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A Behavior Plan helps bring out your dog’s personal best! But, what is your dog’s personal best? Well, it’s hard to know until you put a plan into action! That said, we can make some educated guesses based on what we know.

Here are some details on the factors we mentioned in our infographic:

Your Family

  • Your family’s ability to manage your dog’s environment: Practice makes perfect, even with behaviors we don’t like. You need to help prevent your dog from practicing by managing them and their environment, where possible. We’ll help you figure out how to do this, and then it’s up to you to carry it out! If your dog gets too many opportunities to practice, it can be hard to make progress.

  • Your ability to carry out the behavior plan (training): This includes making the time to do the training, being a skilled-enough trainer (we’ll help you get there!), and helping your dog build on success (rather than pushing them too far too fast).

  • Your ability to be consistent: Dogs need consistency and predictability in order to make progress. It’s normal to be a little inconsistent, and that’s okay! The more consistent you can be, the better the chances your dog can reach their maximum potential.

  • The environment you live in: Environment affects behavior, too! If we have two dogs who are afraid of loud noises, and one lives wayyyyy out by Jordan Lake and the other lives next to the Durham Bulls park during fireworks season, the dog by the Durham Bulls will likely need significantly more management and support.

Your Dog

  • Genetics: Your dog’s DNA can exert a lot of influence on their behavior, including whether they like to retrieve, how fearful they’re likely to be, and how well they cope with stress. Genes affect both your dog’s brain and his body, too!

  • Early puppyhood: Your dog’s experiences before and during their very early puppyhood can have lasting impacts on their ability to cope with stress as adults. Puppies who had healthy, attentive mothers are more likely to be able to cope well with stress as adults. Puppies whose mothers were stressed or sick themselves, or whose mothers had a difficult time licking/nursing the pups, or who were separated early, don’t get those same advantages and may be less resilient to stress as adults. The socialization period in dogs begins at about 3 weeks old, and lasts until about 12-14 weeks. Even experiences they had that early can have lasting impacts!

  • Past experiences: This is the “nurture” part of “nature and nurture”. Your dog’s learning and experiences can influence how easy their behavior is to change. Dogs who have traumatic experiences and/or who have LOTS of practice repeating the unwanted behavior often need more time to make progress. Fewer traumatic events and addressing an unwanted behavior as early as possible can mean less work and management for the family.

  • Physical health: Pain and health conditions can make some behaviors worse or even cause them. (If you’re in pain, you’re already stressed!) Having regular exams with your vet to assess for pain, keeping an eye on them at home, and treating any known health problems all help increase a dog’s wellbeing and behavior outcome.

  • How severely they’re affected: Being less severely affected can be a positive thing. Dogs who are more severely affected are more likely to need lifelong management and support from their people. That said, this is just a guideline, not a rule: some dogs who have BIG FEELINGS make lots of progress, and some dogs who seem less affected still need good time and management to make progress. We meet each dog where they’re at!

  • Response to medications: Where they’re appropriate, meds and supplements can help some dogs out tremendously. Different dogs respond differently to medications. Your dog’s body’s response to meds can affect how successful your behavior change plan is. We work with your vet to find the right fit for you and your dog.

All these factors come together to affect how a dog responds to their Behavior Plan. We’re here to help you set them (and yourselves) up for as much success as possible, so you can each live your best lives.