Many people say that their pet may have some issues. Maybe they don’t eat well. Maybe they bark at everyone. Whatever it is, there may be a point where you realize your dog’s behaviors are out of your control.
It’s hard to know when to get professional help for your dog’s behavior issues, so let’s explore the tell-tale signs that you need outside help.
When to Get Professional Help for Your Dog’s Behavior Issues
It can be hard to figure out if your dog is simply misbehaving or if they have a real behavior problem. Not only that, some owners may prefer not to admit that there could be a real problem in the first place.
If you are noticing a behavior problem with your dog, the first thing you should do is try to redirect this behavior. You may also want to think about what is causing the unwanted behavior. Your dog might have separation anxiety, or they may be urinating at inappropriate times. Whatever it is, normal training tactics may not be enough.
The most important step in fixing these issues is to educate yourself on what can be wrong. Once you learn about the problem, you can decide if it’s time to call in a professional. A problem chewer can probably be redirected, so you might want to work one on one with your dog. However, if your dog is showing aggression to you or others, your first step should be to call a professional. Any behavior that threatens anyone’s life should be dealt with immediately.
What Kind of Help Is Out There?
You might not know where to start when you need professional help. You’ll probably turn to your vet, but there are others as well who have specialized training and can help.
A trainer can go by a few different names. Some use “behavior counselor” or “pet therapist.” The important thing to remember is that these people know how to work with pets. The actual accreditation of a pet trainer can vary widely. There are some programs that exist to become a pet trainer, but most people learn the necessary skills on the job through an apprenticeship. Others may have just been working with pets for a number of years.
If you’re seeking a pet trainer, be sure to ask about their experience.
Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT)
The next step up from a trainer would be a CPDT. These people have actually been accredited through the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. This means that they have trained dogs for a specific number of hours, provided letters of recommendation and passed a standardized test. A CPDT also has to earn continuing education credits to maintain their certification.
Applied Animal Behaviorists
An applied animal behaviorist is someone who has gone to school and earned either a MS, MA, or PhD in animal behavior. These people have been educated to know what an animal’s normal behaviors should be and how an animal may behave abnormally. These people work with more than just dogs. Normally they’d be able to work with most companion animals like cats, birds or horses.
A veterinary behaviorist is a vet who has received specialized training and certification through the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Animal behavior isn’t taught thoroughly in most veterinary programs. As such, most vets should know if a pet is well, but they might not know how the pet should act. A veterinary behaviorist can bridge the gap between the medical and behavioral side of a pet. Veterinary behaviorists also prescribe medications that help a pet since they are licensed veterinarians.
What to Remember When Training Your Dog
Remember that if you’re trying to change your dog’s behavior. You’re also trying to change their behavior gently. If you are too forceful, you’ll quickly find your dog shutting down. Your dog’s behavior may actually get worse.
Keep these tips in mind when trying to redirect your dog’s behavior:
- Avoid using harsh physical or verbal punishment
- Use positive reinforcement
- Avoid provoking fear
- Be aware of the situation
- Advocate for your pet
Overall, you want to use a gentle hand when redirecting your dog. You should be using more carrot than stick. Oftentimes when your pet acts out, you can get frustrated. You have to remember that even if you’re frustrated by their behavior you have to keep a cool head. Yelling at them or being physically rough is not going to get you the results you desire.
Instead of being harsh when they misbehave, catch them doing what you want. It might be harder to catch them “being good,” but rewarding them when they act properly is the best way to train your dog. Even if your dog is being put into stressful situations, you can use rewards to keep them calm and to help them cope.
On a final note, you should do your best to put your dog in situations that will challenge them but you should also be certain you aren’t forcing them. If your dog is aggressive with other dogs, having them sit down on the other side of the street as a dog passes might be a great idea. It lets you and your dog practice controlling their aggression without pushing your dog too strongly into a difficult situation. Allowing your dog to go right up to another dog would be a bad idea as you can quickly lose control of the situation. However, never be afraid of telling others that you are working with your dog and that they may not be very friendly. It may be hard to say your dog’s not friendly, but doing so can help avoid bad situations.