The Reality of Dog Behavior Rehabilitation with Tyler Muto

So a common question that comes up,
particularly when it comes to the rehabilitation of aggressive dogs and
especially with board and train programs, and actually a client asked
this the other day, they said “What happens if my dog doesn’t show
aggression while it’s there?” And this is this is a really common concern but it’s
sort of a misguided concern. We actually hope that the dog doesn’t show
aggression while it’s here. If we do our job right it won’t.
It’s a common misconception that people think you have
to elicit the aggressive response in order to rehabilitate aggression and
that’s just simply not true. The closest thing I can relate this to would
be if you knew somebody who, for instance, had a drug or alcohol problem,
say an alcohol problem and they went to a rehab program – a live-in rehab program.
The rehab program is not going to have a fully stocked bar with somebody waiting
behind it so that as soon as you go to make yourself a drink somebody pops up
and slaps you, right? That’s not the idea of rehabilitation. The idea of
rehabilitation is to put you into an environment where you can practice
living in a healthier way and create new patterns of behavior. And so that’s
exactly what we want to do when dogs come into our program especially when it
comes to rehabilitating behavior issues such as aggression. Our goal is to not
push the dog to the point of causing it to behave aggressively. The aggression,
you have to understand is, it’s not really the problem. The aggressive
response is a symptom of the problem, the problem being the way the dog feels
emotionally about a given set of circumstances. And so our job is to help
the dog feel differently and we’re gonna start with easy situations and
eventually progress the dog into those same set of circumstances that would
previously invoke an aggressive response, but if we do our job right, by the time
we get there it will no longer evoke that response. This is not to say that a
dog never shows aggression while they’re here. I mean the world is not a
completely controlled environment and we do bring dogs out into the real world
and train them. We do have people coming in and out of the training center for
lessons etc. so it’s not a totally sterile and controlled environment. And
of course these are animals that we’re dealing with, they’re not machines, so
there’s a lot of variables. But as much as possible we actually try to prevent
aggression because if we push the dog to the point of aggression, usually that
means we push the dog too far. Usually that means we at some point either
missed a sign from the dog or maybe even potentially push the dog past its point
of trust and we don’t necessarily want to do that. And this is of course
speaking generally and there’s always exceptions to this when it comes to
aggression rehab, but that’s often the way it goes. So the big picture is to
always remember that the aggressive response is not the problem, it’s the
symptom of how the dog feels inside; of how the dog represents its set of
circumstances on an emotional level. And rehabilitation is not about pushing the
dog past its threshold, it’s about showing the dog or allowing the dog to
practice living in a healthier emotional state starting with situations that the
dog is capable of being successful and progressing into more challenging
circumstances – the same set of circumstances that previously would have
been problematic but hopefully this time we’re able to get the dog through it. And
that’s the benefit of a board and train because we can control the environment
so carefully; we can be very particular about the circumstances that we’ll put a
dog into.

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