Making the dog behaviour problem go away: plaster on a broken leg?

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As a dog behaviourist, Jenny Efimova’s iceberg analogy on dog behaviour problems struck a chord with me.

She aptly drew the dog’s behaviour problem as the tip of the iceberg, and the sunken part as the (emotional) root cause. 

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Check out her excellent blog (DogMinded), by the way.

Make my dog’s behaviour problem go away

I was supervising a Bachelor’s thesis recently, and I asked the student to research this very point.

When contacting a dog behaviourist, what is the client’s priority: the dog’s welfare or stopping the annoying behaviour?

Our analysis revealed that inconvenience drove most owners to seek help, not animal suffering.

Dog behaviour: operant vs. classical conditioning. There we go again

The iceberg picture touches on the ‘classic’ (‘scuse pun) distinction between classical and operant conditioning. We talk about it during nearly every behaviour consult (and we give tips on telling the difference between the two), and we drill our long-suffering interns on it mercilessly.

  • Operant conditioning: As a dog behaviourist, I am not all that concerned if a dog has developed an annoying habit that “works” for him. In most cases, we can reverse that quite easily.
  • Classical conditioning: I worry when the dog’s behaviour problem is a visible sign (the tip of the iceberg) of a deep emotional response to an innocent situation. It is a sign that the dog is not coping.

Many owners call us wanting to get rid of the visible (behaviour) part of the problem, but do not realize that it’ll be a plaster on a broken leg unless we look at what’s going on underneath (classical), or unless we at least teach the dog a more functional way of coping with the situation.

Dog behaviourists: Frothing at the mouth animal rights nut job?

When we re-direct your efforts from a quick fix, we’re not being frothing-at-the-mouth animal rights nut jobs (well, we kind of are actually, but that’s besides the point).

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We do it because we want to give you solid, sustainable, profound results so you can enjoy your dog for the years to come. 

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