Doggie Boot Camp
While some aggression issues can be solved on an in-home basis, this is rare. SongDog prefers to take a full immersion board and train approach. Many of our clients refer to this a “doggie boot camp.” Over the last several years there has been much debate regarding boarded training versus in-home training for the rehabilitation of aggressive behavior. SongDog believes that the board and train option is much more effective when considering the therapeutic procedures require considerable knowledge in classical conditioning, operant learning, ethology and the physiology of emotions. In addition, some aggressive dogs can be very dangerous and dealing with them on their own turf gives them quite a home-field advantage. For this reason, a vast majority of behaviorists and trainers will only instruct you on how to modify the behavior and not handle the dog themselves. Removal of the dog from the environment will allow us to overcome retroactive learning cues. Cues that reinforce and facilitate the aggressive behavior in the owner’s presence and in the dog’s home.
Safety training is the behavioral modification procedure employed by Songdog that can help you, your family and your dog by relieving and eliminating the physiological and environmental factors that contribute to your pet’s aggression.
Safety training will provide the tools necessary to control and eliminate unwanted and aggressive behaviors.
- Barking, growling and even biting due to becoming startled by a new object or loud, unrecognizable sound. Safety training will also allow us to control dogs that are prone to becoming aggressive toward people riding bikes, skateboards and running.
- Eliminating hierarchical and dominance issues that result in the dog becoming aggressive toward members of the family, guests of the family or other pets in the home.
- Eliminating confrontation over possessions such as food, toys or resting space. Safety training allows us to take objects away from our dogs without a fight.
- Arousal and/or emotionality that is too powerful to overcome in the presence of certain stimuli such as other dogs, the mail person, visitors. Safety training will also allow us to combat what many label ‘territorial’ aggression toward these stimuli.
- Controlling the dog at the veterinarian’s office or groomer.
- Safety training will allow us to control undesirable behaviors such as running away, chasing squirrels, chasing cars, barking at people and other dogs in public, and disobedience in the presence of unknown dogs and people.
How does Safety Training work?
Safety motivated procedures reduce and eliminate fear and concomitant aggression by producing de-arousal of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Arousal of brainstem nuclei and limbic structures in the mid-brain trigger the learned or cortical behavioral problems. Safety training reroutes this emotion and teaches the dog that its safety depends upon listening to the human handler and not to rely on its own defensive aggressive abilities (i.e. fight or flight). The safety-trained signals now become a ‘coping strategy’ that takes place of fear, anxiety and aggressive responses. Consequently, the animal feels safe under the family’s control and supervision.
Why is Safety Training more successful than other currently popular methods?
Safety training eliminates aggression over the long-term. Avoidance and relaxation learning are easily maintained by the use of a periodic reinforcement schedule. Other training and therapeutic procedure inhabit or block the expression of emotion and antisocial or fearful behavior. However, the underlying factors that trigger the fear and/or aggression remain intact. In fact, this blocking could have an adverse effect long term, by increasing emotionality due to the lack of expression.
Safety training provides the dog with a learning set and coping skills, paired with a relaxation protocol. Popular procedures such as punishment, alpha rolling, pinch collar corrections and clicker training do not tackle the real issue of decreasing arousal and emotionality.
Counter conditioning with treats and appeasement gestures when the dog becomes aggressive are definitely contraindicated, because they reinforce the undesirable behaviors and therefore increase the behaviors intensity, frequency and duration.
What is involved in the therapy when my dog is away?
Therapy involves a series of stages that implement progressively complex conditioning procedures, through which the dog learns how to handle increasingly difficult circumstances by successfully overcoming these challenges. Dogs are like people in that they learn at different rates. It will be up to the therapist to determine if the dogs is ready to progress from one stage to another. The time spent here at Songdog will vary from dog to dog and will be determined by the therapist and client.