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  • Writer's pictureChristine Bauhs, CPDT-KA

Obedience Training Vs Behavior Modification

dog training behavior modification

I get asked a lot about the differences between dog training and behavior modification, so here is a description of the differences between these training modalities and what they are used for.

Dog training is essentially obedience, manners and/or vocational training. It means we are starting from a clean slate and teaching the dog how to interact with us and the world. We are creating behaviors that were not previously present. Dog training is cumulative, meaning we start by laying a foundation (i.e. how to sit), and then as the dog masters cues and commands, we build upon his abilities by adding distance, distraction, duration and complexity (i.e. a sit stay for five minutes while you leave the room and make a bunch of noise). This also includes vocational training for service dogs, drug dogs, police dogs, etc. It is essentially the dog version of going to school, K-12, and possibly college and beyond.

Behavior modification does involve some training, but rather than starting from a clean slate, we are taking behaviors that already exist - behaviors that are undesirable, detrimental, dangerous, or even deadly - and replacing them with more appropriate behaviors. A common example is taking a dog that lunges and barks at other dogs when on lead, and replacing that learned behavior (because IT IS LEARNED) with a new behavior, perhaps sitting calmy and looking at the handler when other dogs approach on lead. It is usually not simply enough to expect that we can eradicate a certain behavior without replacing it with a new one. It is really key to teach the dog what we want him to do instead, rather than just teaching him what we don't want him to do.

If you want your dog to learn commands and cues, and exhibit more obedience, then standard dog training is going to be the path for you. If your dog is exhibiting behavioral issues such as excessive barking, biting, chewing, toileting in the house, anxiety, fear, aggression or antisocial behaviors, then behavior modification will be the best choice. Not all trainers do both, so when looking for a professional, be sure that they are knowledgeable and experienced in the area of your need.

K9 Holistics offers both obedience/manners training as well as behavior modification. If you have any questions about either of these approaches or would like to speak with a trainer, please contact us today at

Christine Fasan is the head trainer and canine behaviorist for K9 Holistics. She specializes in German Shepherd Dogs and healing reactivity in dogs of all breeds. K9 Holistics offers dog training and behavior modification in St. Petersburg and throughout Pinellas County. We also offer pet care services including dog walking and pet sitting. Please contact Christine at

#trainingprotocols #behavior #progressivetraining

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