Pet Behavior Counseling

Green Acres Kennel Shop co-owner Don Hanson is credentialed by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) as a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) and Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC). He is also credentialed as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and as a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP) by the Bach Foundation. Don offers the following pet behavior consulting services:

  • Which Pet Is the Right One for Me? – This service is for those that are considering getting a pet or adding a pet to their existing family and seek advice on selecting a pet that will best meet their expectations given their current lifestyle and environment as well as what they envision for the future. A pet is a long-term commitment, and during your pet's life, many things in your life can change. We might move, get married, or have kids, all of which can be a difficult transition for both you and your pet. Taking the time 09 29 19 don and muppy 33and energy to thoughtfully consider which pet will be the best for you now and in the future may save you and your pet a from future emotional trauma. This service is as much about you asking questions as it is about Don providing information. He welcomes questions about the type of pet (dog or cat), breed or mixed breed, age (puppy/kitten, adolescent, or senior), coat type, size, and even where you should look when seeking to obtain a pet. The second biggest reason a pet sees a veterinarian, other than for an annual wellness exam, is for behavioral concerns. By proactive planning, you can reduce the odds of needing to deal with a pet with a behavioral issue. Don’s goal is to use his knowledge and 25-plus years of experience to help you find a pet that will meet your expectations and is the least likely to develop behavioral issues in the future.
  • Educational Seminars – Don has developed a wide variety of educational programs for individuals and organizations to teach them about canine and feline behavior, our pets basic welfare needs, how they express emotions, and how cats and dogs communicate with us and one another, and how we can best communicate with them. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has determined that one of the main reasons so many pets develop behavior problems is due to the erroneous information about pet behavior circulated by pet care professionals, other people, and the internet and social media. The goal of our educational seminars is to provide people with accurate information to prevent behavior problems from developing.
  • Behavior Consultations for Minor Issues – A behavior consultation to address minor issues would cover a cat not using their litter box, puppy housetraining, chewing, and play biting, or a pet that is mildly anxious or fearful. Typically, this will involve meeting with Don in person with your pet so that he can assess the best way to help you. He may recommend that you see your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist, or he may suggest you and your dog enroll in a No, Pain, No Force, No Fear dog training class. Dogs and their people that complete a training class are less likely to encounter behavioral problems.
  • Behavior Consultations for Aggression & Separation Anxiety – Don is currently limiting his behavior consultation practice for clients with pets with aggression or separation anxiety issues to those that are existing clients of Green Acres Kennel Shop. Since medical issues can play a major role in behavioral health, Don will continue to suggest you talk to your veterinarian first and he will likely also suggest you make an appointment with Dr. Christine Calder, a veterinary behaviorist practicing in Brunswick Maine. As a veterinarian who is also an accredited specialist in behavior, Dr. Calder is uniquely qualified to recommend appropriate medications and behavior modification protocols to help your pet. You can learn more about Dr. Calder at http://bit.ly/WMw-DrCalderVetBhx. If you are not currently a Green Acres client, Don recommends you start with an appointment with Dr. Calder [Dr. Christine Calder, Maine Humane, Brunswick, ME, (207) 449-1366].

 

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Things For You to Consider

Serious behavior problems with dogs include but are not limited to aggression and reactivity (growling, barking, lunging, and biting of people, dogs, or other animals), resource guarding (food, spaces, objects, and people), fears and phobias (thunderstorms, loud noises, children, fireworks, separation anxiety, etc.), destructive behavior, excessive barking, and abnormal stress and anxiety.

Having a dog that is anxious, fearful, reactive, or aggressive towards people or other animals is challenging. It is not a problem that typically resolves quickly or without qualified professional help. When a dog is afraid and reacting, they are most likely suffering every bit as much as if they had a severe physical injury. Emotional pain is very real and typically does not go away on its own. The brain remembers everything about a traumatic event to prevent it from happening again. The longer this behavior goes on, the more likely it becomes a learned behavior, which makes it even stronger.

For example: If a dog is afraid of the approach of the postal carrier, the dog may bark, growl, and lunge aggressively at the door. The postal carrier delivers the mail and then walks away. However, from the dog’s perspective, they believe that they were successful in driving the postal carrier away, thus preventing them from being hurt. The dog’s behavior of barking, growling, and lunging has been reinforced, and behavior that is reinforced is likely to be repeated. We now have the dog’s fear and learning both working to cause the behavior to become more prevalent and every time this occurs the behavior will become stronger.

Some behavioral issues, especially those related to fear and anxiety, may be due to a dog's genetics or recent or past trauma. Insufficient socialization and habituation during the 8 to 16-week critical period may also be a factor.

