Understanding Man’s (and Woman’s!) Best Friend

If you’ve ever thought of your dog as nearly human, you’re not far from the truth. Just as there are psychology and experiences that shape us into who we are today, the same applies to dogs. They behave and communicate based on their past experiences and current reactions. To understand this is to create a unique relationship with your pet that brings out the best in both of you.

Will Anderson, owner of Canine Initiative Training, finds the psychology of dogs fascinating. But then again, Will has always been a dog lover. While serving in the Marine Corps, Will met dog handlers and was fascinated by their ability to work with canines of all breeds and ages. He became curious about how dogs process information and are able to learn and thoroughly enjoy scent detection. Will had grown up with wolf hybrids and trained a wolf hybrid pup while in the Corps. When he got out of the military, he began his formal studies on animal behavioral science under two world-renowned dog trainers: Jessie Gabriel and Robb Dunn. Under their tutelage, he studied all forms of training in preparation for opening his own business.

“My goal is to educate and to bridge the gap of communication between person and dog,” Will said. “There is no best friend out there that we can’t communicate with, yet we continue to expect things out of our dogs without communicating with them properly.” Will explained that dogs process cause and effect – if I sit up, I’ll get a treat – and are excellent readers of non-verbal body language. But their cause and effect understanding is limited to between 1.2 and 1.5 seconds. That means that unless you catch your dog in the act, he or she is unlikely to connect an act with a reward or a punishment.

“The biggest mistake people make with their pets is not understanding that dogs live in the moment and there is no gray area for them. It’s a rule or not. Dogs can’t make a connection unless the cause and effect is immediate, clear, and consistent,” said Will. So if you dog has an accident in the house and you discover it an hour later, it does no good to show it to your dog and make your displeasure known. He won’t make the connection and will, instead, become even more confused.

Knowing this and understanding what makes each dog tick is crucial to bringing out the best in your dog. At Canine Initiative Training, Will works with all breeds, all ages, and all members of the family to build communication skills between family members and their dogs. According to Will, no dog is untrainable. He shares the story of a Rottweiler who couldn’t be around other dogs without becoming highly aggressive. In understanding what caused this behavior to form, Will discovered that the dog had been left alone with another Rottweiler and the two had viciously fought, leading to the other dog’s death and this dog’s severe injuries. At that point, the Rottweiler had learned that the only way to survive was through aggression. After working with Will, the dog was able to be rehabilitated and now is social with other dogs, even entering dog competitions.

In addition to behavior modification, Will offers obedience training and therapy and service dog training. Most of his work centers on training dogs with full family participation so that when his work is finished, everyone is able to communicate better moving forward. He also offers safety training in how to approach an unfamiliar dog. In the end, it’s all about recognizing a dog’s signals before he reacts negatively.

Will explained it this way: “We are all animals in the animal kingdom and we all have reasons for behaving the way we do. Owners need to relate to their dogs and be willing to work to understand the breed.”

Will provides private sessions in your home. Discounts are offered on packaged services. You can find out more at canineinitiativetraining.com.

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Dr. Rebecca Deurlein
Dr. Rebecca Deurlein

Rebecca Deurlein is the author of Teenagers 101: What a top teacher wishes you knew about helping your kid succeed, and President of Teenager Success 101, a one-on-one academic coaching company dedicated to helping kids find success. She blogs and writes internationally, speaks to parents across the nation, and loves every minute of living in Sugar Land, TX. Find her on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Huffington Post, or through her own blog A Teacher’s Guide to Understanding Teenagers. All can be accessed at www.TeenagerSuccess101.com.