Dog Behavior FAQ

Have a question about dog behavior and training options? Read our answers to the most frequently asked questions!

What age is it too late to train a dog?

Although some behaviors can be easier to address at a younger age, there is no age limit for when you can train a dog. Dogs transition into adulthood around 1 1/2 to 3 years of age, which is the age we typically see problem behaviors such as reactivity and resource guarding peak. Therefore, addressing the problem behavior as early as possible and avoiding a long reinforcement history is recommended. The same goes for obedience behaviors and manners. We have successfully worked with dogs of all age ranges and behavior types by custom designing programs for each dog.

What does R+ mean in dog training?

R+ in dog training refers to positive reinforcement. The definition of reinforcement as it relates to behavior may differ from the everyday use of the word. Reinforcement is not inherently “good” and is not synonymous with the word “reward.” “Positive” here means adding a stimulus, and “Reinforcement” means the likelihood of a behavior occurring again. For example, you ask your dog to sit, and they sit, and you give them a treat. In the future, if you ask them to sit again, it is more likely that the addition of the treat after the sitting behavior will encourage the sitting behavior to happen again the next time you ask. Positive reinforcement is a crucial component of successful dog training.

Can an aggressive dog be cured?

Regarding behavior problems in dogs, we prefer to label behavior as aggressive, not the dog. Aggressive behavior can be targeted and reduced with proper training; however, general behavior cannot be guaranteed. We will err caution if trainers offer a guarantee to cure behavior. A behavior consultant, however, can work directly with your dog to reduce and manage problem behavior and teach you the tools for long-term consistency and success. Learn more about treating aggressive behavior.

What causes a dog to be reactive?

Behavior such as reactivity can stem from environmental or genetic reasons, sometimes even a combination. There are several reasons why a dog may develop a history with a stimulus that elicits a bark, growl, or lunge – from under socialization to a bad experience with that stimulus. Your dog may try barking, growling, or lunging when seeking to get out of a situation. We classify these behaviors as “removal-maintained.” Since a bark, growl, or lunge typically gets a stimulus to go away, these behaviors are more likely to happen again and be successful. Therefore, reactivity becomes more heavily reinforced over time under repetitive exposure.

Why does my dog bark for no reason?

Dogs bark to communicate various messages. There is likely a reason that your dog is barking; you may not be aware of it. Dogs will bark for two reasons: the removal of a stimulus OR for attention. If you aren’t sure about the underlying cause, a behavior consultant will be able to assess the behavior.

Why is my dog scared of everything all of a sudden?

If you notice a sudden increase in fearful behavior from your dog, it could be because they have entered the secondary sensitive/fear impact period. This is a normal phase when dogs may become suddenly fearful of specific dogs, people, or objects, typically occurring from 6-16 months old. Fearful behavior can also occur due to environmental and genetic reasons such as under-socialization or a bad experience in a particular situation. If your dog continues to be fearful for over two weeks, it’s best to contact an animal behaviorist.

Can a trainer fix separation anxiety in dogs?

A behavior consultant can assist in reducing separation anxiety in dogs. Your trainer will provide you with a personalized behavior treatment plan, management strategies, and a personal routine for meal times and leaving home. Separation anxiety cases are best addressed in your home, requiring owner involvement for long-term success. Learn more about separation anxiety.