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Advice on choosing a Animal Behaviorist


Megs
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Hi guys,

 

If you are not already aware my boy is scared of strangers and is fear agressive, barking and lunging if anyone gets to close to him and his comfort zone.

 

I have seen a Animal Behaviorist who I was very happy with and comfortable with but she lives way to far away and so she is now trying to help me find someone closer to home.

 

I have also been doing some of my own calling around and I get SO many different responses!

 

So Im rightly very confused at the moment. I want someone who I feel comfortable with and also who my dog feels comfortable with - even though that might not be possible straight away :rolleyes:

 

I spoke to a lady today who said that it sounds like my dog has a pack leader issue and he thinks he is the pack leader and therefore behaves like this - she says that if I follow her instructions he will be cured almost immediatly!??? HUH? Immediatly? I dont get it?

 

Others advise coming to my home and giving me a 2-3 hour session with me and my dog, taking him out, observing him and then giving me a whole report on what she thinks I should do and how to address the problem - I like the sound of that.

 

So I guess what im asking is what do I look for or listen for when deciding who I am going to choose to help me and my dog? This is a big decision for me as I don't want to get any person to this, it must be the right person!

 

Does anyone have any experience or advice for me?

 

All welcome :D

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My regular veterinarian referred me to a veterinary behaviorist. It was important that our behaviorist be a veterinarian because Jack needed medication. Before Jack's first visit, I had pages and pages of questions to answer about every aspect of his life from his beginnings in the animal shelter to the emergence of his separation anxiety. Our office visit was 2 hours and was a discussion of the information I had submitted and his personal observations of Jack's behavior. When it is time for a prescription refill, I call and update him on the progress or lapses that I am seeing.

 

I would not want someone who is not a veterinarian trying to diagnose my dog's problem.

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I spoke to a lady today who said that it sounds like my dog has a pack leader issue and he thinks he is the pack leader and therefore behaves like this - she says that if I follow her instructions he will be cured almost immediatly!??? HUH? Immediatly? I dont get it?

 

Avoid this one like the plague.

 

Others advise coming to my home and giving me a 2-3 hour session with me and my dog, taking him out, observing him and then giving me a whole report on what she thinks I should do and how to address the problem - I like the sound of that.

 

That's the way a professional would do it.

 

Where are you in SA?

 

Peter Neville is good and I would be inclined to try his SA associates -

 

http://www.pets.f9.co.uk/about.htm

 

If they aren't local to you they may be able to suggest someone who will use positive methods and is up to date with learning theory in your area.

 

Pam

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I should add that just because Peter Neville is interested in wild dogs and wolves, it doesn't mean that he tries to misapply their behaviour to domestic dogs.

Far from it - because he knows about canids in the wild he is well aware of the differences.

 

Pam

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Yes, please avoid the "Pack order is what you need" person, who has not seen your dog or you. Wish I could help more than that, but hopefully mum24dog's recommendation will work well for you and Chaos.

 

I've taken 2 of my three to a behaviorist, I'm lucky to have an excellent one very close. We did an in depth hour and a half, Trish really nailed the personalities of my guys and made wonderful recommendations, then did some follow up.

 

Good luck with Chaos! He is a gorgeous boy, by the way.

 

Ruth

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If you are not already aware my boy is scared of strangers and is fear agressive, barking and lunging if anyone gets to close to him and his comfort zone.

 

If your dog has fear issues don't let anyone near him who suggests a choke chain, prong collar, spray or shock collar or anything that is likely to add to his fear.

You need to change your dog's perception of what scares him by creating a positive association, not to add more unpleasantness that can backfire by making him worse.

Be aware that behaviour that is simply suppressed by force or the use of punishment is still there and may resurface when you least expect it and without the normal escalation of warnings that I'm sure your dog is giving you that he isn't happy. Growling and barking to show fear are good - it's the only way you can tell what is going on in your dog's head when he is very afraid.

Better still is for your dog not to feel the need to do it.

Judge for yourself whether the treatment is likely to make your dog more relaxed in the presence of what currently scares him or just to make him afraid to show how he is feeling.

Look for a behaviourist whose aim is to keep your dog sub arousal threshold while working on desensitisation rather than forcing him to confront his fears head on. It will take time to do the job properly rather than apply a band aid.

And if anyone even mentions the name of Cesar Millan in an admiring tone run a mile.

 

Pam

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I would imagine that the lady your using would have a couple resources closer to you. Usually these networks are pretty tight. Your vet should also be able to recommend someone. I would stay away from anyone who uses punishment or adversaries in anyway, or as others said any sort of pack leader, dominance theory should be veered away from as well. You can also talk to your agility instructor, they should have some leads on where to find a behaviourist or a qualified trainer that has experience with reactive dogs.

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Avoid this one like the plague.

 

Where are you in SA?

 

Im in Cape Town :rolleyes: the tip of Africa.

 

Thanks, it seems they are also in Cape Town so this is going to help!

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Yes, please avoid the "Pack order is what you need" person, who has not seen your dog or you. Wish I could help more than that, but hopefully mum24dog's recommendation will work well for you and Chaos.

