Dog Behavioural Consult

Dog Behavioural Consult 

A dog lying on a couch having a Dog Behavioural Consult

This dog behavioural consult was a great idea………….this couch is lovely

There are many factors as to why a dog may develop behavioural problems.  Genetics, environment, past experiences, abuse, lack of socialisation, medical, all could be defining reasons as to why a dog does what it does.  For instance, some behavioural problems could be a result of a medical condition which causes pain including those caused by an endocrine disorder such as a thyroid problem or Cushings, Addisons etc.  That is why it is advisable that a veterinary opinion is sought giving a dog a clean bill of health before you move on to a dog behavioural consult with a professionally qualified dog behaviourist.

Once any medical conditions have been ruled out, then comes the hard part which is choosing the right dog behaviourist for you.  Don’t be fooled by the “it’s all your fault because you’re not being a pack leader” brigade or the “we fix any problem in one session that is why we charge so much but it’s worth every penny” bunch.  If this was true then there wouldn’t be any behavioural problems, just training issues.

Which leads me on to distinguishing between what is a training issue and what is a pet behavioural problem.

The difference between behavioural problems, which requires a more in depth understanding of dog behaviour, and a training issue is: 

Examples of behavioural problems:

  • Any form of aggression including barking aggressively, snapping, nipping, growling, biting, resource guarding, aggression either towards people or other dogs and animals.
  • Recall issues involving predatory chase which is when your dog refuses to come back from chasing another dog, livestock, joggers or people on bikes, hunting or scenting etc.
  • Anxious, nervous, destructive type behaviours from separation distress, noise phobias etc.
  • Incessant barking through separation, anger, frustration, fearfulness etc

Dog Training issues would likely be:

  • Basic obedience such as sit, down, stay, leave, come etc when teaching the dog.
  • How to greet and meet people without jumping up
  • Walking nicely on a lead without pulling like a train
  • Toilet training – (if not a puppy but an adult dog then consult a vet first to rule out any medical problems).

The Dog Behavioural Consult

The consultation is conducted in your home as this is the best place to assess your dog. Seeing your dog in a relaxed state helps with the behavioural assessment before observing how your dog’s behaviour changes. 

The dog behavioural consult usually lasts for two hours during which it would be beneficial to see the behaviour problem although I won’t provoke a response, it just helps to see what behaviour may normally be experienced in a given situation. This may involve going out on a walk with you or arranging for someone to come around that your dog usually demonstrates the behaviour with/for.  If you have been able to video the behaviour even better.

I will then be able to explain fully what is motivating the behaviour and set you a clear and understandable plan of behaviour training designed to help you through the behavioural problems you are having with your dog.

There is ongoing telephone support for this problem as well as training literature included in the price of your consult.

On a more somber note, contrary to what some unqualified dog behaviourists may say, most behavioural problems take time to resolve and improve.  There is no “quick fix” and things can change so long as you follow the behaviour training plan.  Whilst the vast majority of issues can be resolved, there are a few times when the behaviour has a genetic basis to it or it has become so ingrained that a full resolution of the problem may not be possible.  You will however benefit from a greater understanding of how to manage your dog in situations where you would be able to pre-empt problems.

Don’t loose heart though, you will be surprised at just how much progress can be made with most behavioural problems with the right dog behaviourist.

To arrange a booking for a dog behavioural consult, call David on 07971 627146.

Recent Posts

Predatory Aggression In Dogs

Predatory aggression in dogsThe number of attacks made by dogs on humans and other pets is sadly on the increase.  Whether this is down to the owners lack of knowledge, lack of proper training, poor socialisation or bad breeding, there is one possible cause that appears to be over looked.  That of predatory aggression.

What Is Predatory Aggression?

It can be difficult at times as your dog snuggles up to you, looking at you with big, round brown eyes or bounds around you in a goofy way begging for attention that at one point in his/her development, your pet is descended from hunters.   

Every dog has some level of prey drive (the motivation to chase, catch and kill small furry or feathered creatures) because hunting and killing was a way of life for their ancestors and their only means for survival.  This is hard-wired behaviour that is still present in our dogs today.  It is important to remember that predatory aggression by dogs does not reflect a psychological problem and neither is the dog being vicious, malicious or vindictive.

Predation is a natural survival-related behaviour even though it may sometimes alarm or disgust us.  The entire predatory sequence displayed by all predators involves searching, stalking, chasing, catching, biting, killing and then eating.

