If your dog has it, you may be making huge handling mistakes

Smart. Sensitive. Insecure. Three little words that, when put together, can make or break the quality of life you have with your dog.

Do these words describe your dog or one you know? Then please, please read and share.

There are many common mistakes POGs make with their precious pups, but I would argue these three words cause them to make some of the biggest and most damaging ones.

I have seen dogs returned, rehomed, punished relentlessly and destroyed because of these three words. I have seen dogs make horrific mistakes because of these three words.

I desperately hope POGs will take this message deep into their hearts and take a hard look at how they are relating to their dogs so not one more tragedy happens.

Why this is important

Since the beginning of my career, I have been fascinated by behavior and have concentrated on solving tough behavior problems.

Any experienced trainer worth his/her salt is very cognizant of how important it is to notice patterns while working with the hundreds of dogs s/he sees. Studies/Research can only get you so far; at a certain point, you have to add data you’ve collected through your own experiences to flesh out your abilities.

The Troublesome Temperament Trio is one big pattern I’ve identified that contributes mightily to behavior problems, big and small.

I realized that virtually all the dogs with the worst problems were really sharp brainwise, that is they quickly processed all the information they got — no matter the quality of the information.

Also, I realized that they were taking in a lot of information because they were also very sensitive. So they were noticing everything about the situation they were in. Everything. Every. Little. Detail. And quickly processing it, and trying to make sense of it so they could solve their problem, whatever it might be.

Now, those two qualities, smart and sensitive, can be a great combination — say you have a border collie herding sheep, or a search-and-rescue dog, or an agility champ, or a service/assistance dog. Smart dogs can be challenging to train, but the rewards for both dogs and humans can be tremendous.

However, dogs with those two qualities can also turn into disasters if misunderstood/mishandled. Not just problems, but unsafe, unpredictable timebombs with hair-trigger detonators.

The main determinant of the outcome, in my experience, is the final word in the trio: insecurity.

The smart, sensitive dog that is confident (secure), when faced with a confusing situation (Hey all that information that just blew through my processor doesn’t make sense), will work to figure it out, look for more information/guidance to figure it out, and will generally hold himself together while doing so.

But the smart, sensitive dog that is unsure/nervous/anxious/fearful (insecure) will be quickly overwhelmed by the situation, his anxiety level rising to the point where he can’t process any more information, resulting in all manner of unacceptable results like unresponsiveness, frustration barking, snapping, biting, destruction, running away and more.

Compounding this bad reaction is the human, who doesn’t realize what’s going on and, thinking the dog is “misbehaving,” turns to corrections or other inappropriate reactions that only serve to make the dog more anxious, which escalates the unacceptable behavior, which increases the bad reactions, which makes the dog more anxious, and — well, you get the idea. Simply put, it ain’t gonna end well.

How to go from ‘insecure’ to ‘secure’

The first step is changing our attitude toward the dog suffering from TTT. We have to get rid of our anger/frustration as well as our commitment to correction, neither of which will help us reach a solution. Learning to treat our dogs like friends who need help rather than a “bad” dog will create the trusting bond needed to create the long-term fix.

That fix is contained in this additional, extremely important word: socialization.

Allow me to define it so the connection is clear.

Socialization is PROPER exposure to all types of environments so dogs know what each is and what to do with it, so they are not afraid of it.

It means giving the dog all the information he needs so he doesn’t have to figure it out on his own. When he knows what to do in any given situation, his confidence rises.

If you don’t provide this information, your dog will eventually figure it out himself, but not always in the way you approve of. He may find, for example, that barking incessantly at people who make him nervous gets them to go away. Or he may find that snapping works.

He may find the best way to get your attention is to take something of yours and run off with it. Or jumping on you, maybe grabbing your arm or clothes.

If you yell at him or smack him for things like that, you erode his trust, making him more nervous about his situation. Which leads to a more inappropriate behavior the next time the same or a similar situation arises.

Security is important to good mental health for people. Is it any wonder that it is also important to our dogs?

If you have a dog with TTT, start working on her confidence today!

How? Click here for an excellent article from Partnership for Animal Welfare: http://www.paw-rescue.org/PAW/PETTIPS/DogTip_Shy.php

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