Dog Behaviour and Leadership by Nick Jones

I am often asked about the subject of leadership, because it does seem to be a current ‘buzz word’ at present. So, I would like to address some of the areas that may help if you are experiencing any difficulties with your dog.

My work is at the more pressurised end of what might be termed as dog training and people come to me when things are at a low ebb, having tried everything else. This is normally called behavioural work and I come across all sorts of job descriptions, anything from ‘dog behaviourist’ to ‘dog listener’ or ‘dog whisperer’. I don’t claim to be any of the above; call me what you like, but I do it every day, have a passion for my work and strive for excellence in all I do.

So, to dogs. I recall working with a chocolate Labrador not so long ago, which decided to ensconce itself against the dishwasher (dirty plates and food scraps!) that was at the far end of a narrow kitchen. Not initially aware of how much he prided himself on this secure location, I approached and calmly slipped a hand under his collar to remove him…at which point he gave a low guttural growl as if to say “you move me one more inch and I’ll have you”. The look in his eyes confirmed the growl and I decided that to move away was prudent. I soon returned with a slip lead and he walked away without aggression. We put in place some new rules to show him what was available to him in terms of movement about the home and prevented access to the kitchen later on. He is now doing well with a caring family.

The vast majority of dogs are just great, BUT they require from you leadership, consistency within the family and the best start possible in early life. What do I mean by these words exactly? Well, it’s impossible for me to go into depth for every aspect of dog training and problem resolution here, because it would turn into a book, but I would like to expand a little more…

Leadership is an on-going (birth to death even) approach that will protect, guide and reassure any dog. There is not a single thing that you do to show leadership, but a combination of setting reasonable boundaries for a dog that allows it to relax and enjoy a calm life as a part of your family. Some of the components to develop good positive leadership would include…

Obedience training
Classes can be good, but in my experience I see too many dogs that have been through the classes and found everything too stressful. Too many barking anxious dogs, anxious owners over-correcting and over issuing of commands. Too much food on the floor and generally a little bit chaotic.

This is not what we want our young dogs to experience in terms of relating to other dogs at an early age. Too stressful. As I say, classes can be good, but I urge you to check them out before hand and to even stop if your dog (or you) finds it all too much. Meeting well-balanced dogs in an open-air environment free from these pressures will be far better. A few hours with a respected local trainer in your local parks and streets would be far more valuable as it’s geared towards real life situations.

Managing your dog
By this I mean things you can do in the home in particular to ensure your dog is being watched (more the younger the dog is…a little like children) to ensure his actions are acceptable whilst in your home. A very young dog that has complete freedom to go where it likes (inside or out) is heading for trouble. As the dog matures and it gains your trust, you can then allow him more liberty. Too many owners start off the other way round and then have to work to pull things back. I see the first two years as crucial in shaping a dog’s behaviour and maintaining boundaries is essential. With slower maturing breeds you may need to add twelve months to that!

Good manners
Another area to maintain with any dog in the early years is ensuring that your dog is well mannered. Again, just like children, once you have a foundation of well-mannered behaviour, you can begin to enjoy what life has to offer more, because you know you can enter into almost any situation and come out the other side with your nerves in tact, your head held high. Aspects to address to ensure your dog is respectful and calm in the home and outside:

  • Calm homecomings – reward calm behaviour, not over excitability. Sit = Hello
  • Feeding manners – feed a good brand of food, a ‘Wait’ prior to allowing the dog to eat and respect around you when you are eating.
  • Sleep and rest areas – allow the dog on furniture only on your say so and ensure that the dog sleeps away from you to encourage an independent dog.
  • Doorways – calm and respectful leaving of the home at doorways and re entry. Train a simple ‘Sit and Wait’ for example. The same goes for car entry/exit.
  • Heelwork – an essential component to ensure the dog is exercising self-control and following you. Head and body harnesses should only be seen as a stepping-stone to walking on a relaxed lead and broad fixed collar. Seek one to one guidance if you are struggling with this aspect.

