|Frequently Asked Questions|
The following are typical questions people ask about our pet behavior consulting services.
What is Pet Behavior Consulting?
Pet Behavior Consulting involves working with you and your pet to resolve problem behaviors that are usually occurring due to a specific emotional state of the animal. Typical behavior problems we deal with include: aggression and biting, separation anxiety, inappropriate urination and defecation, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, resource guarding, fears and phobias and other stress related behaviors.
Our goal is to help you better understand the normal and abnormal behavioral patterns of dogs in general, as well as understanding the individual needs of your particular pet. We provide you with a behavior modification protocol to assist in the resolution of the problem behavior. Here at Green Acres, we also recommend treatment with Bach Flower Remedies for most behavior cases. You can learn more about the Bach Flower Remedies at this link: http://www.greenacreskennel.com/articles/an-overview-of-the-bach-flower-essences
How Does Pet Behavior Consulting Differ from Training?
Ideally, training should be proactive. You start with a puppy and teach it how to successfully live in the human world, while also attending to their own unique needs as a different species. Training focuses on teaching a pet desirable behaviors and good manners; such as not jumping on people, sitting on a cue, walking nicely on a leash, leaving items when asked and coming when called.
Behavior consulting focuses on the animal’s emotional state in addition to teaching behaviors. A client typically seeks behavior consulting because their pet is acting in a manner they feel is either potentially dangerous to others or to the pet itself. What is an important distinction here, is that the animals are usually equally anxious and unhappy in these situations. Unfortunately, for our animals, all too often a significant period of time has passed before a guardian realizes the severity of the behavior and help is sought. For this reason, behavior modification can take much longer than training; we are not only trying to teach alternate behaviors, but also change an animal’s emotional state.
NOTE: A training class will seldom resolve behavior problems that involve fear, anxiety or aggression; in fact a class may make these types of problems worse. Dog training classes will include unfamiliar people and dogs. If your dog is uncomfortable around unknown people, unknown dogs or perhaps both, you would be placing your dog in a very stressful situation where they will have a high probability of reacting. This will not only make their undesirable behavior more likely to occur, but it puts others at risk and severely limits you and your dog’s ability to learn. If you have a dog that is fearful, anxious or aggressive you should meet with a qualified pet behavior consultant for an evaluation before enrolling your dog in any training class.
Do Many Pets Need A Behavior Consultation?
Most pets will probably never need to see a behavior consultant. However, the number of animals being seen for behavior problems is increasing. In 2015 the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) issued their Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines. This groundbreaking document reports that behavior problems are the number one problem facing pets today. The guidelines indicate this is due to misinformation about behavior, such as dominance, as well as the use of aversive tools and methods use for training and managing pets. You can learn more about the guidelines at the blog post and podcast found at this link http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2016/03/13/podcast-the-woof-meow-show-pet-behavior-vets-the-aaha-canine-and-feline-behavior-management-guidelines-with-dr-dave-cloutier-from-veazie-veterinary-clinic/
As lifestyles become more chaotic and hectic, stress increases and stress affects everyone in the family, not just the humans. When one is stressed, whether a person or a pet, they are more prone to behavioral and emotional problems. You can learn more about stress and dogs at this link: http://www.greenacreskennel.com/blog/2015/11/01/canine-behavior-understanding-identifying-and-coping-with-canine-stress/
When Do I Know My Pet Needs Professional Help?
People, even loving and responsible guardians, too often fail to see and heed the warning signals their pets are giving to them that there may be a problem brewing. If your pet displays any behavior or emotional state that concerns you, it is best to discuss this with a professional as soon as possible. While it may be nothing, it may also be the start of a behavioral pattern that may rapidly spiral downward. When weeks, months or even years pass by, the chances of a positive outcome become slimmer. Once people recognize their pet has a behavior problem, the sooner they start working with a qualified pet behavior consultant the better the prognosis for resolving the problem and the less frustration for both people and pet.
Why Is Seeking Prompt Help So Important?
