IS YOUR PET DRIVING YOU CRAZY?

How to find a pet professional to help bring harmony to you and your pet.

Does your dog have a behavior problem? Perhaps she chews up the house or howls for hours when you leave for the day. Is he chasing and biting his tail? Or maybe she lunges at people who come in your front door? Whom do you call to help fix those behaviors if they become a problem for you and your dog?

Alternatively, maybe you and your dog just need to learn certain skills that make living with each other easier. One useful habit is a reliable recall; does your dog come when you call it? Do you want her to sit politely when greeting guests, or bring them a toy or even shake hands? Wouldn’t it be nice if he could lie down quietly while you enjoy your meals and not beg? Whom would you ask to help create those new behaviors?

Now you can find the answers to both locally.

Augusta Farley is proud to announce that she has just passed the professional requirements to become a certified dog behavior consultant, one of 4 in a 50 mile radius. The Certified Behavior Consultant Canine - Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) is added to Augusta’s long held dog training certificate, Certified Pet Dog Trainer - Knowledge and Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA).

Both certificates are issued by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers which requires hands-on experience and education, proctored testing in training methodology and scientific principles, teaching and counseling skills, ethology and canine development, as well as behavior modification and assessment.

What is the difference between a behavior and training problem?

Behavior consultations more often address behaviors that are harmful, destructive, dysfunctional or aggressive whereas when training an obedience skill the trainer starts with no behavior and adds layers of complexity until the goal behavior is reached. Solutions for behavior problems almost always address underlying emotions and seek understanding of the motivation or function of the behavior. In some cases, if medication or a veterinary exam seems warranted, a visit or referral to a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist would be made

Some problems can be cured; others, often normal behaviors causing problems, may be more difficult to change completely and thus might require long term management as well.

Training a skill, such as stay, come, shake hands, proceeds from the vision of what the goal behavior will look like, then each succeeding step toward the goal is reinforced until the whole is achieved. Once the skill is practiced successfully under enough circumstances, the skill can become a habit. Of course, we all aim to train good habits, but bad habits are acquired the same way. Trainers teach owners how to reinforce desirable behaviors.

The two fields have extensive overlap. Both problems, or better said, solutions, look to science and application of that science to effect positive behavior change to reduce problem behaviors and create useful ones. Both approaches require understanding the goals and abilities of the owners, and the needs and temperament of the dog or puppy.

Training instruction is often included in behavior consultations to build positive replacement behaviors. Moreover a trained dog is often well socialized by exposure to a variety of conditions and multiple positive interactions with the owner during training which helps build confidence and clear communication. And a good trainer always is aware of the underlying emotional state of her students, human and canine, during instruction.

What does this mean for pet owners?

Because the fields of animal behavior modification and training have become more competitive and science based, we see more practitioners embrace certification and continuing education. Of course, there will be competent individuals without certification who through experience and education are able to apply effective, humane principles. However, a certificate can give you some guidance regarding the level of experience and education, as well as the regard the individual has for the need to keep abreast of current research and knowledge.

If you are not sure whether to hire a behavior counselor or trainer (a few are both), you can ask for information regarding her area of expertise. Most of us also would willingly share briefly how we would approach the consultation or training session to help you make a choice that fits your needs. You can also ask your veterinarian for a referral.

See the sources below to find certified professionals, helpful information and/or hundreds of courses from how diet affects behavior to feather plucking in birds to training your “house tiger”.

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