The recall – suffice to say that a dog that does not recall is a worry to you as an owner and a potential nuisance to other walkers when outside. Worst-case scenario is that your dog causes an accident on a public road. Poor recall can also lead to an exuberant dog getting embroiled with other dogs in conflict…possibly leading your own dog becoming reactive to others as time passes. Not wishing to place a negative slant on everything, but I see it so often, so I am keen to address things on a preventative level where possible.

Exercise – a well-exercised dog is a relaxed dog and a relaxed dog is far less likely to spend that same energy on being destructive, dominant or indulging in any other unwanted behaviours. Work on finding the right level of exercise for your dog’s breed and age. This alone can save you a great deal of trouble.

This means that you are doing your best within the family at all times to ensure that you are all singing from the same song sheet. Children will need constant supervision and gentle guidance to begin with (age depending) to ensure that they too are doing their bit to show calm behaviour with the dog. Consistency between the man and woman in the home can be harder to achieve at times, as both can have their own ideas on how something should be dealt with. Suffice to say, that it is worthwhile to sit down early on and agree the way things are going to be done around the areas I describe under “good manners” for example; this needs to be extended across the dog’s routine.

Best start
With a rescue dog, much of this early training time may have passed already and you will be working with this in mind. However, should you obtain a puppy at 8 weeks of age, then you have a huge responsibility to go out of your way to socialise your dog. This single-minded approach can in itself take away most future problems, as you will be removing the element of risk of developing fear. Even though you dog may not receive the ‘all clear’ to mix with other dogs after it’s injections at about 12 weeks, it is essential that you are creative in introducing your dog to as many things as possible (dogs included!) to make them seem normal and acceptable right from day one in your care. This period closes down at approximately 16 weeks of age; so you can see that you only have a couple of months to go about this process. It doesn’t close completely, so intend to maintain positive meetings with all sorts for the first two years at least.

Prior to the ‘all clear’ of the second injection, you can allow the dog to mix with other calm, healthy dogs in friends’ and neighbours’ gardens for example. Keep your pup on a lead or long line to allow intervention if needed. To avoid this can be a mistake, as you will then only have approximately 4 weeks to socialise your new dog, this is simply not enough for some. Introduce as much variety as possible: Dogs and people of all ages, shapes and sizes etc.

Some keywords for you to consider: Dogs, people, cars, buses, livestock, pubs, towns, traffic, your local vet…simply drop in for a pleasant hello and leave again!

I am well aware that it’s easy to talk theory and that no single article or book will resolve the concerns you may be experiencing. It’s not unusual for me to visit a home and to see they have a number of popular books, they watch all the programmes (not always a good thing!) and they have done their level best to resolve things on their own. What can often make a difference is a trained eye can that see what particularly need addressing and to work with what we have in front of us. Dogs have a super ability to change and adapt in a very short space of time; this often leaves me both touched and impressed.

There is help available out there folks, you just need to make a number of phone calls, ask some direct questions to find out how the trainer works and handles dogs, then to make a well balanced decision that will benefit both you and the dog. I hope this article prompts some thoughts in you regarding leadership in particular, because all dogs require this as a foundation to leading a balanced life.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Nick Jones, for the CFBA, the CIDBT and their students of Dog Behaviour & Training

Owner Profile Modelling in Dog Behaviour by Colin Tennant

It is common knowledge that owners are the main influence on a dog’s behavioural development from puppy hood to maturity and in essence the dog’s final adult temperament. Some other factors may be influential, including quality of breeding, as well as breed drives that are often overlooked by inexperienced animal behaviourists; that is why when you wish to obtain help with a dog you should use a dog practitioner who is an academically and vocationally trained expert.

Dog mind altering factors can be environmental, such as a dog living in rural isolation or on the tenth story of a block of flats, which will inevitability influence how we begin to assess and assist a dog owner in rehabilitating a dog exhibiting behavioural problems – in other words location – notwithstanding family dynamics.