We still do not understand with 100% certainty how the brain works. However, one of the things we do know is, the more a behavior is repeated, the more habitual it becomes. For example, if a dog has been growling and charging individuals walking by the house for the past three months, it is going to be much more difficult to change that behavior than if the client had contacted us within a week of this behavior starting. The brain actually rewires itself as behaviors are rehearsed, making the same response more and more likely. The cases where this has been going on for a year or more are even more difficult. That is not to say these pets cannot be helped, but by this time most clients are incredibly frustrated which only exacerbates the situation. The longer a problem has been occurring, the longer it takes to treat and resolve, and the poorer the prognosis for a total cure.
Can’t I Fix This On My Own?
Often people try to resolve problems on their own without qualified help; instead seeking advice from friends and family, outdated books, the internet, or TV shows with “celebrity” trainers that advise you “not to try this at home”. These sources may end up with you doing something that actually makes the problem worse. Even people that have excellent relationships with their pets and a solid understanding of learning may benefit from an objective opinion. Sadly, sometimes people do not seek out a pet behavior consultant until they are the last resort before deciding to consider rehoming or euthanizing their pet.
What Do People Do That Make These Problems Worse?
Aside from not dealing with a behavior problem promptly, another serious mistake people make with behavior problems is to punish the pet for the behavior. Often this is due to fear, embarrassment or misinformation about the species in general and how to handle these situations. Punishment can come in many forms and should be thought of as levels on a continuum. It may be as overt as hitting or subjecting a pet to an electric shock or as subtle as dirty looks. Fear is the root cause of many behavior problems, and punishment only exacerbates the fear and anxiety, making the behavior worse.
Leading associations of pet care professionals have adopted position statements that outline the detriment of using outdated constructs such as dominance and dangerous and aversive tools and methods when training or managing pets. Among them are the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior (AVSAB), and the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Here at Green Acres Kennel Shop we have had position statements on pet-friendly pet care and the use of dominance and punishment for many years. You can find links to all of these documents below.
American Animal Hospital (AAHA) 2015 Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – <Click Here>
American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Behavior Modification of animals. – <Click Here>
American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Position Statement – Punishment Guidelines: The use of punishment for dealing with animal behavior problems. <Click Here>
The Guiding Principles of the Pet Professional Guild – <Click Here>
The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Dominance Theory in Animal Training – <Click Here>
The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Pet Correction Devices – <Click Here>
The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Choke and Prong Collars – <Click Here>
The Pet Professional Guild Position Statement on the Use of Shock In Animal Training – <Click Here>
Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on Pet-Friendly Pet Care – <Click Here>
Green Acres Kennel Shop Position Statement on the Use of Dominance and Punishment for the Training and Behavior Modification of Dogs – <Click Here>
People also make behavior problems worse when they unintentionally reward behavior with attention. We often see this with stereotypical behaviors like chasing shadows, chasing tails, etc. The first time people see a dog chase its tail they might think it is cute and laugh, which the dog may find rewarding, thus increasing the chances of repeating the behavior. While these behaviors may not seem serious at first, they can be the start of additional behavior problems and may cause physical disabilities
How Should One Choose A Pet Behavior Consultant?
