This is the first step. It is the foundation that all the other layers are built upon. You need to understand what you are starting with, what is normal for your dog, what is normal behavior for all dogs, and what you can and can’t change.
Think of bringing your vehicle to a mechanic. He needs to understand your make and model, what is normal for that vehicle, what is causing a problem, and what can be reasonably accomplished in the shop. For instance, expecting a Corvette to be a good off-road vehicle, or expecting a Wrangler to excel at road racing may be a stretch, but with a lot of work, the mechanic can do his best to get a Corvette to do what a Wrangler was designed for and vice versa. But, no matter how good that mechanic is, a Corvette is never going to perform off-road as well as a Wrangler and a Wrangler will never race like a Corvette.
Dog training plans start off the same way. Just as all cars have similar characteristics, but differences within models, dogs in general are very similar, but have definite differences stretching across the various breeds. The average Rottweiler will never be a Beagle and the average Beagle will never be a Rottweiler. You need to know what is the typical behavior for each breed or type of dog you are working with and know what limitations to expect. Then, it is also easier to recognize dogs that are born with certain genetic characteristics that may not be the norm for their breed. This will help steer you in the right direction when making your training plan and not hit dead ends because you are expecting something impossible from a certain dog.
Lastly, in this first step you need to classify each behavior that is causing a problem for you and understand WHY the dog is behaving this way in the first place.
Keep in mind that the term “behavior problem” is relative. It is only a behavior “problem” if it is causing a problem for you.
To recap, you should be able to answer:
1. What is typical behavior of all dogs in general?
2. What is typical behavior for the type of dog that i want to train?
3. Which of these behaviors is causing a problem for me?
4. Why is the dog showing these behaviors?
A good place to start answering these questions is to learn about the basic culture of all typical dogs..