Dog Law, especially the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991), also influences how we rehabilitate a dog in public spaces and this law without doubt impedes good behavioural reformation training. Many armchair experts start from the position that some owners should not have a dog in certain circumstances and that makes rehabilitation difficult. Well, the fact is they do and that’s a reality check/fact and part of this work in dog behaviour and also the challenge for us is to be flexible and skilled. What is ironic is that some dog rescue charities promote ineffective fantasy, politically correct advice regarding dog rehabilitation methods, whilst simultaneously releasing hundreds of dogs from their homes which are aggressive to people and dogs. I work with people and dogs and respect owner and dog as clients. It is not all about dogs.

As dog experts we work with pet owners and observe their personalities in relation to working with them and their pet dogs, ultimately to help solve the dogs behaviour problems. This may surprise some dog pet owners, but I believe it is true in many occupations whereby working and forming partnerships for knowledge exchange is critical to success in that occupation.

Taking into consideration all the aforementioned factors, the dog owner is still the main conduit of an expert’s knowledge and only through understanding the owner’s psychological make-up can dog experts deliver their programmes for the dog in an efficient and understandable, but most of all a realistic and practical way.

I describe this approach as Client Centred Dog Behaviour. This means the professional focusing on the client as a first step to influencing the client’s dog’s behaviour issues. Most dog specialists work out the psychology of how to deal with a variety of owners who have dogs with serious aberrant behaviour. All people in my view are natural psychologists, some better than others; it’s a survival instinct and an innate ability in homo-sapiens to help us to deal with life’s problems we encounter. The dog specialist simply develops human on human psychology to a higher level in relationship to the occupation of dog ownership. This is mainly gained from experience and when honed we can and often do make the difference between a dog’s behaviour being solved to the client’s satisfaction or failure. Get the human psychology wrong and the dog may be got rid of or fail to change thereby not enjoying the quality of life it deserves.

Owner Profile Modelling (OPM) – Psychology
I developed OPM in the eighties in a basic form and then as I learnt more about people and dogs used human profiling to help me quickly assess the type of dog owner I was dealing with so that I could deliver the most dynamic and effective dog behaviour solutions. In essence it is about human characteristics, personalities and ultimately the relationships owners develop with their beloved pets. It is also about client/practitioner relationships, the first entry into that learning coalition. I add, it is wise to remember that though most aberrant behaviour in dogs is human generated, it is not necessarily the humans, who now own the dog, who caused their dog’s behaviour issues, because often they take on reforming a rescue dog’s behaviour problems anew.

Over three decades I worked out that there are different kinds of dog owner types that can be put into OPM categories. These categories describe an owner’s personality, the relationship with their pet(s) and resulting interactive behaviour in society. I have placed categories below that include four OPM attachment/relationship models that have worked well in operations. The OPM headings used describe the title/categorisation through my system and use at my dog behaviour centre.

Owner Psychological Modelling
Model 1 describes a balanced and normal relationship that dogs flourish in is known as a “balanced pack bond”, which is secure. The way an owner(s) responds to a dog’s natural-wired behaviours in an unnatural environment that they provide may lead to one of the four types of modelling categories – note that there may be other categories. The way a dog is bonded to its owner(s) also affects how it will behave towards people and its own kind in society and thereafter live in that same landscape we provide. I will now describe the four client centred models:

Model 1 – Balanced owner-dog relationship/bond

Model 2 – Disorganised / chaotic dog owners

Model 3 – Detached / ambivalent dog owners

Model 4 – Emotional / driven and insecure owners

A balanced owner (Model 1) has a good, sensible relationship with his dog and sees a dog as a dog even though it may be his best friend. They are the easier owners to communicate sensible instructions too for a specific behavioural dog problem.

An example behaviour presented to a dog behaviour practitioner could be a dog that is noise phobic with vehicles, it panics and is difficult for the owner to control and handle. The dog becomes very frightened, pulls on the lead and might try to run home across busy roads. All this activity is full of tension and panic. The most common owner we see is the balanced model. They will receive and apply advice rationally using a phobia rehabilitation programme. This owner model understands that they have to ignore certain behaviours in the dog to help it overcome a phobia, like the dog’s fear of vacuum cleaner or washing machine sounds, and imagine the positive result. They stay calm if their dog reacts fearfully, ignore the panic behaviour and follow the expert’s advice in perhaps re directing the dog’s mind onto other rewarding distractions or seem so indifferent on cue that the dog sees the owner is calm and not suddenly changing their body language or verbal behaviour to match the dog’s distress.

