Last month in my blog, I talked about LIMA and the Humane Hierarchy. These concepts are at the core of everything I do. It takes the animal and meeting their needs into account, and creates a systematic approach to changing their behavior. There is always a pause before we escalate to the next level of the humane hierarchy. In that same vein, there are three pillars that I use to create the outline for working through every case that I take on. They are:
I cover these three concepts on my initial call with every potential client. From new puppies to the dog owners who have had multiple surgeries as the result of their dog, or even dogs who have killed other dogs, these pillars are used to create a plan of action. We may focus on different aspects more with different dogs depending on their situation; but in my opinion, any program is incomplete if it does not consider each of these concepts.
Safety for humans, other animals, and the individual who is having the issues comes first. I tell potential clients if the dog bites, this can potentially put their home and life in jeopardy. A client’s dog also needs to feel safe to build a cooperative relationship and a learning environment that facilitates success. Just like with people, dogs who do not feel safe will continue to practice what has previously been working for them and respond from a reactive level instead of allowing us to address proactively the situation.
Management involves setting the dog up for success; setting up their environment and interactions in a way that they do not need to practice undesired behaviors. We accomplish this by educating the owner about how stress works, understanding body language, and reviewing the situations and the environment. The more we practice undesirable behaviors, the more likely we will continue to practice those undesirable behaviors in the future, often creating patterns, habits and rituals; behaviors become self-reinforcing. The less we practice undesirable behaviors, the less likely we will continue to practice them, we can reward these successes while introducing new behaviors that are more compatible with getting along in society.
Modification is where I get into changing the unwanted behavior into desirable behavior. I do this through building skills like impulse control and frustration tolerance; working with confidence, human/ dog relationships, establishing boundaries and handling skills; introducing and mastering new alternative behaviors without triggers; and eventually systematic desensitization and counter-conditioning.
When following these three pillars, it sets everyone up for success, both the animal and the humans who love them!
Have you been struggling with any of these pillars? Please tell me about it in the comments section below. I would love to help you!