By Jen Biglan

What are the most common behavioral issues you see in dogs, and how can pet parents address them?

Leash reactivity and poor socialization keep our team of certified behavior consultants busy. Leash reactivity means a dog pulls on the leash and barks and lunges at things (people, dogs, etc) out on a walk. Follow the rule of 2: If your dog barks at the same thing on a walk two times, you need to make a change or get help. Begin leash training using positive reinforcement the moment you bring your new dog or puppy home. Walk in lower-traffic areas and gradually work your way towards busier locations. Carry a treat or toy your dog would do anything for, and the moment they see something (a trigger) that would cause them to bark, pull out that item and engage with your dog until it is out of sight. Poor socialization is the No. 1 reason dogs develop fear or aggressive behaviors. It can cause dogs to be fearful of new people, places, sounds, animals, and anything they weren’t exposed to in a positive, gradual way during their critical developmental window (approximately 7 to 16 weeks of age).

With consistency your dog will learn that scary things predict good things (play, snacks, or training). If, after trying these things, you are still struggling, hire a certified trainer to help you and your dog get back on the right track. Look for IAABC, Karen Pryor Academy, Family Dog Mediator, or other force-free credentials.

What are your top tips for training a new puppy?

The first three months of a puppy’s life are the most important for socialization and building confident, social adult dogs. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends starting puppy classes between 7 and 8 weeks of age and choosing positive reinforcement-based training.

  • Join a well-run puppy class; our PUP1 class is run by certified Puppy Start Right instructors, and puppies 7 to 13 weeks can join as soon as they have a minimum of one vaccine. Puppies who attended puppy classes under 6 months of age are less likely to develop aggressive behavior.
  • Every week, pick a new activity to help your puppy have a positive experience with. Go for short walks with friendly dogs, visit the beach and let your puppy sniff and explore at their own pace, have (a few) friends over, visit pet-friendly stores, etc.
  • Socialize but don’t overwhelm. Going for a walk with one new friendly dog or person at a time is easier than hiking with a group.
  • Let your puppy explore at their own pace and make choices. Ask people to sit on the floor or stand still and let your puppy go to them. If they choose not to, that’s ok, I don’t want to greet every stranger I meet either! Instead, give them a tasty treat for sitting or standing calmly by your side while you talk. This teaches your puppy that new people are safe and will give them space, setting the stage for future positive interactions.
  • Use classical conditioning to teach the strongest recall ever. Keep treats around your house and in your pocket. Every time you say your puppy’s name, give them a tasty treat.
  • Start positive, force-free training the moment your puppy comes home.

How do you recommend owners prepare their dogs for a new baby in the home?

 Plan ahead! Once baby arrives you won’t have the energy to train your dog, so think about what skills you should brush up on before your baby arrives. When my first baby arrived I was grateful my dogs already knew “leave it” and “settle,” were comfortable with baby gates and being separated from the family (they had a safe space), and I had transitioned them to sleeping on a cot next to my bed (instead of on my bed where they were used to sleeping). If your dog has never been around a baby before, find baby sounds on YouTube and play those while they do something fun like chewing a bone, eating a meal, or doing a short training session. Teaching your dog that baby sounds mean good things and relaxation will help everyone get a good night’s sleep.

Jen Biglan, KPA CTP, is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, Licensed Family Dog Mediator, and a member of the Karen Pryor Academy faculty. An Oregon native, in 2016, Jen and her business partner Tera Dschaak-James launched Training Spot, a 4,500-square-foot facility dedicated to community education, positive force-free training, and improving the lives of dogs and their families.

Training Spot