By now, you’ve seen us mention the College of Veterinary Behaviorists’ book Decoding Your Dog on more than one occasion, but its influence keeps growing. In a new interview featured on on Good News For Pets, Dr. Karen Overall and Dr. E’Lise Christensen – the authors of the chapter “Loyalty Gone Overboard: Separation Anxiety” from Decoding Your Dog – go into further detail about separation anxiety in dogs. They share some wonderful points, including common misconceptions and misdiagnoses, as well as tips and treatment recommendations for dogs exhibiting these signs. This problem can affect a wide variety of patients, but treatment starts with being well educated about what you can start doing for your dog now (and learning what will require the assistance of your primary veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist).
It is not uncommon for me to spend twenty or thirty minutes on the phone with someone whose pet is experiencing an unwanted or uncontrollable behavior, who is desperate to find a solution, and with or without saying the exact words, will tell me their story with a strained “can you help me?” underneath it all. My heart goes out to each and every one of these potential clients. They don’t know where to turn, they don’t know what to do, and often their circumstances may be so dire that the life or safety of the pet, another family member, or even a child may be at risk. I am always happy to listen, to let these tales of heartbreak, frustration, and desperation finally fall on sympathetic ears. Because in most cases, I am able to answer “You’ve come to the right place, we can help.” Dr. Pachel is able to provide incredibly nuanced treatment plans for our patients, making it possible to not only treat a wide range of behavior problems, but to be able to approach each with the understanding of the individuals involved and the reality that no two cases are the same. Even with this flexibility, seeking the help of a board certified veterinary behaviorist isn’t for everyone – or every pet. Many of our prospective clients are already committed to seeking a high level of care to find a solution to their pet’s behavior problems, but some have never even heard of a veterinary behaviorist. So how do you know if we are the right fit for you and your pet? From cold calls about pricing to the hour-long phone conversations about truly complicated situations, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss our services in a myriad of ways which allowed me to compile a “checklist” for prospective clients to determine if the Animal Behavior Clinic should be the next step for their pet:
- Your pet has a significant behavior problem which you are either seeking help to treat for the first time or the problem has not responded to initial treatment by your primary veterinarian and/or a trainer. We are often the last resort for our clients and patients. While I would not encourage anyone to delay seeking treatment for behavioral concerns, seeking the help of a behaviorist may not be your first or only recourse if you have not explored other options first. Some behavior problems are linked to medical conditions, which can be diagnosed by your primary veterinarian. Many of our patients are referred to us by veterinarians and trainers in the area – and it can be incredibly beneficial to see if a problem responds to “intermediate” treatment before moving on to a specialist. You certainly can bypass this medical evaluation step if you choose – but Dr. Pachel may request the same diagnostics or recommend the same training exercises if they have not already been completed, so getting them started is often beneficial. In the same vein, if your pet has never enrolled in a training course, many nuisance behaviors such as pulling on leash or not responding well to commands do change with solid foundation training – something that other qualified trainers in our community can often provide at a significantly lower cost.
- You seek to understand the underlying patterns of your pet’s behavior, and are looking for a “road map” to better behavior rather than a “premade route.” Dr. Pachel’s approach to addressing problems is to diagnose your pet’s behavior patterns and build strategies for successful treatment. If you are looking for a one-on-one trainer, Dr. Pachel is much more than that. He creates a road map for you – where you are the driver conducting your pet’s success. He will be there to help point out all of the paths you can or should take throughout the treatment process, but he is not taking the wheel: you are an integral part of your pet’s plan and success. After establishing a treatment plan, we encourage clients to stay connected with us for ongoing support to modify that plan. Occasionally this will require an in-person or phone recheck, but much of our communications are done by email. Our team is designed to help you through each stage of treatment. While Dr. Pachel stays on board to make big decisions, we usuallyconnect our clients with our technician Jenn, our trainer Megan, or a local trainer whom we have had experience working with successfully for coaching support and implementation of recommended training exercises. Our treatment plans provide clients the freedom to choose the best route which fits their lifestyle and goals as well as solidify the best chance for their pet’s success, and no two treatments ever look exactly the same.
- You are committed to the time, money, and dedication it will take to modify your pet’s behavior. Working through a complex behavior problem is exactly that – complex. It requires a significant dedication of time and resources, both for the services acquired through the Animal Behavior Clinic as well as ongoing training, tools, and often medications. If you are looking for an easy or inexpensive solution, that may not be an option for your pet. We acknowledge and profess that this process can be challenging, and want our clients to be prepared for that reality. If you aren’t sure what level of financial commitment may be needed for your pet, it is certainly an option to start with the initial consult and then make an educated decision about what level of follow-up care fits your budget, household, or lifestyle.
- You want the absolute best for your pet. Most pet parents can identify with this statement. But with the Animal Behavior Clinic, that is exactly what you are getting. When you come to a board certified veterinary behaviorist, you are seeking the help of a professional who is at the top of his or her field. If our pets need an operation, we take them to a surgeon. If they need an MRI for a brain lesion, we take them to a neurologist. A veterinary behaviorist is a specialist in the same way, and can offer a superior level of care and understanding for your pet’s behavior.
- You are open and willing to use science-based, positive reinforcement training techniques. Our clients come from all walks of life and all modes of training philosophy – and we love that! As a scholar and speaker in the field of animal behavior, Dr. Pachel’s knowledge base is never stagnant. Science-based training means staying committed to the changes and growth within the field of animal behavior and veterinary medicine, and Dr. Pachel will deliver well-supported strategies from within those fields to the treatment of your pet. This also means that our methods and recommended training exercises are built from a foundation of positive reinforcement. If you come from a different training philosophy, we are happy to work with you – including helping you to understand why a given method is recommended, and how “positive reinforcement” does not mean that we only use food as a reward, that we won’t establish boundaries or rules, or that we harbor judgment against different training styles. Above all, Dr. Pachel recommends training techniques that are proven successful in clinical studies and will make recommendations that fit your pet and your lifestyle as well as give you the best chance for success.
- You recognize that “success” is relative, and treatment is an ongoing collaboration between everyone on your pet’s “team,” including the pet themselves. A treatment plan is always going to need adjustments after it is implemented. Coming into this process with realistic expectations is the best way to get the most benefit out of it. We are here to help for the life of your pet, and welcome constant communication to make adjustments where necessary. Sometimes this will require additional time and work from you; sometimes additional expense. But success IS possible for many of our patients – and what that looks like will be entirely up to you. We will remain committed to finding that success by whatever definition you believe in, and are likewise an honest source to let you know when success may not be possible.
If you are considering seeking the help of a behaviorist and the checklist items above resonate with you, there is no time like the present to give us a call or send an email to set up an assessment. And honestly, if you just need someone to talk to and discuss your options, I am here to listen. We are all here to help and provide assistance, not just for animals, but for the people in their lives. And yes, we probably can help. ~ Maren
While the use of punishment in dog training remains a disputed and often controversial topic among trainers and pet owners, it can be helpful to explore the science behind how an animal learns and responds to training to really grasp the impact (for better or worse) of aversive training methods.
In this article by Stanley Coren, he explores eye-opening research evidence which demonstrates that the use of discipline-based training, including physical manipulation and punishment techniques, results in an increase in stress levels and distraction in dogs, which in turn impacts their ability to perform and learn.
Full link to article: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201404/the-effect-training-methods-the-efficiency-learning