Behavior Suppression Is Not Behavior Modification


Behavior suppression is NOT the same as behavior modification. What do I mean?  Well, here’s a good analogy I use with clients.  If you break your arm and are crying, I might be able to slap you around enough to get you to stop crying.  Just stopping the outward symptoms is behavior suppression.  I’ve stopped you from crying, but you still have a broken arm and that’s the real problem.

And unless your broken arm gets addressed, you will continue to have a problem.  Once we address the underlying root cause (and fix your broken arm) then you’re finally able to feel better.   Addressing this underlying cause is behavior modification.

Why is this relevant? Because if we only focus on stopping the outward symptoms, we will never get long-lasting behavior change.  And, even worse, if we hurt, scare or intimidate a dog for communicating, they could just stop telling us when they’re upset. And this, is what creates a dangerous dog.  Dogs who “bite out of nowhere” because they’ve been hurt or scared for growling, barking or otherwise communicating, are dangerous dogs.  They give us no warnings and so if they’re in an uncomfortable situation, we just don’t know, until it’s too late.

If you need help understanding dog communication, download my free handout here.

The other fallout effect of addressing only outward symptoms is that you could very well make the underlying fears worse.  Not only is the dog still afraid of whatever it was he was growling or barking at, but now that scary thing also predicts pain, intimidation, corrections, loss of breathing from leash jerks or worse – pain from an electric shock collar or prong collar.

In the US, dog training is unregulated, so all of these inhumane methods of training are still completely legal.  And, as someone who specializes in fear and aggression cases, I get a lot of people who end up with me as their 2nd, 3rd or 4th or 5th trainer, after being led astray and often, their dog being made worse, by all these inhumane methods being executed by “professionals.”  There is no regulation, licensing or consumer protection in dog training in the US.  So there’s very little you can do if your dog gets worse from these antiquated methods.  All the current studies and research show that punishment based training makes fear and aggression worse.  And “balanced” trainers that use punishment and food, muddle things even further and confuse the dog.

Credentials matter.  Read my post of the Muddy Language of Dog Titles here for more detail on credentials.

If your dog is doing behavior you’re not happy with,  please reach out for help and let’s make a plan.  Don’t just focus on “correcting” the outward symptoms – you could very well be making the problem worse.  Schedule your session here!

Happy training!

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