Buy responsibly

It might come as a surprise but often it’s not the abused rescue dogs who are the most difficult to work with, but the purebred ones. The worst combination: a dog from a backyard breeder (often working line) or from a puppy mill + owners who were told by their vet not to take their dog anywhere before the first vaccine.

These dogs have completely missed out on their socialization period, which can result in several problems:

  • everything around them is either incredibly exciting or super scary for them,
  • they overstimulate easily,
  • and they haven’t learned how to calm down on their won.

Many behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking indoors or pulling on the leash start here and it can be hard to treat them, because we need to teach them emotional self-regulation and behavioural flexibility first.

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Fear / anxiety / phobia

We can often hear a dogs described as “very fearful”. But before we start working, it’s crucial to clarify what is actually the problem and in what contexts is it present. The label of “fearfulness” actually covers 3 different problems, requiring different types of treatment protocols:

  • fear/fear reactions
  • generalized anxiety disorder
  • phobia/panic disorder

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Improve “food motivation”

In the previous post we talked about some reasons why a dog might be labelled as “not food motivated”. It is certainly true that some dogs will work for any type of food with lots of enthusiasm, and some will carefully pick out only their favourite treats in a food scatter. You are unlikely to change your food-cautious dog into a swallowing machine but you can make them a “better eater”!

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But my dog is not food motivated

All living beings are “food motivated” – otherwise they’d be dead. And dogs specifically are opportunistic scavengers, geared to eat whatever they find whenever they find it.

When we say that a dog is “not food motivated” it usually means that they won’t eat in certain contexts. That’s because *the behavior of eating* is influenced by learning, so it is more or less likely to occur in certain contexts. Just like it might be easier to ask your dog to “sit” at home than in the dog park.

Let’s have a look at some reasons why a dog might be labelled as “not food motivated”:

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Trauma in animals

Nowadays it’s become very possible to say that someone is “traumatized” or “has PTSD” – both referring to people and to dogs – but it’s often not the case. In reality many “behavior problems” do not meet criteria of PTSD or other trauma related conditions. And it’s important to remember that while they might be scary or inconvenient to us, even severe behavior problems are an attempt at coping and they serve a function to the animal. 

Let’s have a look at what we know about trauma related problems in animals.

What are the possible consequences of trauma?

First of all, there is a whole range of reactions to traumatic events:

  • PTS (post-traumatic stress)/PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),
  • phobias,
  • generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), and
  • depression.

It is estimated that 75% of people make full recovery after traumatic events. There is no data about non-laboratory animals, but a study done with laboratory rats showed a similar rate of recovery.

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