Finding Professional Help for Pet Behavior Problems
What Behavior Experts DON’T Do continued...
Trainers and behaviorists specialize in pet behavior problems. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, you don’t need a behavior expert—you need a veterinarian. Please contact one immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. It’s especially important for a veterinarian to rule out illness or injury if your pet suddenly develops a behavior problem he’s never had before. It’s also a good idea to visit the veterinarian if you live with a senior animal. Uncharacteristic house soiling, aggression, lethargy, confusion, anxiety or restlessness can indicate a number of physical problems in older pets. Please see our articles on Behavior Problems in Older Dogs and Behavior Problems in Older Cats for more information.
If you’re concerned about the cost of veterinary care, you’ll find information about financial help on our website.
What Kind of Training Does My Pet Need?
Once you’ve determined that you and your pet need some professional help to keep your household harmonious, consider what kind of training or treatment you need. Trainers and behaviorists offer their expertise via group classes, private sessions or consultations, and board-and-train programs.
If your pet needs to learn some basic manners and skills, like sit, down and come when called, you might benefit most from group obedience classes. Group glasses are also ideal for young puppies who need socialization. Of course, if you attend a group class, you won’t get the kind of intensive, one-on-one instruction that you will if you hire a trainer or behaviorist for one or more consultations, but you will save some money. Group classes tend to cost less than private training sessions.
If your dog or cat has a specific behavior problem, you’ll need to see a professional outside of a classroom context. Problems like resource guarding (also called possessive aggression), touch or handling issues, phobias, separation anxiety, and aggression toward people or other animals require intensive treatment plans and individual attention from a qualified behaviorist. Other, less serious behavior issues that trainers and behaviorists can’t usually address in a group class include house training problems, excessive barking and destructive chewing.
Day training and board-and train are great services for busy pet parents who don’t have time to devote to training their pets or resolving difficult behavior problems. In day training, the trainer comes to your house while you’re at work, or alternatively, some train your dog in their home or facility. The trainer teaches your dog the specific obedience behaviors you want, for example recalls (coming when called), wait, stay, walk on-leash without pulling, and greeting people and pets politely. If the trainer is qualified as a behaviorist, she can also treat issues like resource guarding, handling issues (fearful or aggressive when touched, groomed or restrained), some other types of aggression, some types of excessive barking or meowing, and some fears and phobias.