The Arnoff Model

for Diagnosing and Treating Dog Behavior Problems © Karen Arnoff 1978

Diagnosing or correcting dog behavior problem(s) is always done on an individual basis. You and any other members of the family are ‘the class.’

The very first step we take at Cleveland Dog Training Classes is to understand each specific trait of a dog’s genetic predisposition.

Genetic predisposition

A dog’s genetic predisposition determines the unique set of personality traits that shape his behavior and temperament prior to any environmental influences. Genetics predispose a dog to have specific reactions to stress, whether he’s actively or passively defensive and how he manifests his defensiveness, how strong his drives are etc.

When diagnosing and creating a treatment plan to correct dog behavior problems, we at Cleveland Dog Training Classes incorporate the following major concepts that impact both you and your dog.


As a pack animal, dogs naturally look for a leader for security, limitations and direction.  For successful domestication training, dog-owners must establish leadership. There are four parts to leadership:

  1. who instigates and who follows,
  2. who owns the space,
  3. who appears to have more expectations and
  4. who’s more indifferent.

Cleveland Dog Training Classes helps you embrace leadership as a positive, non-aggressive relationship between dogs and their human families. We show you that it forms the foundation for successful domestication training. You will learn how to establish leadership primarily through non-verbal communication. We also help you learn to establish leadership in each of the four areas, so you are in control, without needing to dominate or intimidate your dog. And, as a result, your dog learns to follow you, respect limitations you’ve set and become the obedient dog you have always wanted and, at the same time, he feels secure that, if you’re comfortable, he can relax.

Canine Learning

Dog learning differs from humans in three major ways.

  1. They have a different sensory system
  2. They are not verbal
  3. They cannot reason
  4. So much more

Cleveland Dog Training Classes helps you understand how your dog learns. You will discover that in dog obedience training there is no need to use confrontation or intimidation. We help you apply learning principles and use several training methods in an easily understood formula designed to make it easier for you and your dog to succeed.  Because dogs learn not only by direct training but by unintentional training (probably 75% of the teaching done in domestication) and by experiencing what goes on around them, we at Cleveland Dog Training Classes help you identify and understand how your dog is learning from you in each of these areas, so you can more easily shape and change your dog’s behavior.


Your dog needs to receive the right kinds of stimulation both for him and for your family’s specific need and goals. Improper stimulation is:

  1. Not enough,
  2. Too much
  3. The wrong kind

The areas of stimulation are:

  1. Sensory
  2. Mental
  3. Physical
  4. Reflexive

For domestication, Cleveland Dog Training Classes teaches you to be the source of the proper kind and amount of stimulation for your dog.

Fear, Stress, and Frustration

Thunderstorm phobia? Separation anxiety? Fear, stress and frustration exacerbate your dog’s genetic stress manifestations.  Some dogs are oral (chewing, licking); some are vocal (howling, barking); some are physical (pacing, digging) and some have an internal response, (urinating, defecating).  Some dogs have more than one stress reaction.  You can’t change what stress reactions your dog has because that part is part of his genetics.  You can, however, change the amount of stress your dog feels. And, when he isn’t stressed, most, and perhaps all the problem behaviors go away.

Some dogs are actively defensive when they’re afraid. They may want to flee or fight. You can’t change how they react when they’re defensive.  But you can change whether your ­dog becomes defensive.  Punishing stress manifestations is not useful because it will cause more stress, more defensiveness and more acting out. Cleveland Dog Training Classes teaches you how to minimize your dog’s reactions to fear and stress.

Before we begin to correct fear- and stress-induced behavior problems, Cleveland Dog Training Classes will help you learn how to 1) establish a leadership relationship with your dog, 2) meet your dog’s needs for stimulation, 3) teach your dog what you want him to know and make sure he’s not unintentionally learning what you don’t want him to know and 4) desensitize and counter-condition your dog to the triggers that make him fearful and/or stressed.

To learn more about what some dog owners may be doing unwittingly regarding their dog’s thunderstorms induced stress, you might want to read my article, Putting a Damper on Mr. Goodpuppy’s Spring.

Physiological Development and Disorders

Puppyhood? Illness? Geriatric problems? Normal physical development and physiological disorders as well as medications, can produce “behavior problems” that are often misunderstood. By identifying common or uncommon physiological factors and their impact on the dog’s behavior, Cleveland Dog Training Classes  often corrects the source of a problem without correcting the dog.

The ARNOFF MODEL is a proprietory tool developed by Karen at Cleveland Dog Training Classes to thoroughly diagnose and correct the many possible sources of dog behavior problems. 

Karen’s knowledge, experience, use of her five-step model (See The Arnoff Model) and 30 years of client successes is why you’ll succeed with Cleveland Dog Training Classes (formerly the Dog-Owner Connection).