Choosing Your Dog Trainer or Dog Behavior Specialist Guidelines It would be rare to have an animal its entire lifetime without experiencing some type of behavior problem or training situation that might be helpful in managing your pet. Also, behavior problems are often complex and may require a more skilled professional with knowledge in animal behavior. So how do you know who to call? What’s the difference between the two? How can you assess their skills, training and education?
Unsuccessful housetraining is a leading cause why dogs end up in shelters. House training is not an individual process, all dogs benefit from the same housetraining strategies. However, dogs may independently learn, depending on breed, size, early exposure to acceptable substrates and beginning at the breeding location. I am discussing training a new puppy, not training an adult dog with incomplete housetraining. However, the same strategies apply. If you have potty trained a child, you know, you need to be there during the early stages. Sometimes we are there to encourage, teach the location, patience and perhaps even model the behavior. During this process, the child had to learn to hold it or wait, at some point during the potty training.
I found a website yesterday, specializing in dog boarding. What alarmed me was they stated, “our camp counselors” are, “certified in dog behavior.” When I inquired, which I did, I was told they go through an in-house training program lasting a couple of weeks or less! The problem I see with using the designation “certified in dog behavior” is, it makes the study of animal behavior, appear to be no more than friendly dog advice obtained from anyone, while marginalizing the very individuals who can and are educated to help the most. This is a disservice to the dog owner and the industry. This should be a concern for the public, as well as those who are degreed individuals, specializing in animal behavior. Aside from the obvious differences, between those who actually studied behavior at universities, there are some of us who have spent a great deal of time studying on our own, taking courses on-line and/or using qualified mentors, that may include veterinarians who themselves specialize in behavior. What I’m wondering, is will the careless and continued use, eventually inculcate the public, into thinking that understanding and treating behavior related problems, can be accomplished by anyone referring to themselves as a “behavior expert.” I can see it now; these “camp counselors” will be delivering advice on how to solve anxiety problems and aggression. This marginalizes those of us who are qualified, and it most definitely affects the welfare of dogs. The alternative is referring owners to qualified individuals who really can help Given the fact that most dogs end up in shelters because of behavior problems I view this as a serious problem for the public. If unqualified individuals continue providing uneducated advice, rather than referring dog owners to someone, who is qualified, through appropriate and acceptable training, we will continue to see more and more dogs in shelters. The alternative is our communities and dog related businesses, need to seek out qualified individuals and refer pet owners to them. In turn, these professional behavior consultants will utilize dog day cares, dog walkers, and other dog trainers if they fit into the behavior modification program, designed by the behavior consultant, and fitting that individual dogs needs. The needs of the family and dog must be addressed first; this means the behavior consultant identifies the underlying problem/conflict as defined by the family. This means bringing the family together in agreement how best to solve the problem, then putting together a plan that works for the entire family, to solve the problem and/or conflict, as well as making sure the dogs needs are met as well. A good place to find qualified behavior experts are these organizations, the International Association of Behavior Consultants http://www.iaabc.org , the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists http://www.veterinarybehaviorists.org/ , the Animal Behavior Society http://www.animalbehavior.org. When your business uses the right individuals, it creates a win-win situation for everyone, most of all you are ensuring the pet gets the best care possible. Much of the problem is there are no regulations in the dog training, or dog behavior industry, so businesses are not required to seek out professional behavior consultants. So those of us who specialize in the behavior industry need to educate businesses about these differences, otherwise, the continuing result will be, more and more dogs, will either be given up to shelters or euthanized out of frustration, and potential dog owners , will be less likely to purchase and/or adopt dogs in the future.
Coprophagia Coprophagia is classified as an appetitive problem and is considered so distasteful by many dog owners that in many of the more unresponsive cases euthanasia if frequently suggested especially when the “owners bond with their dog [is] irreparably damaged” (McKeown et. al.,1988) cites Lindsay (2002) who suggests this is a “rather extreme and questionable practice.” In spite of the distasteful connotations this repulsive behavior may cause dog owners; coprophagia is considered ‘normal” among puppies only representing small health risks (Hubbard, 1989) however, we can risk exposing puppies to “viral pathogens” such as parvovirus and “parasitic infections” that may be shed in other dogs feces (Lindsay, 2002). A study conducted by Baranyiova’ et al., (1999) using a 305 dog owner survey indicated “36%...ate feces” and found to be more common among female dogs (45%) with males representing only 30% cites Lindsay (2002). Unfortunately, dog owners are quick to punish this behavior in spite of more acceptable means such as training, management and in some cases adjustments to diet and exercise. Owners who are experiencing this problem should get a thorough veterinary examination to rule out any medical or dietary causes before implementing any behavioral training or modification. Coprophagia can be a serious problem due to associated health risks and its effect concerning the human-animal bond therefore, it is suggested by Lindsay (2002) that it not be “summarily dismissed as a normal” behavior or something the owner should “get over and learn to live with.”