Dealing with dog aggression, moderate to severe anxiety or fearfulness or obsessive compulsive behaviors (OCD) is extremely trying for pet owners. I’ve held these owners in my arms, as they sobbed. It’s a difficult situation for dogs and their owners.
That is why I refer these cases to a qualified animal behaviorist. Within my 20 years of dog training experience, I find difficult cases are solved much quicker and with better results when a qualified animal behaviorist is involved.
What is an Animal Behaviorist?
An animal behaviorist is an expert who deals with difficult behavior cases, such as dog aggression, anxiety and obsessive compulsion behaviors on a daily basis.
Veterinarians, whom are board certified in animal behavior:
- Bring their expert veterinary knowledge plus four years of solving and studying dog behavior (and many other animals) to their cases
- Have completed their vet requirements and studied dog behavior, solving difficult behavioral cases for a minimum of four years, plus have passed a demanding animal behavior board certification
- Can prescribe medications, if needed, so a dog can learn how to overcome his fears
Applied Animal Behaviorists have:
- Earned a Masters or PhD degree in animal behavior
- Studied dog behavior for a minimum of 7 years
- Been required to successfully solve difficult cases under supervision with field experts during their internships
Prescribed Anti-Anxiety Medications
Some pet owners are reluctant to use anti-anxiety medications and I understand. You’re scared you will make your dog worse or drug him. Personally, when training dogs with life-destroying anxiety, I’ve seen amazing results when anti-anxiety medications are used. “The ultimate goal is to reach a point where the drugs are no longer necessary, a point where your dog has overcome his anxiety and learned to react in an appropriate fashion,” says Dr. Lorie Hudson DVM.
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Why Contact an Animal Behaviorist?
Dog trainers and animal behaviorists are two different professions, yet they work together as a fabulous team. Think of dog trainers as general practitioners (GPs) and animal behaviorists as specialists in dog behavior.
- Animal behaviorists study and treat difficult cases daily with great success rates. They are required to complete yearly continuing education in their field of study and stay updated on the latest findings with fear, anxiety, aggression or OCD.
- Animal behaviorists provide immediate assistance and solutions for the issue at hand, which provides quicker results for your dog and saves money. Dog trainers (GPs) teach polite manners, solve everyday pet issues and are usually a pet owner’s first contact when dealing with difficult behaviors.
- Dog trainers’ knowledge is vast. They are prepared for anything that might walk through their training center doors, complete yearly continuing education and provide recommendations to ensure the success of a dog and their owners. They are the general practitioners of the dog training world. They triage to specialists when needed. Personally, I’m extremely proud to be a dog trainer and empowered to have qualified animal behaviorists to call upon when needed.
Referral Process and Consultation
- When dog trainers encounter moderate to extreme fear, aggression, anxiety or OCD, they refer pet parents to an animal behaviorist, as these cases require one-on-one attention that provides specific training protocols for success. Dog trainers usually have their preferred animal behaviorist and will always ensure this person works for you and your dog too.
- An animal behaviorist will ask you to complete an extensive history background. Answer to the best of your knowledge. This history report is key to note triggers (what causes your dog to act fearful, aggressive, anxious or causes OCD behavior to happen).
- Then, an animal behaviorist will involve your local veterinarian to rule out any health issues.
- Once heath issues have been ruled out, the animal behaviorist will schedule a time to discuss your dog’s history background. Ask questions and observe your dog.
- After the consultation, a training protocol is designed and medications are prescribed if needed.
- Dog trainers will assist you with your prescribed training protocol and report back to the animal behaviorist on progress.
- Most animal behaviorists require a six-month check-in, especially if medications were prescribed.
Contacting an Animal Behaviorist
Usually, local positive reinforcement dog trainers work with an animal behaviorist in the area. However, still research your dog trainer’s referral. Qualified animal behaviorists should be listed in the below database:
- American College of Veterinary Behaviorists Directory
- American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
- Animal Behavior Society
If you’re unable to find a qualified person in your area, the below vets (both are board certified in animal behavior) provide phone consultations through your regular vet:
Animal Behaviorist Tips
- Not recommended: Dog trainers or unqualified animal behaviorists boasting they can fix any issue is equivalent to a general practitioner saying they can preform open heart surgery.
- Choose a qualified animal behaviorist. The cost is the same or less than an unqualified animal behaviorist.
- Do not choose an animal behaviorist using punishment-based training methods.
You’re more than welcome to ask any questions on this subject in the comment section below. This is a tough situation and I hope this article points you in the right direction with solutions.
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