Most of the time, I am called up by a frustrated dog owner who describes to me all of the personality problems of their dog. “She’s always been this way”, “oh, don’t mind that, he’s always done that”, etc. I have a client who has on several occasions apologized for their dog’s misbehavior because of the “hyperactivity of the breed”.

How much should we take into account our dog’s individual personality, breed, and genetics and how much should we overlook these? The answer lies in how you see your dog. When dog owners look at their dog they usually first think of their dog’s NAME. They see personality and genetics. Then they see BREED and then finally they see an ANIMAL. The problem with this mindset is that as a result, you are often more quick to excuse your dog’s behavior because of your past experience with him, your preconceived ideas, and how your emotions come into effect.

As a trainer, I need to think the opposite. In order to successfully rehabilitate any dog, I need to see: ANIMAL, BREED, NAME. For example: dog, Yorkshire terrier, “Spot”. Thinking this way frees up my mind to address that animal according to its basic needs. First it is a dog. It needs exercise, discipline and affection (in that order), then it’s a yorkie (originally bred to hunt rats; is this dog being given a job, is he getting enough exercise, etc), then it’s “Spot” (what specific issues does Spot deal with that need to be address).

So before you excuse your dog’s behavior based on his personality or his breed, zoom out even further and ask some basic questions about your dog first. Meet their needs as an animal, then meet their needs as a breed, and most times behavioral problems will be eliminated in the process.

Lead your dog!