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Brian’s Bite-sized Behavior Bits

A Certified Dog Trainer (IACP-CDT) and member of the International Association of Canine Professionals, Brian Bergford has extensive experience as a Dog Behavior Specialist and is the owner of Altitude Dog Training. He also owns Uptown Dog in Longmont, Colorado, and functions as the Director of Training and Behavior for this center which provides Behavior- and Pack Work-driven daycare and boarding. Brian specializes in Pack Work, People Development, Basic through Advanced Training, and Behavior Modification and Rehabilitation.

September 2013 – Natural Energy Level

The recent devastation caused by unprecedented flooding in Colorado has affected us all. Families with their homes totally destroyed, lives lost, displaced animals, and businesses in shambles – it’s taken us all aback. On the flip side, the incredible outpouring of compassion has also touched hearts as people’s generosity and caring has helped ease the pain, bringing many communities closer than ever.

In putting together the first edition of Brian’s Bite-sized Behavior Bits, my mind has been consumed with thoughts about the recent flooding. The sheer power of water is absolutely mind-blowing, particularly when there’s too much of it in one place at one time. Being the dog-training junkie that I am, I related it back to the flood of behavior problems owners frequently contact me to help them solve. The fact is, at the end of the day, many of the cited problem behaviors – jumping, mouthing, whining, anxiety, excessive barking, destructiveness in the home, reactivity, and even outright aggression – are often a direct result of their dogs not having sufficient outlets for their energy.

If a dog’s natural energy level and instinctual drives are likened to water, then behavioral problems are often the result of too much of that water in one place at one time. In other words, the vast majority of “issues” are actually the result of excess energy and drive that has pooled up until finally, the proverbial river overflows its banks. When a dog has sufficient outlets and channels for her energy to move through, there is a healthy flow, and she is happy and content and easy to live with. When a dog doesn’t have consistent, appropriate egress for her energy to flow through, the “water” rises to unhealthy levels and destructive behaviors are the natural result.

As we have seen with the flooding of late, incredible destruction can be caused in a very short time frame, especially when there’s a perfect storm and downpour after downpour… When we see our own dogs begin to exhibit problem behaviors, the first question we should ask ourselves is “Does my dog have ample access to healthy, structured activities to burn her energy?” When we begin to recognize that behavior problems are indicative of larger problems brewing beneath the surface we can begin to take an active role in helping our dogs channel their energy constructively; in helping their energy maintain its natural flow. For example, if one of my dogs jumps on a house guest, it is usually because I have neglected to exercise my dogs and give them access to enough activities that stimulate – and simultaneously tire out – their mind and body. This extra energy must come out somewhere – it can’t just build up on the inside forever. In this case, my dog’s energy exodus was directed at my guest, manifested in the act of jumping up and leaving two conspicuous paw prints on a brand new white shirt.

Certainly, our dogs need training so that they understand appropriate etiquette (i.e. sit politely instead of jumping up on people), but that training must be built upon a foundation of balance and stability which can only be created by honoring a dog’s nature and giving her opportunities to exercise and play and work. Set aside some time in your schedule every day this week to get your dog moving and active outside (and away from the house and backyard). Take her for a nice long walk or hike or bike ride. Have her work for her food and her praise. It is very liberating and empowering for your dog – she was built to work. Be more intentional about establishing boundaries for her in the home. Be consistent with your daily routine so she knows what to expect. Her confidence will grow immensely as she functions according to her natural design and you will begin to notice fewer and fewer instances of negative behavior patterns cropping up. I believe if you implement these simple Bite-sized Behavior Bits, your dog will love you all the more and your bond with her will grow stronger than ever.


Content Copyrighted 2013. Brian Bergford. All Rights Reserved.