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Do you need a behaviorist?

Many people ask me if I train dogs. The answer? No….and yes.  Training techniques are essential to what I do, but my services stretch far beyond regular obedience training. In fact, it’s an unwritten rule of thumb that if I need to teach more than two basic training measures, I prefer to refer the client to a trainer — for their own benefit. It saves them money and will provide a far more appropriate service for such clients.

So how do you know if you need a behaviorist or a trainer? Well, essentially, if you have already taught your pet basic behavior skills: sit, stay, down, off, etc. or if your pet’s behavioral issue is of more concern than a trainer typically deals with, you will likely benefit from consulting with a behavior professional. For example, does your dog jump on people when they come in the door? If you have already taught him sit and stay, then you may need a behaviorist. On the other hand, if the dog has not yet been taught how to sit/stay on command and mastered these commands, then it may be preferential that you first discuss this with a trainer. Similarly, a dog or cat that is eliminating in the home may not have been housebroken properly. However, if he/she has already learned to eliminate outside or in a litter box and begins displaying inappropriate elimination despite having been cleared of medical issues by a veterinarian, you will likely have better success as a behavioral client versus obedience training.

Other examples of  behavioral issues that are beyond that of a basic obedience trainer include fear- and anxiety-related behaviors. Such is the case with the dog that has been diagnosed by the veterinarian with separation anxiety. Similarly, a dog that is storm-phobic is not going to respond to obedience training in the midst of his/her anxiety. Animals that display behaviors that are of a compulsive nature (eg. tail-chasing, flank licking/chewing, acral lick granuloma/dermatitis, and more) will likely benefit from behavioral intervention. These issues are not addressable through obedience training methods.

These are just a few of the many problems that can be tackled through behavioral measures. Furthermore, a behaviorist will work hand-in-hand with your veterinarian and trainer to make sure that your pet receives the most appropriate and comprehensive care possible. When an elderly pet experiences symptoms of cognitive decline, a veterinarian’s expertise is necessary in intervening on the medical level while the behaviorist can help the owner deal with and minimize or eliminate the unwanted behaviors that come with the disorder.

Do you need a behavior professional’s help with your pet? If you still aren’t sure, just ask! I am happy to discuss your situation with you and direct you in the most appropriate path for your pet.

Photo credit: http://shameyourpet.com/2012/10/20/i-eat-all-beds/

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