Intervention in Behavior Problems

     The first few times your new dog or puppy growls at a visitor, lunges at another dog or hides behind you at a stranger’s approach, you may not be too worried. After all, “he’s a rescue and he just needs time” or “ he’s a baby puppy. He’ll grow out of it!” It’s possible you’re right, but it’s more likely that it will get worse.

     The more often any behavior occurs, the stronger it gets and the more likely it is to continue. This is because the dog is reinforced for them: the growl or snap or lunge puts distance between himself and the thing that makes it anxious or fearful. Thus these behaviors  frequently begin to generalize within weeks or months to other places, people or situations. Your dog may escalate to nipping a visitor or begin lunging furiously at every dog he sees from half a block, rather than the occasional rude dog who gets too close. Your puppy may graduate to snapping at strangers, the vet or even your own family.

     Additionally there is a lot of bad advice out there and much of it, such as “Be the alpha” or “get a prong collar” or even “Try a shock collar!”, will almost certainly worsen the behavior, increase anxiety and fear and have a profoundly negative impact on the relationship between you and your dog.

     It’s much easier to change behaviors which have just started to occur! It takes less time and generally, it’s less complicated. Please take these early behavior issues as seriously as you would an injury or illness and call us right away. We are invested in treating not just your dog’s physical health, but his behavioral, mental and emotional health as well!

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