Q: We have 4-year-old Morkie with severe anxiety and reactivity issues. We have tried supplements, medication, and working with several trainers in the past, using different approaches. However, we have as yet been unsuccessful in helping our little girl (and us) with these issues. We’ve tried everything and would love to find out more about what you offer that is different.
A: I am happy to share with you how we do things here at Way of Life Dog Training but first, I’d like to acknowledge you for not giving up on your dog despite, as you say, having tried everything.
Let’s talk about what you did try, for example supplements. One of the first things I ask new clients is whether their dog is healthy and whether there is any reason to believe that a medical issue could be driving the concerning behavior. No doubt, there is something to be said about proper diet and supplementation.
As well, medication is increasingly growing as an option for people who don’t know what else to do or for people who themselves have benefitted from being on medication and therefore have it prescribed for their dogs. I am generally against medication as a long-term solution because it places the focus on the dog being the one with the problem as opposed to the situation being problematic.
You have also tried trainers using different approaches and my guess is that none of these focused on the situation, helping you instead to train your dog. Some of your trainers were probably positive reinforcement folks while other balanced trainers likely recommended various techniques and tools to correct Lexie.
It’s easy to think you’ve tried everything, but you haven’t because everything you’ve done has been about trying to change the dog rather than change the situation. One of the first things I do with new clients is talk about that situation, or way of life.
We define way of life according to five key elements and these include:
- The state and stage of the relationship
- The mindset of the human guardians
- The approach to managing space and boundaries
- The understanding and application of socialization
- The management of the dog’s drives through training, exercise, and sport
You can see that training is a part of way of life, but there’s also a lot more going on. because we know that behavioral issues stem from all these areas, we work with our clients in designing a way of life that’s stage appropriate and conducive to healing.
Until the way of life is changed, we won’t have tried everything and we won’t have tried what does in fact help – changing the dog’s situation rather than thinking it’s the dog that needs changing.