 

I've taken 2 of my three to a behaviorist, I'm lucky to have an excellent one very close. We did an in depth hour and a half, Trish really nailed the personalities of my guys and made wonderful recommendations, then did some follow up.

 

Good luck with Chaos! He is a gorgeous boy, by the way.

 

Ruth

 

Thanks Ruth :rolleyes: he is my beautiful boy full of drive!!!! Agility is going to be our speciality!! He LOVES it.

 

I just want to start him on the right path and get this done and done right.

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I would imagine that the lady your using would have a couple resources closer to you. Usually these networks are pretty tight. Your vet should also be able to recommend someone. I would stay away from anyone who uses punishment or adversaries in anyway, or as others said any sort of pack leader, dominance theory should be veered away from as well. You can also talk to your agility instructor, they should have some leads on where to find a behaviourist or a qualified trainer that has experience with reactive dogs.

 

Thanks Daisy :D

 

As soon as I heard the lady say "he will be fixed immediatly" alarm bells rang! Plus she charges more than the ladies who I have spoken too who actually sound right in their way of teaching.

 

I just want direction on an ongoing basis! I have landed up in tears way too many times and am feeling strong right now, this needs to be done and I am going to do it!

 

They say that all dogs teach you something - I think Chaos is meant to help me become more confident in everyday life, he is my blessing and my boy. I love him dearly and would never just give up as easy as this sometimes seems I won't.

 

It's just the emotional stress that gets me down the most - I am trying desperatly to be strong for my boy but sometimes......I just can't..... :D

 

I also need some tips - his yearly inoculations day is coming up soon and I dread a visit to the vet! The last time he bit the vet and he had to get stiches! :rolleyes: any ideas? Besides taking him to a female vet? He seems to be much calmer around woman but is still weary. Big men with deep voices he just cannot tolerate. Me talking to him or trying to give him a command just does not work - I have to take him away from the trigger but this also then reinforces the barking and growling makes the "big scary man" go away! Ah I AM LOST.

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If your dog has fear issues don't let anyone near him who suggests a choke chain, prong collar, spray or shock collar or anything that is likely to add to his fear.

You need to change your dog's perception of what scares him by creating a positive association, not to add more unpleasantness that can backfire by making him worse.

Be aware that behaviour that is simply suppressed by force or the use of punishment is still there and may resurface when you least expect it and without the normal escalation of warnings that I'm sure your dog is giving you that he isn't happy. Growling and barking to show fear are good - it's the only way you can tell what is going on in your dog's head when he is very afraid.

Better still is for your dog not to feel the need to do it.

Judge for yourself whether the treatment is likely to make your dog more relaxed in the presence of what currently scares him or just to make him afraid to show how he is feeling.

Look for a behaviourist whose aim is to keep your dog sub arousal threshold while working on desensitisation rather than forcing him to confront his fears head on. It will take time to do the job properly rather than apply a band aid.

And if anyone even mentions the name of Cesar Millan in an admiring tone run a mile.

 

Pam

 

Thank you Pam - you are an Angel! I have already started keeping Chaos away from the "triggers" distance is my main goal right now - untill I have a set plan and guidence on what I need to do and slowly build that - getting closer and closer. I realise this is going to take a very long time plus I don't think Chaos will ever be right - he is just very timid and scared by nature and I love him all the same.

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Im in Cape Town :rolleyes: the tip of Africa.

 

Thanks, it seems they are also in Cape Town so this is going to help!

 

Good luck.

Remember I'm not recommending them based on knowing anything about the people involved beyond the fact that they are associated with Peter Neville and I would be very surprised if their approach was significantly different from his.

 

Pam

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If your dog has fear issues don't let anyone near him who suggests a choke chain, prong collar, spray or shock collar or anything that is likely to add to his fear.

You need to change your dog's perception of what scares him by creating a positive association, not to add more unpleasantness that can backfire by making him worse.

Be aware that behaviour that is simply suppressed by force or the use of punishment is still there and may resurface when you least expect it and without the normal escalation of warnings that I'm sure your dog is giving you that he isn't happy. Growling and barking to show fear are good - it's the only way you can tell what is going on in your dog's head when he is very afraid.

Better still is for your dog not to feel the need to do it.

Judge for yourself whether the treatment is likely to make your dog more relaxed in the presence of what currently scares him or just to make him afraid to show how he is feeling.

Look for a behaviourist whose aim is to keep your dog sub arousal threshold while working on desensitisation rather than forcing him to confront his fears head on. It will take time to do the job properly rather than apply a band aid.

And if anyone even mentions the name of Cesar Millan in an admiring tone run a mile.

 

Pam

Agree with every word there!

and it sounds like you are doing the right things. I would get a hold of the book 'control unleashed' if you dont already have it - it is helping so much with my reactive dog - I have read it about 6 times already!

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To echo what others have said, this is complex and you need a veterinary behaviorist if at all possible. Positive methods, yes, if not. The dominance theory stuff and anything with pain or confrontation involved for your dog will just make things worse. Take it from me - please - I lost a very beloved dog to severe fear aggression - she was biting us (and a very extreme case; it sounds like Chaos isn't as bad, at all). Anyway, the only other thing I will say - because I am not a veterinary behaviorist who can diagnose your dog over the internet - is simply that I believe there are drugs you can give your dog before you go to the vet to sedate him for the visit. Others may know more.

