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Solid Foundations

When building a new house, the first thing they do is to lay the foundation. Even once that is done, they have to wait a time for the foundation to be solid before they build anything on top of it. If they were to start framing the house the same day the cement was poured, the house would not be stable and ultimately collapse. Leaving you with things worse than when you started.

Training is just like that. One must have a solid foundation of behaviors before building more complex or difficult behaviors on top of that. Otherwise, the dog has nothing to reference or fall back on when things get more challenging.

A great example of that in dog training is leash reactivity. You have probably all seen a reactive dog or, perhaps, you have one. They are the dogs that will bark and lunge at passers-by, whether it is another dog, a person, a bicycle, anything else, or all of the above. When we work with reactive dogs, once all other factors have been resolved or eliminated, we always start with the foundation behaviors of attention and basic leash walking skills. We don’t go straight to reactivity because the dog needs to know what to do instead of being reactive. We teach focus and attention so the dog knows when you would like their attention on you. We also make sure the dog actually knows how to walk on a loose leash and understands verbal cues for walking on a loose leash. Once we have established these solid foundational behaviors, then we begin work on the more challenging aspect of changing your dog’s emotional response to seeing the things that they don’t currently like.

Now, there is a lot more to all of this. I made it seem simple for this newsletter, but it is very achievable; it just takes some work, practice, and having strong foundations to build upon.

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