What do you do with your dog that won't stop jumping on you?
Or worse, is aggressive to other animals or people?
Annie Phenix of Ignacio, owner of Phenix Dog Training, says a lot of the issue with an unruly dog is an owner who doesn't understand how a dog thinks.
Our furry friends have about a three-second attention span, she explained. After that, praise for good behavior or a correction for bad behavior is basically worthless.
Her favorite method of reinforcing positive behavior is treats and a clicker, a little device about the size of your thumb. You push the button and it clicks - that's it.
But that combined with a "Good doggie!" and an occasional treat is enough to encourage the dog to continue behaving the way you want him to, she said. Gradually, the clicker use can be reduced until you don't need it anymore.
The consequences of letting bad behavior go unchecked can be severe. There are about 77 million pet dogs in the U.S. and an estimated 20 percent have severe behavioral issues. That's 12 million dogs, more or less, who aren't man's best friend, and a lot of them end up in shelters or abandoned on the street.
Phenix said a lot of dogs with behavioral problems basically suffer from stress.
Some of that stress can be from birth. Cute, fuzzy puppies purchased from a pet store or puppy mill are born to stressed mothers and aren't socialized, so they already have a strike against them. Phenix recommends getting dogs only from shelters or a good breeder, but do your homework on breeders. In general, puppies need to be socialized by 16 weeks, or you're going to have issues.
The other big problem she sees is people letting their dogs run free.
"It's a huge problem in Durango," she said. She rarely lets any of her dogs off leash and doesn't like dog parks, either.
Keeping your dog on a leash means you can control him, and if worse comes to worse, get him away from the situation.
Phenix and her husband live on a ranch near Ignacio and share their lives with five rescued dogs, two horses and six donkeys. Phenix's brother and sister border collies have earned numerous training titles, and Echo is a Certified Therapy Dog. She rescued the pair as semi-feral puppies raised in the back of a darkened horse trailer. Both have passed advanced Canine Good Citizen tests. Phenix is a member of the Pet Professional Guild and the National Association of Canine Scent Work. She's also a popular columnist writing about dogs for Dogster.com and BARKS Magazine.
Phenix works with the Durango Dog College, an umbrella organization that hosts professional and nationally certified dog trainers. Classes are on weekends and some Mondays.
"We are thrilled to have Annie join us," said Durango Dog College owner and trainer Traci Moriarty, also a certified professional dog trainer. "Annie has years of experience of working with difficult dogs and providing their owners positive reinforcement methods of helping their dogs live productive and less stressful lives."
For information about classes, visit www.phenixdogs.com or www.durangodogcollege.com