The Ethical Handling of Dogs with Behavior Challenges


Dog resting on cot

I am working with a dog who was afraid to come out of his yard or step into the street. He even stopped accompanying his owner to the mailbox, which he did every day. Instead, he would stand there frozen in the driveway, shaking.

We met at the gate of his yard and anxiousness was palpable. My job was actually not to find out why but to figure out how to help him. Sometimes the “why” makes itself clear and sometimes you never figure it out. We are taught to work on the problem as it is presented. In this case, we were able to uncover a direct cause.

This dog was previously able to go for walks and was being walked with another resident dog. The two would become so boisterous when seeing other dogs that the owners had almost given up. Their first call went to a different kind of a trainer with a different approach to changing behavior.

The other "trainer" took the dog out for a walk and when he saw another dog approaching, he began to bark. The man shoved the dog to the pavement and pinned him down to the street. The dog, now under attack by a stranger, started to behave in a defensive manner. He tried to free himself from the threat by writhing on the ground. As the trainer continued to hold the dog down, eliminating his ability to flee, the dog began to snarl and attempted to bite. He was trying desperately to escape. The dog was let up after almost a m