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The NeuroBalance Wheel: A Roadmap to Lifelong Behavioral Change in Dogs

My day often begins with enquiries from dog parents, dog-trainers, walkers, and daycare handlers facing behaviour problems that seem unfixable. Professionals say they have tried 'everything.' Dog parents mention speaking to their vets to rule out pain, and some even consider radical options if they don’t find a solution.

A typical case might involve a dog who loves to roll in animal feces, barks, and lunges at other dogs, weighing a whopping 160 pounds. The dog parent insists the only way to stop the rolling is with a shock collar. Another case could be dog parents with two dogs fighting, despite attempts by three trainers and a veterinarian suggesting fluoxetine to reduce aggression. Then, there’s the dog diagnosed with separation anxiety, biting his dog-walker deeply twice, and whose problems began following a divorce.

As a specialist in complex and persistent behaviour cases, these are some of the challenges I encounter. Everyone seeks answers to ongoing behaviour issues in their dogs, where gaps in our knowledge have failed them.

Purpose of the Behaviour Dog Parent Training (BDPT) Programme

I developed the BDPT programme to address these questions and fill in the gaps. It focuses on behaviours that are both complex and persistent. Persistent means that outside parties—vets, behaviourists, or trainers—have tried to fix it, but the behaviour re-emerged even after slight improvements. Complexity involves multiple problematic behaviours, potential physical or mental disabilities, and/or the family experiencing multiple life changes. BDPT expands on traditional dog training and behaviour lessons. It applies skills, techniques, and methods used to resolve some of the world’s toughest problems, yet transferable to the micro-complexities of dogs and their human caregivers. It draws on years of applied psychology and neuroscience, embedded with new scientific breakthroughs in dog and human studies.

My background, methodologies, and understanding of complex problems help me answer why we sometimes fail to help dog parents raising dogs with the best intentions.

Daily Research and Discoveries

As a researcher at heart, I spend my days reading scientific studies across various topics. When dog parents consistently reported not being helped by previous professionals, I realized the problem needed proper definition and thorough answers. BDPT aims to provide a new context to understand behavioural challenges in dogs and offers a roadmap for making decisions based on the dog’s brain and body, dog-parent self-awareness and self-care, and environmental constraints.

The Problem in Current Approaches

  • We use too many one-size-fits-all solutions.

  • We don't consider the individual dog—their preferences, strengths, and developing areas.

  • We don't account for the dog's social and emotional development.

  • We lack best practices for changing human behavior to raise the best dog.

  • Treatment plans often lack rationale beyond surface-level observations, leading to failures.

  • We don't use common systems archetypes to predict failures in approaches.

  • We don't use metrics to track key indicators of effective change in dog and dog parent behaviours.

Introducing the NeuroBalance Wheel

A pie-shape wheel that details emerging and impaired executive functioning in dogs
The NeuroBalance Wheel - part of our innovative adward-winning BDPT programme

The NeuroBalance Wheel is one part of our innovative approach to revitalizing dog behaviour through evidence-based, creative system dynamics. It provides dog parents with a precise tool to identify if their dog’s behaviour stems from emerging or impaired executive functions. Here's how it works:

  1. Impulse Control: A dog with emerging top-down control will pause and manage its actions. Bottom-up overexcitement might result in impulsive behaviours like zoomies.

  2. Movement: Top-down functioning is evident when a dog maintains controlled body movements. Bottom-up responses manifest as frantic or uncontrolled movements, such as jumping on guests.

  3. Asking for Assistance: Dogs with healthy executive functioning will seek help through check-ins and eye contact. Those feeling unsafe may act independently.

  4. Delayed Gratification: An emerging executive function allows dogs to manage delays before acting. Bottom-up reactions result in immediate, often thoughtless actions.

  5. Working Memory: Lessons and training “stick” with dogs that have robust executive functioning. Those operating from a bottom-up state require frequent reteaching.

  6. Flexibility: Adaptability in response to new information signifies strong top-down processes. Difficulty in adjusting to new situations points to impaired executive functioning.

A Roadmap to Full Potential

The NeuroBalance Wheel offers a clear, structured roadmap to unlocking your dog’s full potential. By identifying specific areas where your dog excels or struggles, you can tailor training approaches to support and enhance executive functioning. This proactive strategy fosters an environment where dogs can thrive both emotionally and behaviourally.

The NeuroBalance Wheel translates complex neurological concepts into practical, actionable steps. By focusing on the root causes of behaviour rather than just the symptoms, it paves the way for sustainable and long-term change. It empowers dog parents to move beyond guesswork, providing a scientific basis for their observations and interventions.

Achieving Lifelong Change

Understanding and using the NeuroBalance Wheel is a significant advancement in canine psychology. It equips dog parents with the insights needed to nurture their dog’s executive functions, promoting manageable behaviours and emotional balance.

This tool represents a key innovation in our broader approach to dog behaviour. It bridges the gap between understanding and action, providing a clear, science-based pathway to lasting behavioural change. Every dog parent can become an informed and effective advocate for their dog’s mental and emotional well-being, leading to a harmonious and fulfilling life together.

The Author

With a career spanning over 30 years, Sparky Smith has mastered the art of strategic and systems thinking across major financial institutions, specializing in leveraging technology to enhance risk management and organizational effectiveness. Her early career was marked by developing cutting-edge solutions that streamlined operations and compliance across various sectors. Her work with world-class strategists has helped develop a common language for business strategists, enhancing strategic alignment and execution.

Transitioning from high-level corporate strategy to the field of animal psychology, Sparky has applied her profound understanding of systems thinking to the complexities of canine behavior. This includes the integration of AI technology and the development of innovative tools that assist both veterinarians and dog parents. Her innovative approach to canine psychology has earned her multiple accolades, including "Best Human-Centric Canine Psychologist" by LuxLife Magazine and "Pet Psychologist of the Year 2022" from Corporate Livewire. She is a finalist in the Change Leadership Award for Change Innovator 2024.

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Sparky SmithSparky Smith

Internationally recognised, multi-certified and award-winning Canine Psychologist & Behaviourist | A global specialist in System Thinking, Business Strategy and Complex Change.Internationally recognised, multi-certified and award-winning Canine Psychologist & Behaviourist | A global specialist in System Thinking, Business Strategy and Complex Change.

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