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Decoding Canine Behaviour: Knowing When to Seek a Professional Behaviourist

23/08/2023 - Dog Behaviour

As dog guardians, we all want our pups to be well-behaved, happy and healthy. However, there may come a time when our dogs exhibit challenging behaviours that leave us feeling frustrated and overwhelmed. While many issues can be resolved through consistent, positive-reinforcement based training, more complex behavioural issues will require support from a qualified behaviourist. So, when should you consider contacting a behaviourist?
Behavioural issues differ from simple training issues in that we need to address the dog’s emotional state, rather than simply teach the dog what we’d like them to do. Things like pulling on the lead or jumping up to say hello are training issues – we can teach the dog how to walk on a loose lead or offer a sit when we walk through the door. Things like reactivity, separation anxiety and resource guarding require us to look more closely at what is causing the behaviour and work to change how our dogs are feeling.
Is your dog reactive?
If your dog is barking at other dogs, people or things on walks, this could be due to excitement but it could be a sign of reactivity. Reactivity is typically caused by anxiety or fear, but can also be caused by frustration – formerly friendly dogs who have a history of playing with every dog they saw can become reactive as they are over-aroused and frustrated when walked on lead and unable to go up to other dogs. Signs that your dog’s behaviour could be reactivity include:
They are not able to eat food
They react from far away
They take a while to calm back down after being triggered
Their hackles go up when the spot the trigger
They are avoidant of the trigger if they do come into close quarters with it
It is difficult to get them to look away
Is your dog suffering with separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a really tricky behavioural issue to address as it causes intense distress and takes a lot of time and patience. However, it can be done with the right support. If you have a very young puppy and are worried about how to help them learn to feel calm and relaxed when left, get in touch with us ASAP so we can help you set your pup up for success during these crucial early stages, to avoid the development of separation anxiety. Signs your dog may have separation anxiety include;
They get stressed when they see you getting ready to leave
They bark, howl etc when left
They are destructive when you are gone
They regularly soil in the house when left
They seem frantic when you return home
Is your dog displaying signs of resource guarding?
Resource guarding is a really challenging behavioural issue as it can damage our relationship with our dog and cause both parties to lose trust in one another. It can become difficult for dog guardians to safely manage the situation and the behaviour can easily escalate dangerously. Dogs can guard food or other items, they may guard people and they may guard their personal space. Signs of resource guarding include:
Stiff body language such as freezing and a still or tightly-wagging tail
Air snapping 
Side eye or whale eye (where you can see the whites of your dog’s eyes)
Trying to eat whatever they are guarding when you approach
Does your dog struggle with noise sensitivity?
Noise sensitivity is much more common than many people realise and can be utterly impossible to deal with, without professional support. Desensitisation to worrying sounds can be a tricky process without guidance but things can be even tougher when we understand that noise sensitivity is very often caused by pain. This could be directly related to pain that is caused by the noise the dog is reacting to, or it could be other forms of pain that are causing them to be on edge and anxious. Signs of noise sensitivity include:
Reactivity to a variety of different noises, even ones they hear regularly
Finding it difficult to calm back down after reacting
Struggling to settle in general
Seeming fearful
Stress signals such as panting or yawning ‘for no reason’

There are many other behavioural issues that any dog or human could encounter, such as general anxiety, OCD-type behaviours and more. If you have any concerns that your dog may be exhibiting signs of a behavioural issue, get in touch right away. We have a qualified behaviourist who is happy to work with you and your dogs. Prevention is always better than cure and even if you are already dealing with a behavioural issue, the sooner you start to address the issue, the better. We know how tough living with and rehabilitating a dog with a behavioural issue can be – that’s why we’re here to help you, every step of the way.

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