When we begin looking for a resolution to a behavioral problem, these are the things that we need to consider. The lower the level on the list where the dog is deficient, the more likely we are to see behavior problems across a broad spectrum. As we move up the list, we will see behavior problems in more specific circumstances. For example, a joint pain issue may leave you with a generally grumpy dog in every circumstance until the problem is relieved. A dog that needs help with a specific trigger, like other dogs, might be pretty perfect except when that trigger is present.
Level 1 - Health
Chronic or acute conditions that affect the dog's health. Are they sick? In pain? Are there neurological issues? Visual acuity, mobility, or other physical issues? Do they have a quality diet?
Level 2 - Lifestyle
Are they getting enough exercise? Do they get to engage in biologically fulfilling activities? What are their common social interactions with dogs and people like? What are the environmental stressors?
Level 3 - Training
What is their level of obedience training? How consistent are the people in how they interact with the dog? How consistent are the consequences for good and bad behavior? How structured are the day to day activities?
Level 4 - Handling
How well does the handler read the body language of, and advocate for, the dog? Have we created training scenarios that are similar in scope and intensity to the current situation and assured the dog is successful in them? When we cannot train for situations, what are the management efforts put in place to assist the dog?
Level 5 - Triggers
What is the specific thing that the dog is responding poorly to? Is their response reasonable considering the situation?