So how would two of my OPM models hypothetically deal with this dog’s phobic behaviour. Well, from my files, not theory, I can give examples OPM Models.

Model 3 – the detached or ambivalent owner – is often not doggy at all or simply has a pet dog by default or has inherited one. Motivating these owners can be difficult; they simply see the problem as a nuisance, but cannot bring themselves to be consistent in methodological implementation. When dealing with the phobic behaviour in their dog they simply may not prepare for the event, be chaotic in implementing instructions and have no rewards or re directed activities in place on cue as advised by the dog behaviour practitioner. All in all they will not help solve the issue by being inconsistent in reformation advice. These owners will need plain, easy explanations in virtual bullet point form so the chances of implementation are greater. They may become more motivated if successful, but definitely will not read long reports with complex information. They will require extra contact and trigger calls for the best chance of success.

Model 4 – the over emotional owner – who begins to see dogs more as humans and the relationship becomes so intense as to be very much out of balance. These owners may generate an issue like separation anxiety and then refuse to follow distancing psychological methodologies to help stabilise their dog’s psyche; they may eventually teach their dog that time alone is normal as it is for people. These owners often simply cannot bear to implement basic techniques, which are critical to success like ignoring certain dog attention seeking behaviours and often are stricken by guilt for not treating their dog as an equal or offending its feelings. In fact, it is their responses to their dog’s excessive attention seeking that fuels or maintains the Separation Anxieties they so often want to solve.

So how does profiling help, in a practical way, the dog behaviour practitioner in this case? If the owner is so emotionally attached to the dog’s every whim then setting down standard behaviour advice of distancing the dog gently over weeks or months needs careful explanation. Reports will simply not influence such owners – they need as much care and attention as the dog and the consultation can be as much as 90% on the owner and 10% on the rehabilitation methods. Small incremental changes of the dog/human relationship is a way forward; once this model of owner sees results and actually observes their dog becoming less stressed, they will generally fulfil the rest of the programme. Understanding the human side of the dog/human relationship is just as important as understanding dog behaviour and psychology. Treating these clients as a Model 1 will generally alter little by way of the dog’s stress in separation situations. My own training in human counselling has helped much in my motivation of such clients; it is very hard work at times, but the dog is always in my mind’s eye.

Owners I describe in Model 2, chaotic owners who have a dog exhibiting chases/predatory behaviour on live stock or wild life need specialised dog training to a high level and the human commitment is critical to re training the dog successfully. Understanding these owner personality traits means the practitioner cannot waste time offering complex workable solutions, because little will change or be implemented. This owner needs straightforward steps of success to see results to encourage a stable approach and yes, it works well if the advice is proffered working within the chaotic lifestyle that is real.

Too many advisers often only spout theoretical happy-clappy reward solutions with little balance in training methods, not considering practicalities and human personality traits This often results in failure and it is the dog that suffers. The owner requires intelligent balanced retraining information that works. This Model 2 owner needs a patient and understanding adviser who is prepared to work hard with the type of dog owner and in the atmosphere that is sympathetic to the situation. Some family members have a number of Model traits combined, depending on circumstances; the experienced practitioner will understand these variations and work out good solutions.

I have simply categorised, as a guide, the Models as I have experienced them from over 10,000 cases. Many experts already do what I describe subconsciously. I have simply set it out for my students to learn and obtain new skills. As always from my perspective, the ultimate gain is dogs being allowed to enjoy life to the full and owners enjoying a satisfactory relationship with their dogs.

Find a dog expert: Canine & cat Behaviour Association
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PS – I brought the OPM system into the Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour and Training especially for aggression cases several years ago and students of dog behaviour have found them useful and popular in their studies towards the BA Degree through the Middlesex University Work Based Learning Programmes. My biggest learning curve here was the plethora of student information pouring into university work from the student experiences with dogs and owners. It was a new source of feedback that was amazing in its content.

This article has been reproduced with the kind permission of Colin Tennant for the CFBA, the CIDBT and their students of Animal Behaviour