There is a trend in modern behavior talk to pretend that dogs bite people because of some event in their background. Then they propose that you must change the underlying emotions to change the behavior.
It’s pretty common for dog owners to blame themselves for their dog’s problems. The majority of them have nothing to feel guilty about—but still do. They don’t really have a justification for their feelings because, (Big Reveal), they aren’t trainers.
From a dog’s point of view, obeying a command boils down to two simple problems; “What do you want me to do?” and “What do I get, if I do it?” To put this in human terms, the dog needs information about what to do and a motivation why he should do it.
I have worked with dogs since 1977. I have handled tens of thousands of dogs—many of them dangerous. There is an old piece of folk–wisdom I have heard hundreds of times. The ‘wisdom’ includes a term that is almost universally accepted and rarely challenged.
Pet grooming is a unique career, and because of that, we have the opportunity to gain knowledge from many places. One of the most important being Conformation shows. Conformation shows, or Dog shows, were created to evaluate the breeding stock for each breed recognized by a kennel club.
How can I groom faster?” This is a question both newer and more seasoned groomers often ask me. My first, best answer is this; develop a routine and stick with it. You can and should create a method of doing things that makes sense to you and works well for you, but if you’d like an example, here is the routine I follow on almost every dog that I groom:
When I was starting a private behavior practice, I had already trained two working dogs for my municipal animal control agency. I knew dogs. I knew training. To broaden the scope of my services, I spent a great deal of time learning about behavior modification.
I was at a dog park the other night with a 45 pound ABD (American Black Dog). It had the typical medium–length, all black coat and built like a border collie. A couple of weeks ago he pulled his owner off her feet while going after his favorite target—’little white dogs’. He gave no warning before he lunged.
Pavlov is a name well known in the field of psychology but almost nothing about his work is known. At best, you may know that his most famous experiment was to ring a bell and then give a dog a piece of food. He traced the physiological reflexes associated with food – salivation, reduction in heart rate, etc.
Many of your clients need training services and ask you to help them find a qualified trainer. Trainers that come to your salon may solicit that kind of recommendation. They will undoubtedly sell themselves in the best light possible – an understandable and normal thing to do. This is where it gets interesting.
The last 30 years of dog training lore revolves around the connection between wolves and dogs. You can buy 100 books that prattle about dogs being descended from wolves; animals that voluntarily live in groups, called packs. This perspective invariably assumes that dogs are likewise “pack animals”. The underlying implication is that dogs possess the same wolf-like ability to live in harmony with their own kind.
There is nothing worse in a full day of grooming than being bitten by a client’s dog. Having to deal with dogs that do not enjoy grooming is par for the course but being bitten is oftentimes rare, painful, and can set you back for hours, if not days.
As groomers, I feel like we are excellent animal wranglers. Collectively, we’ve managed to get more things done to dogs in the name of hygiene than anyone else.
Barking is a problem for just about everyone other than New Zealand shepherds. They use “Huntaway” dogs to drive sheep with incessant barking. For them it is functional. For the rest of us it is problematic. People can be driven from their apartments or condos because their dogs bark incessantly. Shelters have trouble featuring adoptable animals because they cannot hear amid barking dogs. OSHA noise level standards require kennel workers to use hearing protection.
Training for veterinary care, grooming, and handling procedures can greatly reduce stress, and make the job easier for all involved. Target training is widely used in zoos, aquariums, and with domesticated animals of all species. Animals can learn to hold their nose to a target while having blood drawn, and during other veterinary procedures.
As all experienced dog trainers and behavioral specialists will tell you, when dealing with behavioral challenges, you must address their root causes if you realistically expect to eliminate or reduce the actual behavior. This is relevant for groomers.
Dogs who try to bite you are typically doing so for two—possibly three —reasons:
About ten years ago I worked on an artificial intelligence project at MIT. One of my first experiences there was to stand in a small room full of all kinds of devices. The professor that invited me to participate handed me a music conductor’s baton and asked me to move it in any repetitive way – side to side, up and down or circles.
One of the blessings of dog behavior is that you can change it. One of the curses of dog behavior is that it can change.
For instance, I was working with a dog yesterday who gets violent if you try to groom his rear end. He is remarkably like Bear, the Mini Schnauzer I recalled in a previous column. If you try to touch this dog’s rear end, he’ll bite you. We have made great progress with this little guy and decided it was time to go to the groomer to test our progress.