For those of you who are curious about behavior modification, the easiest explanation is that it is a series of gradual, systematic training sessions using positive reinforcement to encourage and teach acceptable behaviors. Woody's issues, from most serious to least serious, include stress-induced aggression, marking behaviors, territorial behavior, mounting, and over-excitement in new settings and around new people. Rather than simply teaching a dog to perform specific actions when requested (basic obedience), behavior modification teaches a dog how to react to stressful situations. In Woody's case, the beginning stages required obedience-style commands as the foundation for more advanced layering of techniques to teach a more desirable behavior, such as not mounting my friends or barking when someone enters knocks on my door.
Below is the video of Woody and I (please excuse my Sunday morning appearance) that I shared with The Behavior Clinic a few days before last night's session. In a few months, I hope to share our more advanced work.
The biggest takeaway from all this, besides how smart animals really are, is how much this is about training me as it is training the dog. I'm responsible for working with Woody on a daily, yet sporadic, basis, I have to maintain a sense of patience and positivity, and, most importantly, I have to learn how to read Woody and help manage his stressful situations before they escalate into a serious problem. I guess, in a way, this step in Woody's training means I've advanced myself in my ability to care for another living thing. And that, my friends, is pretty cool.