Not every trainer can help with aggression cases. It doesn’t matter how many letters are after your name, how many years you’ve been a dog trainer, or whether you are an educate and qualified canine behaviorist. In truth, the dog really doesn’t care how many letters are behind your name.
A good canine aggression specialist is someone who can work with your dog and see beyond the aggression to find the ‘good’ emotions and reactions – even when your dog is jumping at them and showing aggressive behavior. They can capitalize on them and help your dog learn a new way of behaving.
This Trainer won’t have one method of dealing with dogs. They will have several. When you are interviewing a potential trainer or behaviorist for your dog then ask then to explain. A qualified person can talk for an hour about different methods.
There is no A-B-C method of fixing dog aggression. You cannot stop a dog from being fearful, or angry, by throwing things at it. You cannot stop over-arousal, chemical and hormone problems, or frustration tolerance problems by teaching the do ‘look at me.’
The aggression or reactive dog specialist will be very well educated. This is not the field for someone who has decades of experience and feels that ‘good enough is good enough.’ Meaning that if their method was good enough for 60% of the dogs then it is good enough for you.
A dog trainer who isn’t constantly upgrading their skills is like a jogger with only one shoe on. They don’t have the skills and knowledge to help those dogs. Yes, there is a lot of money in canine behavior work and it attracts a lot of dog trainers. But, you are not paying for the information needed to help the 60%. A good canine behaviorist knows how to help the other 40%.
There is more medical foundation for many aggression cases than there is dominance or poor training. A specialist needs to help you understand whether you need to see a veterinarian, chiropractor, massage therapist, physiotherapist, or your dog needs more exercise.
You don’t have time, or money, for their ‘best guess.’ You need someone who is familiar with dog gait, behaviors, and muscle structure to be able to give you a ‘best first step’ so that you are not wasting money.
What is Available in the London Ontario Area?
There are no veterinary applied animal behaviorists in this area. There are two ‘applied behavior’, certified canine behavior consultants. There is also a very good center in Toronto that produces satisfactory results.
Is My Trainer Experienced Enough?
If you want to know whether someone is qualified, educated, and experienced enough to handle aggression cases then look around their training center. First, there will be walls, visual barriers, and protective gear.
There is more than education to being successful. Personality is everything. You do not want an emotional person. You do not want a good sales person with lots of colorful books to impress you. You want someone steady and calm who is not easily upset. This person won’t be a good sales person.
They are not afraid to work infront of you. Beware any trainer that wants to take the dog and ‘fix’ it. They may have good short term results, but you need to ask why they needed to work in secret.
They will give you homework, lots of it, that must be done daily. Aggression is a serious problem. It can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. No one in the legal system will care that your dog is a rescue, or that you are doing your best. It is a problem that you must take seriously, and will change your lifestyle for the life of the dog.
There will be various types of equipment used for building confidence, communication between you and your dog, and ‘mixing it up’ each session.
There will be no focus on ‘making the dog’ obey, or stop the behavior. Do you have a fear? Is there something that makes you angry? Can I say ‘just stop it’, ‘get over it’ and have you change? No, of course not. You would become more frustrated and angry. You would stop the behavior, but it would boil up inside you until one day when you explode – and that is never pretty.
Look at it this way. A dog trainer needs to stop an unwanted behavior and start a wanted behavior, as quickly a possible. An aggression specialist must change the causes of the behavior in a way that is as permanent and safe as possible. These end goals are incompatible.
Why are there no guarantees? If we could change behavior permanently then there would be no alcoholics, addictions, or depression. We can control the problem. We can change the environment to prevent inciting incidents, or triggers. We can manage a dog’s behavior. But, if you ever stop the exercises, if you ever get tired of the therapies, and if you see a resurgence of the problem and do not seek immediate help, then your dog will regress and the aggression will return.
You are the factor that the trainer cannot control. The trainer cannot guarantee their results because they cannot guarantee that you will keep up with the protocols, and prevent putting your dog in a potentially dangerous situation.
Do You Need a Canine Behaviorist?
- My dog has already bitten
- I am afraid of my dog
- I am afraid my dog will bite
- I cannot control my dog
- I’ve tried everything and nothing works
- My dog will not stop when I pull a leash.
- My dog can/will pull me down the street if it starts to chase something.
- When my dog is ‘acting out’ or ‘engaged’ then it doesn’t listen to me
Not everyone needs a canine behaviorist. If your dog is barking at other dogs, or goes crazy when it sees the mail man, but it will listen to you then reactive dog classes are all that you need. But if you said yes to any of the above statements then you need a behaviorist.
If you say yes to any of the below statements than working with a behaviorist may not benefit you:
- I don’t want to do the work.
- I don’t have time.
- I’m too afraid to be around my dog. Or, it’s not my dog and I am afraid of it.
- I do not want to go to a safe, well equipped, training center.
- I do not like my dog.
- I do not want to change my lifestyle and train/walk/play with/exercise my dog any more than I am already doing.
In this case, find a board and train who will guarantee their results, or consider speaking to your veterinarian.
Never rehome an aggressive dog.