Things You Can Do Immediately

  1. Have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian experienced in behavior modification and behavior medications? This will typically be a Veterinary Behaviorist.
  2. Manage your pet and their environment to prevent the behavior from occurring and to keep everyone safe. [ FMI - Management of An Aggressive, Fearful or Reactive Doghttp://bit.ly/BhxManagement ]
  3. Do not punish the dog in any way for reactive/aggressive or anxiety-based behavior. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and Pet Professional Guild both believe that aversives such as shock, choke, and prong collars should NEVER be used with any dog and may make a dog more fearful and increasingly aggressive. [ FMI - Reward Based Training versus Aversives - http://bit.ly/RewardVSAversive ] Shock collars are especially dangerous. [ FMI - What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Traininghttp://bit.ly/ShockBARK-JUL2019 ].
  4. Begin keeping a daily journal to share with the professionals working with you and your dog, and [ FMI - Keeping A Daily Journalhttp://bit.ly/BHXDailyJournal ]

I have expanded on each of the above steps below, explaining why they are so critical in helping you and your dog.

Step 1

Have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian experienced in behavior modification and behavior medications

A comprehensive veterinary exam is essential and even more important if your dog’s behavior changes started suddenly. Pain and any type of physical discomfort can cause behavioral changes in pets. Disorders of the nervous, endocrine, reproductive, and gastrointestinal systems can also affect your pet’s behavior. Tick-borne diseases have become much more prevalent in Maine and can also affect behavior. While a few years ago we only needed to worry about Lyme disease in Maine, today we also need to be concerned about Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Borrelia miyamotoi, Ehrlichiosis, Powassan Encephalitis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Lastly, as pets become seniors, they can experience deterioration in their senses and mental health issues similar to dementia in humans, which can make them more likely to be anxious and reactive. Medical issues do not go away on their own and must be treated for behavior modification and training to be successful.

You can learn more about Dr. Calder at http://bit.ly/WMw-DrCalderVetBhx

Many people contact me about their pet’s behavior problems expressing that they do not want to use medication. It is important to understand that medication may be the quickest way to help your dog feel better and may be necessary if you wish your dog to have a full recovery. Remember, when your dog is having a behavioral crisis or emotional outburst, they are suffering. Dr. Calder has had extensive training in using medications to treat behavioral issues and also understands how all of the systems in your dog’s body can affect behavior and mental health.

Step 2

Manage Your Dog and Their Environment to Prevent the Undesired Behavior

One of the most critical components to keeping people, other animals, and your pet safe, and to changing your pet’s behavior, is to manage your pet and their environment to prevent the undesired behavior from happening. In other words, if your pet reacts aggressively towards people coming into your home, have the pet confined in another room before answering the door. If your pet is reactive to other pets, keep them away from other pets. Preventing the behavior is essential for two reasons; 1) safety – we do not want any person or any pet, including yours, to get hurt, and 2) every time your pet exhibits reactive/aggressive behavior, it becomes more likely to happen again making it harder to change. If your dog is reactive towards people, dogs, or both, visits to the dog park or events where dog and people are present will NOT be helpful and may put others at risk.

Step 3

Do NOT Punish Your Pet for Their Behavior

Punishment, physical or otherwise, is extremely unlikely to make your pet less reactive and is very likely to damage their bond with you and the corresponding trust that goes with that bond. Punishment almost always makes these problems worse. If you are currently using a shock, choke, or prong collar with your dog, please stop doing so immediately. Even yelling at your dog while looking at them with a frown on your face can be perceived as punishment by your dog and may cause them to become more anxious because they may feel as if they can no longer trust the person they look to for safety.

Step 4

Start Keeping A Daily Journal

No matter whom you see to help with the problem you are experiencing with your pet, we recommend that you immediately start a daily journal. Dedicate a computer file or notebook for this purpose. If you keep your journal in a word processing file on your computer, it will make it easier for you to share it with the professional that is helping you.

Your journal should contain the following necessary information:

  • General comments on your pet’s overall demeanor for that day.
  • General comments on your overall demeanor for that day.
  • A description of any positive events that occurred that day.
  • General comments on your overall day (hectic, relaxed, etc.).
  • A description of any undesirable behavior noticed, with as much detail as possible.
  • Any additional stressors that may have occurred that day or within the previous 24 hours (vet trips, children visiting, etc.).
  • An overall score for that day (1=very frustrating/difficult to 5=perfect).
  • Your goals for working with your pet the next day.
  • The times that any medications or supplements, prescribed or over-the-counter, that are being given for behavioral purposes, are given.
  • Behavior modification and training sessions completed that day; to include the times of training sessions, the behaviors worked on, the people involved, the progress made, any difficulties encountered, and other details.

Additional Information You May Find Helpful

 

I have lived with more than one reactive dog that needed to be isolated from other dogs during their rehabilitation. It is not easy and can be emotionally draining. You may find this article The emotional toll of a reactive dog by Jay Gurden helpful - http://bit.ly/SharedGurenEmotional

I recommend the following books if you have a fearful or reactive dog; however, do not delay seeing your veterinarian if your pet is suffering or is a safety risk to others. Reading them will be very valuable after your dog has started treatment.

  • The Official Guide to Living with DINO’s (Dogs In Need of Space) by Jessica Dolce.
  • A Kids’ Comprehensive Guide to Speaking Dog by Niki Tudge
  • From Fearful to Fear Free: A Positive Program to Free Your Dog from Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias by Marty Becker, DVM, Mikkel Becker, Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB
 

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