A good portion of dog trainers are out there hunting for the latest behavior modification method, the latest book, the newest seminar, etc, on how to deal with new behavior modification problems. I wont tell you my personal beliefs on certain authors and trainers because the people a lot of trainers admire tend to make me want to puke.
Look I'm all about learning new techniques and finding new ways to train, but I can recognize bullshit when I see it. Unfortunately, many dog trainers are so desperately looking for the new cure that they lose their sense of critical thinking.
So to bring things back to basics, let me give you literally three simple things that can boost your behavior modification efforts on your dog or your client's dog:
1. Mental Stimulation (Obedience Training, interactive toys)
2. Physical Stimulation (exercise)
3. Communication (Obedience training)
Yeah yeah, I know you've heard of these before, but as a dog trainer I can tell you from first hand experience many behavior issues can be greatly diminished or completely stopped once the dog understands what is or isn't acceptable (Communication); when the dog isn't bored to the point of satisfying the boredom at the expense of the owner (Mental stimulation); and when the dog is physically satisfied through exercise.
One of the things I see practically on a daily basis which confirms what I wrote above is when dogs with no training go from being scared of their shadows or barking at everything they see to well behaved dogs that are happy to go where their trainer/owner takes them with a nice demeanor. I see this all the time! I'm not talking about inhibiting aggression or symptoms, I'm talking about genuine understanding on the dog's part as to what rewards the dog gets from certain behaviors.
I'm not negating the need for genuine understanding of behavior modification techniques. Counter Conditioning, Systematic desensitization, habituation and flooding are methods that IF applied properly can be greatly beneficial! Applied improperly, you can turn a nightmare into a night-terror.
Communicate to the fearful dog its fears don't come to fruition when he has to heel, sit, etc. Or that barking doesn't make the problem go away but obedience does.
Give the destructive dog something to entertain itself with. Feed it through a few quality interactive toys and watch how mentally exhausted it will be for hours to come. Add physical exercise to that!
Think of a wild animal, any animal, just not a domestic one.
Now ask yourself if this animal you're thinking of is living the life it's meant to be. Obviously since it's a wild animal, there's no human intervention, and chances are this animal is doing quite well.
You will notice that every animal has three things that are part of its daily existence:
Mental stimulation, physical stimulation and communication.
1. An animal has to eat for it to live. For it to eat with no human intervention he has to find food (hunt, scavenge, etc.). (You as a human, have to go to the grocery store, earn money, etc.)
2. An animal has to rise up to the challenge of life in order to make it to the next day; this involves killing prey if it's a predator, or running away if it's prey....just to name a couple of things involved.
3. Finally, most animals are good at communicating with members of its species and even other species in order to coexist in its environment. Especially if we talk about social animals.
Now think about your dog: How does it get fed? Does it have to hunt for its food, or scavenge for it? Does it have to travel miles to find food or shelter? Does it sprint on a daily basis to find food or run away from danger? Do you successfully communicate with it and does it successfully communicate with you?
Chances are most dogs aren't getting these aspects of life fulfilled. As noble as it seems to not let your dog work a day in its life, it is important to understand it is our duty to fulfill our dog's life if we're to be responsible pet owners.
Your dog doesn't need to hunt for its food but you can use interactive toys to keep him mentally active.
Your dog doesn't have to run from danger or kill its prey instead you can spend time playing with him or taking him for daily walks. Your dog's communication can be greatly enhanced with obedience training.
The consequence of not providing these simple things on a dog can range from having an unhappy dog, to having a dog that will fulfill its needs at the expense of its owner.
As a dog trainer, I've seen first hand how providing these 3 things on a problem dog can greatly reduce and many times stop behavior problems.