Dog Behavior, Veterinary Behaviorists, And Dog Trainers

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If you have a dog, and you want your dog to behave better in the future, there are many options. This is what I’ve learned having attended several veterinary continuation education courses at the Midwest Veterinary Conference in February that may be of help to you. While, I am not an expert in dog behavior, I do know others who are (and those who claim to be).

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What I learned is that many people have dogs that display behaviors that are less than desirable. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Peeing or pooping in your home
  • Destroying furniture and even parts of the house when you’re not at home
  • Growling and barking at strangers or people living in your home
  • Snapping at /nipping/biting strangers or people living in your home

These can be signs of anxiety and aggression, and sometimes there’s a medical reason for their behavior. No matter the reason, anxiety and aggression are not good for anyone in the home ‑ people or dogs.

If your dog is exhibiting bad or even odd behavior, this is what I advise you to do.

First, make an appointment with your veterinarian and then start the process to have a consultation with a Veterinary Behaviorist. There aren’t too many Veterinary Behaviorists in the country and we’re lucky to have a non-conforming resident of the American College of Veterinary Behavior in Northeast Ohio; Dr. Feltes of The Behavior Clinic located in Olmsted Falls. Dr. Feltes and her team have an extensive list of questions that can be presented to your veterinarian as they seek to determine whether a medical problem is leading to your dog’s behavior problem.

If it is more than a medical problem, then definitely make an appointment with the team at The Behavior Clinic. They do make house calls, and I strongly advise this option. They do charge a house call fee and they do charge a fee for their services; they received a lot of specialized training and are worth the expense. They have a list of questions to ask you about your dog’s behavior. While their list of questions is long, do your dog a huge favor and answer all their questions. That’ll help Dr. Feltes and her team to determine the best next steps as quickly as possible.

What about dog trainers? According to the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, good trainers have knowledge of behavior, but not at the depth or breadth of a Veterinary Behaviorist. They may teach obedience training but not determine the root cause of a behavior problem or solve the behavior problem. They also warn that some training techniques are questionable and some are even inhumane. If you feel that a dog trainer is a good option for you and your dog, The Behavior Clinic has a list of appropriately credentialed dog trainers in Northeast Ohio who work closely with veterinarians. I strongly advise you choose a dog trainer on this list for best results.

Please keep in mind that if your dog’s behavior is not a medical one, then there are steps that people in the home must take. Listen to the advice given, and do as they recommend. There are no quick fixes, behavior modification should be a huge part of the ‘treatment’ regimen, and medication may or may not be recommended. And sometimes you’ll need to try a couple of things before you find the right ‘fix’ for your dog’s problem.

Dog behavior problems, especially those caused by a medical condition, reinforce our commitment to the Veterinary Payment Program for our One Health Family Members in Need. For more information about this program, reach us at OHFM@OneHealth.org and search our web site at OneHealth.org.

Thank you for reading.

Warm One Health regards,

Written by Dr. Anna M. van Heeckeren, MS, DVM at One Health Organization

PS: No payment was received from The Behavior Clinic, Dr. Feltes, or her staff in writing this article.

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