Adventures in Finding a Dog Behaviorist

We recently decided to get professional help for Loki’s occasional aggressive behavior. He has had a history of this behavior towards us, but it was infrequent and manageable (see Nails, Harness, Fight, Bite). With Jujube, it has surfaced a lot more. Ironically, we thought that Jujube might help him with his behavior. Instead, she just became an additional trigger for his temper tantrums (see Scuffle, Scuffle, Scuffle, and Scuffle).

Finding a professional was not nearly as easy as I thought. On the one hand, I want to hire someone of high enough quality so that the money spent is worthwhile. On the other hand, I can’t assess the quality of a professional until after the consultation, that is, after the money is spent. The best I can do is screen people based on phone conversations.

Candidate #1:
I had high hopes for Candidate #1, because she was recommended by my vet. First, we played phone tag. That was fun, but I got tired of that game, so I emailed her with the subject heading, “Looking for a dog behaviorist.” The response I got was, “I’m a trainer, not a behaviorist. Let me refer you to someone else.”

Huh? What’s the difference? I don’t care what you call yourself, whether that be a trainer or a behaviorist. I just want you to help me with my dog. I called her back for further clarification, but I just felt weird. It’s weird to try to convince someone that she really is what I’m looking for even though she says she’s not what I’m looking for.

I also didn’t care for her referral, because it looked more like a vet clinic. No, I’m not interested in giving my dog drugs. I don’t need to support pharmaceutical companies.

Candidate #2:
Again, I had high hopes for Candidate #2. Her website was very nice and her bio showed that she was very knowledgeable and experienced. I played a fun round of phone tag with her before I resorted to email. She replied to my email saying that she was too busy for new cases. She referred me to someone else.

Candidate #3:
By now, I’ve given up on high hopes, and resign myself to the requisite round of phone tag. I send her an email, and I actually get a positive response! She answered all of my questions and didn’t refer me to someone else! When asked about her experience with shibas, she says that in addition to working with some shiba clients, her parents have a shiba. Well, that’s a good sign!

Candidate #4:
This was the referral from Candidate #2. Can’t pinpoint why I didn’t like her, but I didn’t.

Candidate #5:
Candidate #5 turned out to be pretty promising. She told me that her and her business partner run group classes for reactive dogs, that is, dogs that react (barking, lunging) to other dogs. This gave me reason to believe that she had a good deal of experience with aggressive behaviors.

Candidate #6:
As soon as heard his voice over the phone, I felt intimidated. He was so overbearing that I hardly had a chance to say much. He went on and on about how clearly the problem was a lack of discipline. I think he must have been a drill sergeant in his previous career. Maybe he’s right about the discipline thing, but I didn’t think that his dominating personality would be a good fit for me.

Candidate #7:
He seemed like a reasonable candidate until he asked me what kind of collar I used on Loki. I replied a martingale. He didn’t seem to know what a martingale was. Then he said that I would need a different type of collar for corrections. Like what? A nylon one wouldn’t work. It’d have to be metal. Uh… I guess that means a choke chain? Or a prong collar? Doesn’t Loki have enough issues with his collar as is? Then, after I asked him to characterize his success in solving aggression, he ended up referring me to someone else.

In the end, we decided on Candidate #3. We'll see what happens.

7 comments:

Scout & Max said...

I hope it works out.... I used Barkbusters and was unhappy with their methods. They don't work well with shiba inus who need trainers that understand their mindset. I'm glad she is familar with shibas and keep us posted!

Jules & Ron said...

we're going through similar "aggressive" behavior with yuki. Well, she gets a little crazy when she sees another dog, lundges and pulls on walks with me. been looking for a perfessional yesterday. In from southern Cali, do you happen to know any over here? I was reading up on 'sit means sit', but I haven't called any as of yet. Let us know how you it goes for you.

Vi said...

Hi Jules & Ron,
I don't have any experience with trainers/behaviorists in So. Cal. You can try asking Masako. She is in that area. Her blog is: http://awinnieday.blogspot.com/

Cynthia said...

#3 sounds great! We will meet for the first time ou behviourist next week for Akira's fears.

Anonymous said...

While you are at it, could you ask them why they prefer to be called "behaviorist" instead of a "dog trainer"? Is it their EGO thing?...like behaviorist sounds more professional and credible than a "trainer"?...(thus can charge you more)

I heard there is a thing called human "behaviorist" too. I think they're variation of the shrinks. Yes, I'd like to order the behaviorists too to modify annoying behaviors of my neighbors who let their puppies bark all day outside (I did write them a polite letter that their dogs are barking all day and annoying some neighbors, but to no avail). May be they needed to be taught how to read first (they look like they're in their 40's though)

I'd never go see someone named "behaviorist", for human or canine. Dog trainer - yes. Dog behaviorist - no.

Anonymous said...

While you are at it, could you ask them why they prefer to be called "behaviorist" instead of a "dog trainer"? Is it their EGO thing?...like behaviorist sounds more professional and credible than a "trainer"?...(thus can charge you more)

I heard there is a thing called human "behaviorist" too. I think they're variation of the shrinks. Yes, I'd like to order the behaviorists too to modify annoying behaviors of my neighbors who let their puppies bark all day outside (I did write them a polite letter that their dogs are barking all day and annoying some neighbors, but to no avail). May be they needed to be taught how to read first (they look like they're in their 40's though)

I'd never go see someone named "behaviorist", for human or canine. Dog trainer - yes. Dog behaviorist - no.

Anonymous said...

I also prefer male trainer than female. If he's really cute, I might even let him be my "behaviorist".

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