Millions of dogs and cats go into shelters every year and problem behavior is a leading cause. According to the ASPCA, approximately 7.6 million companion animals in the US enter shelters every year. Of those, approximately 3.9 million are dogs and 3.4 million are cats. Each year, approximately 2.7 million animals are euthanized (1.2 million dogs and 1.4 million cats).
Following are tips on when to seek help and if or when it might be time to seek out a Certified Dog Trainer or Veterinary Behavior Specialist.
COMMON CONCERNS / RED FLAGS
• Resource guarding
• Leash aggression or reactive behavior on or off leash
• You’re considering treating behavior with medication
• Acting out due to separation anxiety
• Issues with your dog harming a human or another dog
MOST COMMON BEHAVIOR ISSUES
“The most common behavior concern is aggression; others include separation anxiety, house soiling, excessive vocalization, fears and phobias, and compulsive behaviors,” according to Dr. Valli Parthasarathy, PhD, DVM, American College of Veterinary Behavior Resident, and owner of Synergy Behavior Solutions. “Behavioral problems can have many causes, including medical conditions, neurochemical imbalances, learned associations with certain triggers or situations, and conflict in relationships with owners or other animals.”
Pets with complex behavior problems, including aggression, who are treated with positive, reward-based training are at lower risk of negative side effects, says Dr. Parthasarathy.
Trainer or Veterinarian?
The blog, responsibledog.net, examined the differences between a trainer vs. behavior consultant. Here are a few tips:
Dog training professionals generally teach skills such as sit, down, stay, recall, and walking on lead. They may also help with other basic training issues. Some trainers are also educated in behavioral problems; however, in complex cases, a veterinary behavior specialist may be the best bet.
The professional behavior consultant aka veterinarian specialist assists in managing, resolving, and preventing behavior through pet parent education. Specific problems may include aggression, fears and phobias, separation anxiety and housetraining.
Behavior consultants identify a problem or conflict and formulate a behavior modification plan to change undesirable behavior(s). They then demonstrate how to implement the plan.
YOUR BEST SEARCH
• Rule out physical/medical concerns with your regular vet
• Contact more than one professional
• Interview thoroughly and obtain references
• Observe candidates training or working with a pet
A specialist will happily provide references and training or medical qualifications. Finding a “good trainer” or “good behaviorist” can be tough! The following organizations can help up your IQ on the subject:
• Veterinary Professionals: Look for credentials including DACVB - Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior
• Visit organizations including: IAABC, International Association of Behavior Consultants or ABS, The AmericanBehavior Society
• Trainers: Look for CCPDT credentials — Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
IF OPTING FOR A VETERINARY BEHAVIOR SPECIALIST
These professionals are board-certified in veterinary behavior and trained to identify and treat not only medical / environmental problems affecting behavior, but also purely behavioral concerns.
“Veterinary behaviorists practice in a variety of ways, including working with pet owners, collaborating with other animal professionals, and in shelters or other animal facilities,” says Dr. Parthasarathy. The goal is to manage behavior problems and improve the wellbeing of animals.”
IF OPTING FOR A TRAINER
Shermie, an eight-year-old Beagle/Basset mix who's eager to please, is reactive on leash with other dogs but fabulous off leash. He’s anxious and noise sensitive, and has seen a number of trainers and veterinarians over the years. Shermie has done great with daily positive, reward-based training. Your trainer should embrace positive reinforcement techniques.
TRENDING . . . PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT
Puzzle toys! Dr. Parthasarathy is seeing a significant increase in interactive toys for both dogs and cats, and increased client interest in enrichment. One recent book worth a look: Beyond Squeaky Toys by Nicole Nicassio-Hiskey & Cinthia Alia Mitchell.
• Dr. Pachel: animalbehaviorclinic.net
• Dr. Parthasarathy: synergybehavior.com
• American College of Veterinary Behavior Specialists: dacvb.org
As a Certified Vet Tech, longtime PR veteran and content marketing expert, Christy Caplan brings her unique understanding of social and digital media to connect dog lovers to brands both on and offline. She lives with three hounds – two Doxies and a Beagle/Basset Hound mix, who constantly teach her about life and companionship. Follow Christy atmylifewithdogspdx.com.