Behavioural Problems

Excessive barking, over-excitement with visitors, aggression, nervousness, bad traveller, separation anxiety, all these and many other behavioural problems can make the lives of owners miserable when they simply have no idea what to do about them. The good news is that with help from a behaviourist most problem behaviours can be reduced in frequency and severity or completely eliminated.

How does it work?
These problems can only be assessed and addressed where they take place, which is normally in the home or when out walking. Therefore I will make a home visit, which may last for two hours or a little longer. It may involve going out for a walk too. I will ask questions about your dog, his history and typical day, you and other family members. I will assess your dog and give advice on how to bring about the desired behaviour changes.

I will follow up my visit with a written report, assessment, advice and recommendations on how to continue. It would be helpful if you could phone me once a week for the next three weeks to let me know how you are progressing, when I can give further guidance if necessary. Around the end of the fourth week I will visit you again to make sure you are happy with the progress you are making and that you know exactly how to continue with your dog. I will ask you to complete a short report on your dog’s progress and for the next three months if you wish to telephone me for further advice I will provide this without charge. Should you feel that a further visit is necessary, this will be at a reduced cost.

What else will you need to do?
If there are other family members they should be present for my visit, since whatever is recommended, it will be essential for everyone in the family to carry out the same consistent approach. If other pets are involved in the problem, they should also be there. Implementing any changes will certainly require a certain amount of effort, perseverance and consistency on your part – but this will definitely be less arduous and stressful than putting up with the problem. Most important, life will be improved for you, your family and your dog.

A Word of Encouragement
Look for a behaviourist who genuinely cares about you and your dog. You should not be made to feel that you are a failure – you are not, you simply have not succeeded yet. And just like every human, each dog is a work in progress throughout his life.

A Word of Caution
When choosing your behaviourist, please be wary of what I call the “ology culture”. In the 1970s when I first started working with dogs the term “canine behaviourist” was not in general use; there were simply dog trainers and the successful, very experienced ones did not get to that position without having a thorough understanding of dogs’ behaviour. More recently all kinds of courses and organisations have appeared offering accreditation to people working as canine behaviourists. Of course, where these bodies genuinely further the spread of knowledge and maintain high standards this is a good thing, but unfortunately it has also led to the emergence of what was recently referred to in the dog press (see “Your Dog” February 2008) as the “dogless bebaviourist”- dog “experts” who have studied the theory of dog psychology and behaviour but have little practical experience with dogs and may never even have owned a dog(!) but have a very impressive sounding degree or set of initials after their name! Make sure the behaviourist you choose has a good track record of actually working with dogs.