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Finding Professional Help for Pet Behavior Problems

How Do I Decide Which Professional to Choose? continued...

Consider the Nature of Your Pet’s Behavior Problem

If your pet has a serious behavior problem that puts him, people or other animals at risk, or if he’s developed a problem that causes him significant stress, seek an expert with both academic training (either a master’s or doctoral degree) and practical experience. Formal training and experience resolving animal behavior problems best prepares professionals to help you manage and modify problem behaviors like resource guarding, touching or handling issues, separation anxiety, fear of people, objects or other animals, aggressive behavior toward people or other animals, phobias, and compulsive behaviors. Although some CAABs, ACAABs and Dip ACVBs charge more per session than trainers, they’ve acquired a great deal of knowledge through years of study and research. You get what you pay for.

If your dog needs to learn some new skills or good pet manners, look for a CPDT in your area. CPDTs often offer group obedience classes, as well as in-home help for problems like house training, jumping up, destructive chewing and mouthy play behavior. Some CPDTs also offer special classes that focus on trick training or dog sports, such as agility, flyball and freestyle.

Although it’s best to find a CAAB, an ACAAB or a veterinary behaviorist, if your pet has a more serious behavior problem, those professionals are few and far between. If you can’t locate one in your area and you can’t travel to see one, a CPDT might be able to provide her services instead. Just be sure that the CPDT has professional training and experience in treating serious behavior issues involving fear, anxiety and aggression, since this expertise is beyond what CPDT certification requires.

After You’ve Made Your Choice

After you’ve hired a pet professional, keep in mind that there aren’t any quick fixes or magical pills. Helping your pet overcome a problem will require patience, time and effort. Successful behavior modification and training require much more than a single session! Be prepared to commit to the behavior modification or training plan that you and your behavior expert or trainer have together agreed will be most effective and practical for you and your pet. Realize that some behaviors can be managed (avoided or prevented) and improved through training, but not entirely eliminated. However, if you’re trying your best to follow the guidelines provided by your behavior or training expert and you feel that you’re not making progress, speak up. Ask your behaviorist or trainer to help you troubleshoot. She or he should be able to offer alternative solutions, answer questions and provide encouragement. If she or he doesn’t, don’t give up—and don’t be afraid to seek help elsewhere.

WebMD Veterinary Reference from ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist

The ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist specializes in the resolution and management of pet behavior problems only. Please do not submit questions about medical problems here. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact his veterinarian immediately. A delay in seeking proper veterinary care may worsen your pet's condition and put his life at risk. If you are concerned about the cost of veterinary care, please read our resources on finding financial help.

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