Don't wait until it's a problem

I can’t count the number of people who come to me with a behavior problem that has been happening for months or even for years and years–it’s most often a life-change (a move, a new schedule, a new person in the home, or the desire for a new pet in the home) that causes them to seek help. What makes it so hard is that they have a dog with years and years of experience doing the undesirable behavior and they don’t realize the time and effort needed to fix the behaviors.

My suggestion to people, and particularly to owners of new dogs or puppies, is to not rest on their laurels. If the dog is displaying an undesirable behavior, seek help to fix that minor problem before it becomes a bigger problem. The most effective way to solve a problem is to try and fix it before it becomes a dangerous habit. The old saying “practice makes perfect” is true even with dogs–the more they practice the unwanted behaviors, the better they get and the more difficult they become to resolve.

This is certainly a lesson I have learned the hard way and something I’m still dealing with. 13 years ago my dog Tazzie would rush the boundary line to see dogs/people who walked in front of our yard. This over aroused greeting evolved from an annoying problem into running the fence line. We tolerated this without big issue for two years without any issue… then we brought home a puppy Bandit. As Bandit got older he learned this bad habit and with both dogs being highly aroused, this “fence running” behavior turned into fence fighting. After Tazzie passed away, Bandit taught Shayne how to fence fight ….and they both eventually taught Rio. Now, with years and years of practice under their belts, it’s quite the challenge to address this issue.

With lots and lots of work, Shayne and Rio are getting better and are controllable for the most part (we are by no means DONE but at least they are under control) but Bandit… well let’s just say he’s still a trouble maker. If I had stepped up 13 years ago to stop Tazzie from her over-aroused fence rushing, I would have saved myself years of work. Now that all the dogs (except Rio) have had multiple years of practicing this behavior it is quite the challenge to fix it. We are getting there and come spring when more people are walking their dogs, we’ll get back to work but I certainly wish I had put a stop to it in the first place.

If your dog is displaying behavior that is mildly annoying… a little dangerous… a bit concerning, don’t wait until it becomes a habit or an even bigger problem. Fix it when it’s small.

  1. Would you say that fear behaviors are something that are harder to correct the longer they have gone on? Thinking of Koira’s fear of Friday, and garbage trucks/large trucks. I’ve never found a way to work on that fear for her in a way that she stays under threshold level, and I hate to think it is getting more and more difficult for her as time goes on.

    • Quite honestly, I think it does become more difficult if the behavior becomes ritualized or a habit (if it’s just a long standing fear based response… i’m not sure it would increase). That’s what I’m dealing with during our fence fighting issues… it’s become a ritualized behavior so not only am I working on fixing reason for the behavior (the reactivity to dogs outside the fence which is based in fear for Shayne) but i’m also dealing with the fact that it’s become a ritualized behavior so I’m also having to break the habit of fence fighting. I think I’m at the place where it’s more habit than actual reactivity with Shayne now… if I am out with her it is rarely an issue… once I see it (if i’m watching from inside) I can easily call her away and sometimes she’s not actually even barking or reacting… but it’s still the ritualized increase in arousal and rushing the fence.

  2. Great post!

  3. This is such great advice. I tend to believe that irritation is motivation. We work on the things that bug os the most and tend to let other things that aren’t as annoying at the time slide.

    Shiva is a jumper. She’s always been that way. But three years ago it didn’t bother me all that much because her reactivity was a far bigger problem. If anything, her jumping made me happy as it was a sign she was comfortable with someone enough to play.
    Now, it’s definitely a problem and fixing it has been next to impossible, especially when all our friends encourage the behaviour. It’s the reason we failed the Canine Good Neighbour test last June. At this point, I am begining to doubt we’ll ever pass. šŸ˜›

  4. Bravo! Very good advice for many owners who just hope the problem will go away on its own. Unfortunately, it only continues to deepen as a habit.

    I’ve stopped by today to alert you that one of your Super Dog Sunday photos will be featured on tomorrow. We hope to see you on Sunday with another edition. This year’s event has prizes and sponsors that have provided a nice boost to Petfinder Foundation. See you Sunday!

Latest Posts

Contact Us


"Like" us on Facebook


Professional Organizations

Professional Organizations



Pet Professional Guild


Kennel Pro Insurance


Certified Professional Dog Trainer

Certified Prof. Dog Trainer

CLASS Evaluator

Canine Life And Social Skills


ABC Mentor Trainer

Canine Good Citizen