Past behaviour explains present behaviour

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We all have behaviour patterns, I do not mean habits. We behave a certain way when we are happy, scared, stressed, angry, tired, hungry, etc. It’s generally always the same, unless we make a big effort to respond in a different way, perhaps a more positive way. In general, we tend to behave the same way and that is what behaviour scientists observe when they are analysing someone. They have to spend quite a bit of time observing your unique behaviours and reactions to situations before they can really give it a name. There are certain similarities in general behaviours but we can never really rely on those to give us insight on who someone really is.

With dogs, it’s the same. They have behaviour patterns, behaviours they have practiced in the past as a reaction to something, which had a feasible outcome for them and therefor they repeat it. Dogs are not likely to change their responses without the help of counter conditioning and desensitisation, and even then you can’t guarantee that that behaviour will not every resurface again, especially if the dog is under stress or over aroused.

Behaviour patterns and the history of incidents as a result thereof, does give us a lot to work with though. It gives us a lot of information about what the dog needs to feel safe, calm and happy.

  • We can prevent putting dogs in situations or presenting triggers that in the past, ended up in a bad incident.
  • We can help our dogs cope better with triggers in their environment, by counter-conditioning and desensitising them to it, and making sure it’s not overwhelming for them.
  • We can give our dogs a break, they really do not have to deal with all things they dislike, to get them to get over it, or because other dogs are able to cope with it. We sometimes just have to accept them for who they are, and forget about who we want them to be.

In the next couple of weeks, we will look at different types of stressful situations that our dogs deal with, and what we can do to help them through it, or how we can prevent them from happening. You are very welcome to send in suggestions of topics you’d like to be discussed, but please note these blogs are not behaviour consultations, they are mere a positive, force free guide to becoming more observant about what our dogs need. If you feel that you do need the help of a professional to assist you, please do contact someone sooner rather than later.

Hope to see you reading our next blog post about surviving the vet’s reception area.