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Owner understanding of the problem

If the dog is exhibiting inhibited (shaking, hiding, avoiding) or aggressive (barking, growling, lunging, snapping) behaviour

Owner's general behaviour

Owner response to unwanted behaviour

Owner response to desired behaviour

Different family members respond differently to the behaviour

Owner's response to the dog in any environment


Many problem behaviours may be natural behaviours e.g. digging, jumping up to greet visitors, licking people or barking at stimuli - explain this. Ensure that the owner understands that the dog isn't being 'bad' or trying to 'dominate' them.

Explain that the dog is misinterpreting situations as threatening and hence it is failing to cope. Ensure that the dog isn't exposed to environments that initiate the behaviour.





Avoid all triggers to the problem behaviour - don't expose the dog to people, animals or situations that trigger the problem

STOP all punishment - physical or verbal - no stern or raised voices, no pointing fingers, physical contact or use of 'correctional' aids e.g. rattle cans, water sprays, citronella collars, choke collars or slip leads. Also ensure that no other response is made that may inadvertently reinforce the behaviour - owners should remain neutral and move away.

Any behaviour that is desirable should be reinforced by giving the dog something that it likes - food, vocal praise, a short game BUT if the desirable behaviour is 'resting/calm', ensure the reward doesn't excite the dog.

Gather the family, explain the implications of not resolving the behaviour (often re-homing or euthanasia) and develop an agreed series of first aid strategies that everyone can follow. The dog needs a consistent and predictable environment.

If safe, use small, tasty rewards to teach the dog a small array of co-operative behaviours e.g. 'look at me', sit, lie, calm and re-call. Practice these throughout the day and in a variety of environments. Use these to give the dog guidance in situations, rather than leaving the dog to come up with a solution!

(taken from Hargrave C (2019): Behavioural first aid advice for canine patients. The Veterinary Nurse. November 2019, Volume 10 No 8)
Basic first aid behavioural advice for owners that should supplement environmental and enrichment advice

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