The problem we have as dog owners is that predatory behaviour is not preceded by a significant mood change or threatening gestures.  This absence of warning signals plus the fact that killing is the natural end point for predatory behaviour is what makes it dangerous for target animals, children, cyclists, joggers or anything else that moves quickly.

In domesticating dogs, certain parts of this see-chase-grab-kill sequence has been diluted but never fully eliminated.  For example, the herding breeds are very strong chasers, but do not go for the bite-hold-kill as readily as other breeds. Terriers, on the other hand, will readily grab-bite and kill.  How many of you have seen your dog grab a toy then shake it’s head rapidly from side to side?  That innocent and sometimes comical act is in reality, the final phase of the predatory sequence, the kill.    

So despite domestication, dogs still have an instinctive desire to chase, grab, bite and kill things that look like prey.  Incidentally, this is why so many dogs like to chase a ball or play with tug toys etc.  In the case of the domesticated dog, predation is instinctive and not based on hunger as is the case in wild predators. 

The level of predatory drive depends on the individual dog and what it has been bred for.  Movement always starts the sequence and allowing a dog to chase down small animals or toys will strengthen that prey drive.  Predatory behaviour may be exhibited by dogs of any sex and age and dogs showing intent or becoming agitated by the movement or vocalisations of children or other pets need to be closely monitored.

There are some people who do not regard predatory aggression as a proper form of aggression given there is little mood change and because a dog that chases after, catches and kills a rabbit shows none of the affective signs associated with dominance or fear aggression.  As far as the dog is concerned, it is just business as usual. However, when viewed another way, it seems reasonable to me to classify predatory aggression along with other forms of aggression as it results in damage or destruction of another creature.

So, what constitutes prey?

You may have seen during springtime for instance, dogs or cats killing birds and upsetting wild rabbit nests.  Our response, should we witness this sort of behaviour often ranges from being horrified to dismissing the action as the animals natural instinct.  We rarely see it as a problem.  However, it does become a problem when this predatory drive is directed towards running children, cyclists, traffic or small dogs and cats.  For us these targets are not prey, but to the dog they move like prey, sound like prey, and look like prey, hence the danger.

The results of such cases of mistaken identity can range from annoying to painful and even life-threatening.  A dog exhibiting the predatory mode may slink up on their prey and, when within range, launch an attack.  They then accelerate towards their target, either nipping at heels or biting at calves or thighs, perhaps hanging on in an attempt to drag their prey to the ground.  Sometimes other dogs will be drawn in to the attack displaying “group” aggression.  When the subject is a young child who is attempting to run away, the results can be disastrous.

What makes this type of aggression dangerous is it cannot be trained, medicated or counter conditioned out of the dog.  You may have a dog who previously chased cats, who can now be commanded to stay or sit around a cat but they will still chase a cat down at some point especially if you are not around.  This aggression can be shocking to the owners as it manifests so suddenly and is directed to what we do not see as prey.  For the dog however, instinct dictates otherwise.

Risks of Canine Predation

Realistically, there is no real treatment for predatory aggression and the only sure way to control predatory aggression is 100% avoidance of the situations that put humans and animals at risk.  The sudden high arousal level, a fixed focus on the prey subject and difficulty distracting the dog, are all indicators of a poor prognosis.  Dogs that are born with a high prey drive and have it fine-tuned by experience will always be likely to display this behaviour under certain circumstances.  Quite simply, they cannot help themselves.  This means if your dog chases cats, it cannot live with a cat.  If small dogs are the prey, your dog cannot be around any small dogs, especially when out on walks. 

As previously mentioned, this behaviour is neither malicious nor vindictive but simply biologically driven and natural  though unacceptable and downright dangerous when expressed toward humans. It therefore remains the responsibility of dog owners to recognise and appreciate tendencies in their dog and to take precautions such as keeping the dog on a lead etc.

It is your responsibility as a dog owner to recognise that if your dog only comes back to you when there are no distractions then your dog does not have a reliable recall and therefore should not be off the lead until one is taught.  It is not enough if your dog attacks another animal or child to say “he/she has never done that before” or “he/she only wanted to play”.

Reward-based obedience training will increase owner control, but will not prevent predatory behaviour when the owner’s back is turned or when the owner is absent.