There are three levels of qualified professionals that specialize in assisting pets with behavioral problems. The level that is most accessible to people are practitioners who have been credentialed as Certified Dog Behavior Consultants (CDBC) or Certified Animal Behavior Consultants (CABC) by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Those credentialed by the IAABC must demonstrate competency in counseling skills and social systems assessment, behavioral science, a general knowledge of animal behavior, genetics, neuropsychology, ethology and species-specific knowledge of healthcare, nutrition, husbandry, and behavior. Those certified are required to accumulate continuing education units on a regular basis. These individuals focus on the use of behavior modification protocols to treat animals. You can find a list of IAABC behavior consultants at this website: http://iaabc.org/consultants
The next tier of pet behavior counselors is Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB). These individuals are credentialed by the Animal Behavior Society and typically have doctoral degrees in animal behavior or related fields. They focus on more difficult cases and the use of behavior modification protocols to treat animals. There are very few such individuals in the United States. You can find a list of Animal Behavior Society Certified Applied Animal Behavior Consultants at this website: http://certifiedanimalbehaviorist.com/members/
At the top level are those who are credentialed by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. A Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists uses the initials DACVB after their name. These are veterinarians who have completed an approved residency program in veterinary behavior and have passed a national board examination in that discipline. A board certified Veterinary Behaviorist specializes in clinical animal behavior and is able to diagnose and treat medical and behavioral problems, as well as prescribe medications to treat those problems. There are very few such individuals in the United States, most of them in larger cities, major universities or veterinary schools. You can find a list of veterinarians accredited by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists at this website: http://www.dacvb.org/about/member-directory/
If you wish to follow the above route, talk to your veterinarian about getting a referral to The Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University - http://vet.tufts.edu/behavior/
Green Acres’ Don Hanson is an IAABC Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and an Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant. Don is also a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP). This means that in addition to having the credentials to develop behavior modification protocols for dogs and cats, he has also completed the required courses and examinations to be credentialed by the Dr. Edward Bach Foundation in the use of the Bach Flower Remedies for the treatment of animals. You can review Don’s credentials at this link: http://www.greenacreskennel.com/about-the-owners/dons-credentials
How Does Pet Behavior Consulting Work?
The specifics of how consulting works will vary with each practitioner. Typically, all consults start with a telephone call and a recommendation that the animal have a complete veterinary workup to rule out any medical causes for the behavior problem. The next step may or may not involve you completing questionnaires before going to see the consultant. Most pet behavior consultants will insist on seeing the animal in person, or minimally, a videotape in the case of a long distance consultation. If you need to work with someone via long distance, be sure to involve your veterinarian and a local Certified Professional Dog Trainer so that you have local professionals to assist you.
At Green Acres, we require you take your pet to their veterinarian for a medical exam to rule out physical causes for behavioral concerns first. Once a medical problem has been ruled out and there has been an initial phone conversation to briefly discuss the presenting problem, you will be referred to our Pre-Consultation Seminar to further educate you about behavior, stress, management techniques, canine body language and to discuss to some general concepts that you will need to understand prior to beginning the consultation process. You will then be asked to fill out a detailed history form on your pet. The more time you take and the more details you provide, the better we can help you and your pet.
What Is A Behavior Modification Protocol?
A behavior modification protocol uses both operant and classical conditioning to help your pet learn to offer alternate positive responses to undesirable behaviors. The content of the plan depends on the nature of the problem we are trying to address. A typical plan will consist of you working with your pet for short periods of time (5 to 10 minutes) for several regular sessions while minimizing stressful situations. All behavior modification methods used by Green Acres are based upon the principles of positive reinforcement and will consist of no punitive measures. Our motto here is: “Behaviors that are rewarded tend to be repeated.”
What Are the Bach Flower Remedies?
The Bach Flower Remedies are all natural, herbal preparations developed in the 1930’s to help restore health by balancing one’s emotional state. While originally intended for use with people, today they are also effectively used for treating many behavioral problems with animals. The Bach Flower Remedies are especially beneficial when treating problems involving fear or anxiety. The number of behavior modification sessions can often be reduced if, rather than stressed, a pet is calm and relaxed and thus more open to learning. In his practice, Don has successfully used the Bach Flower Remedies for several years. You can learn more about the Bach Flower Remedies at this link: http://www.greenacreskennel.com/articles/an-overview-of-the-bach-flower-essences
How Long Does It Take For A Pet To Get Better?
There are a plethora of variables that affect resolving concerning behaviors. The only thing that is certain is if a client fails to address a behavior problem it will usually get worse. How quickly a pet recovers will depend on: the pet’s inherent personality, their age, how long the behavior has been occurring, the type of problem, the client’s inherent personality, compliance to management, the behavior modification protocol and treatment with the Bach Flower Remedies. The reality is for some animals, the behavior may only improve marginally over the course of years, whereas for others, the problem behavior could extinguish and never return again in a matter of weeks. Most behavioral problems require a strong commitment on the part of the guardian to help see their pet through.