Welcome to the second part of “Why K9 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Better for Your Dog!”
Our guest blogger, Billie Groom, is the Founder of UPWARD Dogology. She is an expert in K9 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for the past 30 years helping 1000s of dog parents, rescued dogs and organizations prevent unnecessary surrenders, rehoming or worse, euthanasia.
Now, the second part of “Why K9 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Better for Your Dog!”
What is UPWARD Dogology?
UPWARD Dogology, a formula working with dogs over the age of six months, was developed out of the need to find a solution for the enormous number of dogs being surrendered and euthanized for behavioral reasons.
Over three decades ago, Billie Groom began rescuing and fostering dogs. She noticed people, even those experienced with dogs, were stumped by behaviors common during the adolescent stage, approximately 8-18 months. Dogs in shelters, rescue organizations and “less-than-desirable conditions” were often challenging to integrate into their new families and homes.
Behaviors commonly associated with anxiety and aggression deterred many people from adopting since these dogs proved difficult to rehabilitate. Good people, with the best of intentions, were frustrated and felt out of options. Sadly, these problems still exist today; however, many people are discovering the benefits of Canine Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
“Essentially, people hire me because they want to fix behaviors,
but what we really do is create a bond, change perception, and
develop skills that allow my client to build a relationship with their
dog. In doing so, we prevent, and address, behaviors that lead to
surrenders, returns, unsavory methods, or euthanasia.”
(Billie Groom, Founder of UPWARD Dogology)
Next, let’s learn about the 5 priceless benefits behind K9 Cognitive Behavior Therapy!
Canine Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CCBT): The 5 Benefits
As mentioned in Part One, Canine CBT supports the human-canine bond by changing perception, which changes behavior. In the last post, we explored how CCBT prevents and addresses K9 behaviors with the K9 CBT principles.
Canine CBT is proven to offer the five priceless benefits below.
ONE: DECREASE SURRENDERS AND/OR REHOMING
Statistics have shown the number one reason for surrendering or rehoming dogs is behavioral. People with good intentions, who follow the advice of experts, believe they have tried everything and when conventional methods are ineffective, feel they are simply not the right home for their dog.
In some cases, the decision to surrender or rehome may be the best option. However, in most situations, once we switch from conditioning methods to CCBT, the dog stays in the home and lives a fulfilling life. The issue was not the home, it was the method to address the unwanted behaviors.
A Common Example
Dogs in the adolescent stage (approximately 8-18 months of age) that started life in a loving environment with responsible people. It is scientifically proven that dogs in the adolescent stage develop their cognitive abilities causing changes in their behavior. So, training techniques that were successful during puppyhood can fall short, or even backfire, as their cognitive skills develop.
To effectively work with these dogs, we need to recognize and harness, not suppress, K9 cognitive abilities. By applying exercises that harness the cognitive skills driving these behaviors, we change the dog’s perception of us and our ability to calmly manage and relate to them. By recognizing what is important to them and providing them with options, they choose to change their behavior. When behaviors causing stress and frustration are eliminated, people commonly choose to keep their dogs.
TWO: INCREASE SUCCESSFUL ADOPTIONS
We all want to help dogs in need. Rescuing, fostering, and adopting dogs with disadvantaged pasts is a great way to help a dog in need. Yet many people feel ill-equipped to effectively bring these dogs into their homes and lives. The “unknowns” as to the behaviors caused by emotional stress, or a less-than-desirable upbringing, often deter good-hearted people from taking in these dogs.
Mainstream educators encourage patience with adopted dogs. Patience is good; productive patience is better. Simply relying on the “decompression period” (waiting three months before a bond or communication is established) can deter people from adopting and is also unfair to the dog.
Not all dogs need a decompression period. In fact, three months commonly recommended for “integrating” a dog can backfire (and also discourage people from adopting). Although it is recommended (and common sense) to allow dogs time to rest, especially if they traveled a distance to their new home, it is important to adapt the integration process to the individual dog.
- If you adopted your dog from a foster-based rescue organization, and the foster home found the dog to be friendly, well-socialized, good on walks, with no signs of anxiety (including separation anxiety), then we apply exercises that establish platform skills in the first four to ten days. These exercises acknowledge the dog’s skills, intelligence, and personality. They create a bond and establish a communication base allowing you to easily integrate your new dog into your lifestyle.
- If your dog shows signs of fear, anxiety, or behaviors associated with aggression, we apply exercises that respect the emotional intelligence driving those behaviors and create the necessary bond to change perception to change behavior. The program is flexible, allowing you to work at the pace of your dog and your schedule.
- If your dog has been living independently (on the streets, for example), and it is challenging to bond with or the dog is showing behaviors they feel are necessary to achieve their goal, we apply exercises that harness those cognitive abilities driving those behaviors. The exercises show your dog:
- You acknowledge the reason for the behaviors; and
- Offers a reason for your dog to trust you. Therefore, your dog learns the value of bonding with you, and you learn to “read” your dog.
