Hey everyone! I am beyond excited to introduce our very first guest blog post! This great informational article is brought to you by Nicole Silvers, a Canine Behavior Expert and owner of Silver Sky Canine Behavior Consulting, LLC. She can also be found on twitter @pitbull_fan76. Nicole is an amazing woman who has dedicated her life to helping shelter dogs, as adopted adolescents are her specialty. She also volunteers her time at several rescue organizations in her area. Check out her site for more information!
I Brought Fluffy Home This Morning, Now What?
When you bring a shelter or rescue pet home, chances are good, you’ve got an adolescent. While there are the occasional puppy and elderly dog adoptions, primarily, shelters receive dogs between 1-3 years of age.
Regardless of what kind of dog you get, where you got it, and what kind of training you have done, the adolescent phase is characterized by the first appearance of some behaviors. Although things like reduced responsiveness to commands, running away, digging, barking, destructive behavior, humping, challenging other dogs, and others are typical for the phase, these behaviors are unwanted behaviors, which explains the frequent surrender of these dogs.
On the positive side, adolescent dogs have the ability to focus on training in a much more intense way than they could as puppies. So, whether you get a shelter “teen” or have raised a puppy into a teen, adolescence is an ideal time to train dogs into stable, reliable adult companions.
Ideally, a dog adopted as an adolescent will go with his owner directly into a humane, effective group or private training class from day one. Many people feel that the dog needs to adjust, and that the dog will adjust most rapidly without their participation, which they call “interference”. Nothing could be further from the truth! Helping your dog acclimate by developing a clear communication system as the foundation of your relationship is the perfect way to start bonding from day one.
Another common misconception is that dogs will “outgrow” bad behaviors. The behaviors practiced through adolescence –whether good or bad– eventually become lifelong adult habits. Proper guidance will ensure that your dog’s lifelong habits are the ones you like.
If you are seeing troublesome behaviors, such as biting, growl, resource guarding, fighting with other dogs, etc., private training is the best place for you, then a group class specializing in “troubled dogs”, followed by a “normal” group class is the best way to ensure your and your dog’s successful resolution of behavior problems.
In selecting a professional, there are many styles of training that can be both humane AND effective. No one style of training works for all dogs. All approaches have potential side effects. However, all good training provides consistency, patience, lack of anger or frustration, no hitting, yelling, or kicking. Reward-only training is a great way to start, but it can tax the patience of both dog and owner, as you simply wait for the dog to do the right thing & reward it. Punishment-only training is a very poor way to start a trusting relationship with a new addition! There are a number of blended styles that use both active reward and humane & non-painful punishment to encourage the dog’s behavior.
To establish if your potential professional is reputable, don’t rely too heavily on stories from a few owners, who may not be able to accurately assess why their dog succeeded and how your dog compares. References from dog-savvy individuals, like other pro trainers, dog sport competitors, active members of rescue organizations, and reputable breeders.
Always look for a professional who has experience with re-homed dogs. They may pick up on potential issues that you can avoid, preventing problems before they arise.
Nicole Silvers owns Silver Sky Canine Behavior Consulting, llc, providing in-home private training. She specializes in adopted adolescent dogs, often with extreme behaviors.