Welcome to the eleventh post in our Dog Training blog series. This ongoing series features guest posts by local professional dog trainers and highlights some of the big questions they address to their clients. Today's post was written by Adam Miller of Big Dog Canine Behavioral Dog Training.
Your dog’s response to change in actually quite predictable. Whenever you modify a behavior, routine or ritual, your dog will respond with one of four reactions – fight, flight, avoidance or acceptance. Which response you get depends on what type of behavior or routine you are adjusting, your dog’s overall personality and how ingrained the behavior is in your dog. Having knowledge of what to expect from your dog can greatly assist you when dealing with your dog’s reaction to change.
Your dog may fight the change and refuse to give up the behavior. This is normal since dog’s love routines and whenever you change the status quo, it will be stressful on your dog. A dog in fight mode will move forward and challenge the change. A confident, head-strong or dominant dog is more likely to resist change by fighting to continue their known behavior. You need to be more determined and persistent than your dog. Fight is an unwanted response from your dog and needs to be blocked or stopped by ignoring, redirecting or addressing your dog’s current behavior.
Your dog may choose to flee and get away from the situation. This is usually the reaction from fearful or nervous dogs – they want to just get away and distance themselves from the stressful situation. Flight, just like fight, is an unwanted behavior and needs to blocked or stopped. Many owners accidentally nurture nervous and fleeing behavior by rewarding it with attention and affection or by feeling sorry for the animal. A fleeing dog must have a calm and confident leader to communicate that there is no reason for having concern. Blocking flight frequently means just leashing your dog and helping them get through the experience which normally causes your dog to flee.
If your dog does not fight or flee from a change, it is common for the dog to avoid the situation. Avoidance tends to be temporary because this is just a dog trying to figure out the behavior modification. Avoidance does not need to be blocked or stopped and can be addressed by either ignoring or redirecting the dog. It is imperative that you do not feel anxious or worried and remain calm and indifferent while your dog seems a little lost or confused. This is totally normal while the dog adjusts to a change or acclimates to a new situation.
This one is pretty self-explanatory and is the desired outcome whenever you are changing a behavior or adjusting a routine. When you properly follow through with your modification, are consistent and have patience while your dog adjusts, the change will quickly be accepted as the new ritual or behavior.
A perfect example to illustrate all of the four responses to change is when your child has misbehaved and you take away their game console or cell-phone. At first, the child will probably throw a hissy fit and argue with you…how dare you take that away! The child is fighting the change. After this initial reaction, the child frequently runs to their bedroom and slams the door closed in protest. The child is now in flight mode. After a few hours, the child comes out but either ignores you or says “I hate you and I am not talking to you.” Now the child is avoiding the change. Finally, the child comes to you and says that they are bored and asks if you want to play a game or watch a movie. The child has now accepted and adapted to the change.
The next time you are working on your dog’s behaviors, remember to have lots of patience and always follow through in a calm and confident manner until you get a change in your dog’s state of mind. The trick with any change or adjustment is to be more stubborn than your dog.
This post was written by Adam Miller of Big Dog Canine Behavioral Training. For more information or to learn how Adam can help with your dog needs, contact him at email@example.com.