The UPWARD Dogology integration program is flexible, adaptable, easy-to-apply and, most importantly, dogs love it! Help rescues and shelters by increasing their adoptions!
THREE: ELIMINATE THE PERCEIVED NEED FOR HARSH METHODS, QUICK FIXES AND PAINFUL TOOLS
When common methods prove limiting or unsuccessful, it is human nature to search for alternative approaches. Unfortunately, this can lead to people unwillingly feeling forced to apply methods or use products which can cause physical harm or emotional stress to their dog (and often themselves). The reality is these “quick fixes” can be effective in the moment, and people may see no need to discontinue using them.
It is commonly ineffective to simply tell people it is wrong to use these methods or tools when, essentially, they are solving their problems. Also, if they feel pressured, this can push people farther in the “wrong” direction. As with dogs, we cannot tell them what is right or wrong, we need to provide them with options that achieve their goal. We need to respect the reason why they feel the need to use these products or approaches and provide them with options that allow them to make ethical decisions.
To eliminate unsavory tools and methods, we need to provide people with force-free, effective alternatives. Although there are many styles of training included in conditioning methodologies, the platform and principles are not intended to change perception to change behaviors. Refer to Part One for more information. UPWARD Dogology, using K9 Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is a proven effective alternative when conditioning methods fall short.
FOUR: PREVENT BEHAVIORAL EUTHANASIA
Shelters that do not uphold a “no-kill” policy, kill thousands of dogs across North America every day. Statistics show the most common reasons are behaviorally related. Euthanasia is justified by outdated assessments, which often do not respect the emotions or intelligence of individual dogs.
Veterinarians commonly provide behavioral advice, suggest resources, and/or recommend medication before suggesting, or agreeing to, euthanizing a dog. People do not want to euthanize their dogs and it can be extremely emotionally stressful for both parties.
It is common to justify euthanasia when conditioning methods fail to address behaviors consistent with anxiety or aggression. No one wants to see dogs suffer, live a life in fear, or endure emotional discomfort. Homing dogs with behavioral issues can be challenging and unsafe. Unfortunately, the majority of shelters and veterinarians are not aware of CCBT and dogs are euthanized before being exposed to Canine Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
Dog lovers are not satisfied with succumbing to the fact they must simply cope or manage, avoid situations, permanently rely on medications, or rehome, surrender, or euthanize their dog. They want to live life to the fullest with their dogs and provide their dogs with the best life. UPWARD Dogology is successfully spreading awareness and hundreds of people every year, for three decades, have enjoyed the benefits of CCBT!
FIVE: INCREASE THE HUMAN-CANINE BOND
All forms of positive interaction are bonding. From walking our dogs to canine enrichment games to agility training or scent detection. Conditioning methods, using positive reinforcements, are bond-creating, but differently from that of CBT.
K9 Cognitive Behavior Therapy takes:
- A holistic approach.
- Addresses the reason for the behavior (not the behavior itself), and;
- Changes the dogs’ perception.
By communicating through exercises that:
- Harness cognitive skills
- Respect thought patterns; and
- Recognize emotional intelligence
dogs begin to view their humans differently. This bond is noted through changes in behaviors that the dog chooses to do. For example, he may look at his person more (without being cued by a command or a treat), or he may follow his person less (if he followed due to anxiety) or follow more (if he was aloof).
The bond that is created through CCBT is, admittedly, challenging to explain. But it is like a “light-bulb goes on!” My clients literally feel it take shape. They feel:
- Less controlling, yet they have more control.
- More relaxed along with their dog.
- Their dog trusts them more.
It is truly amazing! Once a bond, based on communication and mutual respect, is developed, we can creatively and effectively apply CBT to address behaviors associated with anxiety and aggression, and other behaviors common with adopted and adolescent dogs!
Meet Billie Groom, Founder of UPWARD Dogology
Award-winning author, member of the Dog Writers Association of America, Animal Behavior Society and the Comparative Cognition Society, and a graduate of the University of Western Ontario (B.A.). Billie developed the UPWARD Dogology formula from working with thousands of dogs over 3 decades. Her clients include veterinarians, psychologists, animal experts, canine professionals, rescuers, fosters, adopters, and first-time dog peeps.
In 2002, The Humane Society of Toronto awarded Billie for her work with challenging dogs and she has continued to develop her methodology over the decades through hands-on application.
Billie’s Mission: I am motivated to spread awareness of UPWARD Dogology because every day I help people who are at their wit’s end. The most common response is, “Why is this methodology not “out there?” It grinds my gears when I hear about dogs being put down because of behavioral problems that Conditioning Methods were unable to effectively address. C.B.T. needs to be a part of mainstream dog rearing, in addition to positive reinforcement training and other non-aversive Conditioning methods, to effectively address the needs of dogs of all ages, personality types and backgrounds.