The Evolution of Behavior - A.K.A: Connecting the Dots

Today’s show is about noticing when a small behavior can become a problem in the future. At first, we might see a small version of a behavior and ignore it because hey, it's not a big deal, right? But as trainers, we can see the future and it's not because we're psychic. It's due to the fact that we've worked with so many dogs and have seen how behaviors develop from something small into something bigger and can sometimes difficult to change.

Kim gives an example of a client’s dog aggressing at a visitor to the home, and how there were plenty of warnings this would happen. But because the warnings seemed innocuous, the owner did not pay attention and step in when she should have. Unfortunately, once this type of event happens the dog’s confidence builds and it can generalize the behavior, which makes the dog more likely to repeat the behavior in the future. In addition to that, the dog’s threshold is lowered, so in the future the trigger for the aggressive behavior could be very minute.

There are many behaviors, not just aggression, that start out as little and can turn into something we won’t want in the future. For example, when you have an eight-week-old puppy putting his feet up on you, you don’t think anything about it and don’t consider that once that puppy turns into a 75-pound dog that’s not a behavior you want. Or when that same puppy plays with you by putting his mouth on you or learns to grab a toy from your hand it’s going to be a problem once they have bigger teeth and more jaw strength.

When we are dealing and interacting with dogs we want to look at even the tiniest snippets of behavior and imagine a larger more obvious version of that behavior. When you imagine that bigger behavior ask yourself “Is that something I will like?” If the answer is no, then you need to do something about it now.

The main takeaway from this podcast is to pay attention to the little things. Imagine the future of this behavior and how it may evolve into something you don't want or may be hard to handle.