Old school dog training is infamous for brow beating owners for their dog’s behavior. Statements like, “the dog is fine, it’s you who needs to be trained” suggest that if the dog owner simply acted in a certain way, their dog would not have behavioral problems.
This is markedly false. Most “bad behavior” in dogs is simply natural dog behavior that does not fit well into human society. Let’s look at an example, dogs jumping up to greet people.
Dogs seek facial proximity to friends and family members as a greeting. Similar to a human hug or hand shake. This manner of greeting is quite polite and friendly to other dogs, but many humans do not enjoy having their faces licked.
Jumping up to lick a friend’s face is just natural dog behavior. Humans categorize it as “bad” and as a result many dogs are punished for this natural social expression. If your dog jumps up to greet strangers, you most certainly did not cause this behavior. It is coded into your dog’s DNA! Wolves greet one another in the same manner.
Punishment-based dog training relies on fear and pain to train dogs. If a dog trainer suggests you need to “act differently” to have a better trained dog, they are likely planning to use fear and pain to train your dog. They are suggesting you need to intimidate and scare your dog. The dog will then be fearful of you, appearing to be obedient to the untrained eye.
Unfortunately, studies show this type of dog training results in both short and long-term damage to dogs. Ranging from short-term side effects like fearful body language, hiding, and poor response to training all the way to avoidance of their owners, increased aggression, and increased anxiety.
Dog trainers who utilize these methods are often well-meaning, they simply do not know of another way to “train.”
Modern trainers avoid the use of “bad behavior” as a term because it suggests dogs are misbehaving. Instead, our dogs are simply exhibiting very natural dog behaviors, it’s just that those behaviors are disliked by humans.
Which is ok! It’s ok if you dislike certain behaviors in your dog.
We can work to change those behaviors through training, in some cases we will simultaneously provide “legal” outlets for the natural behavior. So, what is causing the behavior you dislike?
Your dog’s behavior is not your fault. But rest assured, we can work together to modify and manage their troubling behaviors so that both of you are happier.
Just because a behavior is natural, does not mean we need to accept it and live with it. If your dog is knocking down every person they meet in excitement, we can train them in a humane way to offer a different behavior like sitting politely for greetings or a nose target greeting.
If your dog is lunging and barking at other dogs, we can teach them that it’s better to simply look at other dogs who pass them and receive a treat instead. Help is available for your dog’s behavior if you wish to change it, but their breed, genetics, and natural behavioral expressions are not your fault.