Reactive or Aggressive behaviour, Frustration or Over-Excitement …
These are problematic behaviours that are shown by some dogs and are many times a temporary adaptation due to their past experiences, even when the present moment does not, in reality, require such behavioural responses.
When we experience those behaviour responses from the dogs we are sharing the time with and/or deal with such problematic behaviours from a behaviour modification perspective, our main focus is on The Dog. The Dog who is showing those problematic behaviours.
And in the majority of the situations, this is where our focus should be.
But Not Always.
Sometimes, we need to focus as well on the other side.
The other side can be a person, dog, or any other animal that is behaving in a way which DOES require the “behaviour problem” to occur.
Let’s look at an example…
Let’s say for instance that person A got beaten by person B, three times, and generalised the conclusion that “everybody is dangerous, so I (person A) should be ready to protect myself” and will shout at everybody that get’s within a certain distance.
Obviously, this can become a problematic behaviour as not everybody is dangerous and not every situation where people get close to us means danger.
Now… Let’s say that person A is going through a behaviour therapy to reduce her aggressive behaviour towards random people on the street and is doing well…
But one day, somebody (let’s call him person C) actually gets too close and tries to intimidate person A for some reason.
Person A in this instance shouts and punches person C.
This is the exact same behaviour we seen in the past that was/is being treated.
But is this behaviour, a problem behaviour per se?
Is this behaviour not well adjusted to the situation?
Should we somehow Not accept/understand/support that behaviour in those circumstances?
I don’t think so. I think it is perfectly adjusted and we need to be receptive to that.
I think we need to do our best to understand what actually his a behaviour problem in natural and realistic terms and not only observe the external behaviour showed by the animal we are with.
We need to understand when there is an external factor provoking that behaviour that might be labelled as “problematic” but at the moment, it is perfectly natural and well-adjusted behaviour in those circumstances.
In the photo, we have Gary the Great Dane and a Golden Retriever in the other side in a play bow position which called for Gary’s attention towards him (possibly an antecedent for his frustration).
Gary used to get very frustrated when not allowed to meet other dogs at a certain distance and would freeze, bark, lunge and bounce in their direction.
We have been working on these issues for some weeks now and there is a really big improvement overall.
Although, there will be moments when the environment will provoke the early phases and/or similar behaviours that we might not appreciate in some way (including myself as the trainer) but are well adjusted to the circumstances.
To sum up, be aware of the other side, as it might be the only reason your dog is doing the behaviour which we label “problematic”.
Let me know your thoughts or experiences if you relate to this article somehow.
Dog Behaviourist Ricardo Ministro