So many of my clients do a wonderful job working on behaviors in their home and keeping on track with the new training regime. They are often thrilled to see almost immediate results with their dog’s behavior – yet become so frustrated when the dog “reverts back to their old ways” in a new area. It is crucial that I stress the importance of constantly exposing and training your pooch in a variety of settings around new sights, scents and sounds for this very reason.
A great example of this is with my own fur-baby, Dontae. He struggles with anxiety around other dogs on lead and reacts through lunging and barking. For the past month, we have dedicated all lessons to this specific behavior and have a well-planned out route we walk along each day to expose him to specific dogs he has become fixated on. By utilizing a clicker for positive reinforcement training, his stress has begun to decrease. In fact, he is now able to walk past some of the dogs on this route without displaying any past aggressive behavior!
Training (combined with familiarity) is helping him overcome this anxious behavior, however, he continues to have episodes whenever introduced to a new location. Even though he is conquering a fear successfully in our neighborhood, without being able to generalize, he goes back to square one with the undesirable behavior in new environments.
Does this mean dogs are hopeless to coping with new stimuli? ABSOLUTELY NOT! They simply rely on positive exposure to learn (with time) how to relax and focus around specific distractions.
For those who have, or are planning on getting, a puppy – make proper socialization your number one priority. As a trainer, I am often called in as a “last resort” to help with behaviors that have gotten out of control. Outside of the dog having too much energy, a lack of socialization is the second most common side effect for why the dog is displaying the unwanted behavior.
Your dog is not “slow” or “defiant”. He simply hasn’t learned the proper association in and around a specific environment or stimuli! Throw Fido a bone and do your part to make him a well-rounded pooch.