 

More info from the experts on dominance theory and punishment:

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement on Dominance

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position Statement on Punishment

"If You're Aggressive, Your Dog Will Be Too" (Article in Science Daily)

"Using Dominance Theory to Explain Dog Behavior is 'Old Hat'" (Article in Science Daily)

 

P.S. Chaos looks very smart, and like he is looking up at you with a great deal of trust and love in that photo in your signature. You have my respect and compassion for having the dedication to work through this with him. I know he appreciates it. Even if he doesn't knnow it. If he could know, he would. And maybe one day he will. Take care.

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To echo what others have said, this is complex and you need a veterinary behaviorist if at all possible.

 

I don't know what the situation is in SA but most competent and reputable behaviourists in the UK are not vets, although most require a vet referral before consultation to try and rule out physical causes for the unwanted behaviour.

Drugs are not commonly used in behaviour modification. There is a debate about their use - some will not use them, some will but as a last resort to give a window of opportunity to allow learning to take place.

 

Pam

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Here in the States, we have board-certified veterinary behaviorists--these are veterinarians, who have completed a residency in animal behavior and passed a test administered by a governing body. I would think that one of these folks would be prefereable, if you have access.

 

It's like the difference between a psychologist (MS, PhD, MSW degree) and a psychiatrist (MD). The psychiatrist is able to prescribe drugs and has specialised knowledge of psychoactive agents.

 

I did use a veterinary behaviorist, who prescribed prozac for my dog. Basically, I had been doing everything right, but hit a wall. The prozac leveled out my dogs ups and downs, so we could overcome the wall. But, the prozac was by no means a cure all. In the US, we want to use drugs as magic bullets, so some clients tend to be disapointed in veterinary behaviorists (and physicians). The drugs facillilate behavior modification, rather than cure the dog.

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UPDATE:

 

Firstly, thank you to everyone for your comments! I have found someone who I am very happy with, she is awesome! I feel more confident already and have already started our training. It is so great to now finally have a even better idea of what I need to do. ALL her training is positive, positve reinforcement. I have received my books I ordered too and straight away began reading Scaredy dogs by Ali Brown and WOW what a great read - our training uses exactly the same as Ali Brown does and so having the book and the animal behavourist as tools and information is fantastic! We have only just started but I am excited and can see small changes already.

 

She tells me that Chaos is not that bad at all but I am 90% of the problem, I am a nervous wreck when taking him out and seeing something he might react to, it s ME, Chaos picks it up straight away. I feel really bad but am also dedicated to my dog and know that if I caused it, I can damn well fix it!

 

It's been a difficult time - me and my boyfriend broke up and training started with my boy so yeah, life is tough right now. Im coping better than I thought.

 

FOCUS FOCUS FOCUS - I must be the most exciting thing in my dogs life.

 

Chaos is very dedicated to me and gives me SO much love. I would do anything for my dog but one thing I refused which lots of trainers told me to do when he was reacting was to shout and tell him NO, that person must get right up in his space and I HATED this, I knew deep down that this was wrong and so I began my mission of finding the perfect behavorist for my dog - patience = success.

 

I hope the next time I tell you about chaos he will be licking and loving everyone :D

 

Thanks for listening - it has been an emotional journey - without the people on this site being dedicated dog owners and lovers I would have been more lost than you may ever realise.

 

Have a great weekend everyone.

 

I leave you with the most recent pictures of my boy, he is my beating heart :rolleyes:

 

Chaos3-1.jpg

Chaos5.jpg

Chaos9.jpg

Chaos4.jpg

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one thing I refused which lots of trainers told me to do when he was reacting was to shout and tell him NO, that person must get right up in his space and I HATED this, I knew deep down that this was wrong and so I began my mission of finding the perfect behavorist for my dog - patience = success.

 

Chaos is so lucky having an owner who doesn't blindly follow what she is told to do by a trainer.

Too many do - mistakenly believing that anyone calling themself a trainer must know what they are talking about.

Anyone can set themselves up as a trainer (or TV cult leader for that matter) - it is no guarantee that they have a clue what they are doing.

If you have a gut feeling that something is wrong then it probably is.

I'm sure that you're on the right track now.

 

Pam

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Great work, Megs, you and Chaos will be doing quite well together. One word of caution, however: along with being the greatest thing in your dog's life, you'll want to train in that wonderful 'off switch' we talk about around here, and train him to be by himself without fretting. You'll need to leave him alone from time to time, and he'll be much better off if he learns to be by himself regularly.

 

Can't wait to hear more!

 

Ruth

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I have had similar issues with Rex, who is the light of my life. She would lunge at anybody who came near the car and then when I beat her she would bare her teeth at ME! I bought her a muzzle and walk her around in all and any situations, qiving her a quick hit with the walking stick or a stimulation with her collar on the strongest setting when she makes any kind of aggressive move. She's improving greatly and I'm confident that I'll soon be able to take the muzzle off in public and have a happy, friendly, content Rex.

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