Behavioral Therapy Program

Scientifically Sound Training and Behavioral Therapy Techniques

SongDog is the industry leader in the rehabilitation, management and extinction of aggressive behavior in canines. Jason Major has been sought out by concerned owners and treated dogs with behavioral problems from all across the U.S. as well as internationally.

SongDog specializes in the treatment of all forms of aggression:

  • Avoidance-motivated aggression (commonly referred to as human or dominance aggression)
  • Fear/anxiety aggression
  • Possessive aggression (toward food, toys, resting space)
  • Conspecific (dog-on-dog aggression that can be motivated by fear or hierarchical issues)
  • Idiopathic aggression
  • Predatory aggression
  • Sport aggression

SongDog’s goal is to provide the most innovative and scientifically sound training and behavioral therapy techniques available.

Jason Major Behavioral Dog Training Michigan

Jason Major is an Applied Animal Behaviorist and a Dog Trainer

There are many good dog trainers out there. However, behavioral issues are not training issues. Many times these behaviors are the result of a maladaptive pet with a genetic-predisposition towards these behaviors.

SongDog’s emphasis is on modifying the dog’s behavior, teaching the owner how to maintain the new behaviors and keep the aggression on extinction. The contemporary approach to treating aggressive dogs is to attempt to teach the owner to be “be in charge” or become the “alpha dog or pack leader.”

There are many problems with this methodology. It is unreasonable to assume that the dog will never encounter someone who cannot “be in charge” such as a child. There is a nature and nurture issue driving the aggressive behavior. This methodology is akin to saying, “I am in charge and therefore, you are no longer allowed to be right handed!”

SongDog takes a much more realistic and extinction resistant approach.

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

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.

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.

The Behavioral Therapy Process

Stage I: The bonding stage
Lots of running and playing around the farm, develops trust and positive emotions toward the therapist.

Stage II: The play training stage
The dog learns to respond to the operant commands; the commands are reinforced through play and relaxation. This associates pro-social emotions (playfulness and relaxation) with the commands. The commands therefore become a verbal way to control the dog’s emotions. It also allows us to develop control over the dog’s physical movement.

Stage III: The escape/avoidance stage
We will create a “learning set” in the dog that effectively teaches it how to respond to our safety signals in order to make a less desirable consequence not occur and to make a very desirable response (play and relaxation) occur. This produces dependence upon the handler and causes neotinization in the dog. The dog quickly becomes very attached to the handler for play, relaxation and safety.

Stage IV: Normalization of training and emotion
The dog is reintroduced to society. The dog is worked in public in the presence of distractions such as people, other dogs, squirrels, cars, bikes and loud unpredictable noises. In addition, the dog will be exposed and controlled in the presence of food, toys and other objects.

Stage V: The Transfer of Training Stage
This is arguably the most important stage of the therapy and one that sets SongDog apart from the pack. Dogs are ‘place learners.’ This means that there is a relationship between environmental cues and the animal’s expectations. The animal has a specific set of behaviors that it uses to deal with situations it may encounter. These behaviors are elicited and reinforced by the presence of environmental cues. These cues could be the owner, someone in the family, another pet, a location in the home (i.e. the couch) or the yard.

Once the therapy is complete, transfer of training is crucial to the success of super-imposing the new learning on the old environment. Transference of learning is an issue that a vast majority of behaviorists and trainers fail to understand. SongDog will personally transfer the training from the therapist to the owner and anyone else who may be responsible for handling the dog. Together we will teach the dog how to properly respond to the handler and teach the handler to control the dog. We will put the dog in situations that in the past would have elicited, an unwanted or aggressive behavior and teach the owner how to properly control the dog in each situation. Through practice we will not only teach the dog a new pro-social way to deal with stress but, also build and foster confidence in the handler. The Transfer of Training is mandatory for all dogs and owners who complete the Behavioral Therapy Program.

Stage VI: Follow-up
Songdog will periodically follow-up with the client and their dog to ensure unwanted behaviors are gone and the pet is an enjoyable one for the whole family!