Look at the big picture

One of the things that I always tell my clients is – look at the big picture. Whether it is something we want to teach our pet or work on resolving some behavioral problem.
It is never enough to only look at something from only one angle; we need to take in account more aspects that are influencing it.
People tend to get stuck on one thing. But if we step back and look at the big picture we might get a different perspective. It will give us so much more information on which we can start building solutions. We will be able to create a fertile ground to work on.

We should ask ourselves WHY is something the way it is. WHAT is causing the behavior or what is preventing it to happen. We should also ask ourselves HOW – how can I help my dog learn something or if he/she gets stuck.
It can be a variety of things that is influencing our dog– from temperature in the air to previous learning experiences.
Why does it all matter? Because our pets are not always the same. They change as they grow. Environments they exist in change and influence them. What they experience will affect their state of mind and learning curve. Their health can change. So it ALL matters.
I like to tell people – it is like a big puzzle, every piece matters (some more than others thought but all have some role).

So if we understand that, we can step back and scan all peaces to see what is out of place or to get more answers. That can guide us into finding possible causes which will lead to more solutions – different ones, creative ones, and lastly more fair ones.
For example some people will say:
1. My dog starts barking when hears motorbikes, I want him/her to stop it
2.  I know my dogs knows what Sit means, he is being stubborn today
3. My dog is often very nervous I wish he was more calm

If we are not fixated on only wanting to change something or on fact that dog has to do/learn something, we can look back and try to understand what is influencing the situation we want to work on. We might miss it if we do not investigate it more thoroughly.
In scenarios above it could be that:
1.  Dog is not feeling safe when he hears that sound due to previous negative experience (association) or maybe it is learned behavior – maybe I get scared or angry when I hear that sound so my dog picked up on that and now he reacts too or he saw other dogs do it. Maybe he reacts only in our street or maybe it is only one type of motorcycle (sound) that he reacts to. Maybe he reacts only when it is dark etc..
2. Maybe dog does not want to sit cause floor is too cold/warm or uncomfortable. Maybe my dog has pain in his leg or he is in puberty so his concentration level is low.
Maybe I didn’t give clear instructions, maybe he still didn’t generalize the behavior, and maybe he is just tired or even bored…
3. Maybe he is not sleeping well, maybe he has upset stomach due to diet or some stress. Maybe he is in “fear period”.  Maybe something in the environment is stressing him/her out or maybe he does not trust me because of my approach to him etc.
Maybe he/she hears something during day/night that I find normal so do not even notice it, but my dog finds it scary etc.

Whatever it is it will dictate or better said guide us in deciding which solutions we should use. It can be one thing (the influence) but this approach will give us broader view in finding what it is. It can be also a combination of things.
We should approach it like detectives, and give it some though and some time. Our pets always have a good reason why they are doing something, not wanting to do something and for feeling the way they feel about something/someone.

I love the “hierarchy of dogs needs” by Linda Michaels, M. A. – it shows well that there are so many things that we need to take into account and so many things that influence our pets.
We should ask ourselves (in general also) are my dogs biological, emotional, social needs met, am I using training/learning methods that help him/her thrive, are his/hers cognitive needs met.
Am I having a good bond with my pet, is there trust between us?
 Is my dog happy?

HierarchyofDogNeeds_WebEmailFB-5Usage of photo approved by Mrs. Linda Michaels, MA
Link to more information: http://www.dogpsychologistoncall.com/hierarchy-of-dog-needs-tm/

It is all correlated and each part of pyramid has an important role in our dogs’ life.
They depend on us and they are our responsibility.
We create their “hierarchy of needs pyramid”.
Lets built a solid one 🙂

Other Blogs in English language

* Please excuse my English, it is not my primary language. 

Jelena Kallay – Vagabond Positive Animal Communication
Dip. Animal Behavior Technology, Dip. ABT – CASI
Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional Program, KPA – CTP