The Dog Behaviorist

The session with the dog behaviorist was amazingly informative. I feel so much more empowered to handle and resolve Loki's aggression issues. She came promptly on time and stayed for about 2.5 hours. Prior to her arrival, I had carefully written out all of our concerns, questions, and the entire history of behavior as best as I could remember. I wanted to make sure that I got the most out of our session, so I compiled my list ahead of time.

She spent the first half of our session simply asking questions. She gathered as much information as she could. Then she looked at all of the information and gave us her assessment.


We had two main issues:

  1. Loki’s aggression directed at us, his owners.
  2. Canine rivalry between the two dogs.

Our major breakthrough revelation came when the behaviorist told us that all of Loki’s aggression toward us involved handling. Thus, it wasn’t dominance aggression, but rather fear-based aggression. One of the ways she determined the difference was by asking us if he ever displayed signs of aggression from a distance. It was a question I never expected and never thought of. I answered, no. His aggression towards us was never from a distance, it always involved us physically handling him in one way or another.

It’s a very subtle distinction. For instance, Loki can sometimes get aggressive if you want to get him off the couch. This starts to sound like dominance aggression. But he doesn’t guard the couch as his own and growl at you to stay away from a distance. In fact, we can easily sit right next to him with no problem. The only time he gets aggressive is when we physically touch him with our hands to get him off the couch. Perhaps we would've never been able to figure out the difference between dominance and fear without someone asking the right questions. I would have never thought on my own to mention the fact that he doesn’t display any aggression from a distance. Asking the right questions is important. If you are looking for a dog behaviorist, make sure that the person asks you lots of questions. Be wary of someone who starts giving an assessment too early.

As for the canine rivalry, she told us that Loki was alpha between the two dogs; hence we should treat him as that. I didn’t realize that he was alpha and thought that Jujube had plenty of alpha tendencies. But the behaviorist told us that from all the information we told her, Loki was the alpha. He was here first. He was the one starting fights and giving her warning signs to back off. He was the one trying to dominate her. And although she is a bit aloof and does her own thing without regard for Loki, she does not try to dominate him.

Choosing a good behaviorist is very difficult. We didn’t want to pay lots of money for someone to tell us something we already knew, or worse, tell us things that are wrong. As for the behaviorist we ultimately chose, the money we spent was completely worth it.

7 comments:

Chibi And Sumo said...

So did they give helpful tips on ways to deal/correct/desensitize the behavior? or is that come after more sessions and observations?

Vi said...

Yes, but that's for future blog posts!

Chibi And Sumo said...

:)

Masako said...

I can't wait to hear how it's going after the visit with the behaviorist. So, it was a one time visit, or is it over a course of a few weeks?

Either way, I'm so excited to hear how things are going.

The Shiba said...

We were told by our trainer/behaviorist (she is both) that we were to encourage Cortez to be the Alpha by feeding him first, treating him first, out the door first, etc. since he is the first dog there and the more dominant of the two. In one month, we have had only one fight and that happened at 2 am so we don't know why it happened- it just did. Belle ended up at the Vet with her eye completely inflamed but now its all healed and she is back to her normal self.

Please do keep posting as we are now a two shiba household as well- although ours are older at 8 and 10.

California girl said...

What do you think about "desentization" program for the humans? Do you think this is abusive? There are company/ government who use this technique on people. For example, if you complain to HR that your work environment is filthy, they'll transfer you to the filthier place to punish you. If you complain about noisy neighbor to the local government,then they'll make more noise supposedly to "desentize" you to the noise...as if they're doing you a favor. How mean is that? These "studies" are ordered by human behaviorists on corporate/government payrolls. How twisted and sick is that?

Vi said...

Masako -- Yes, it was a one time visit with follow up on phone and email for at least 3 months & more time if necessary.

Cortez & family -- Yes, we should have began with treating Loki as alpha, as you were advised to do. I think your pups should be more mellow at 8 & 10.

California Girl -- Um... I'm not quite sure what you're talking about, but let's keep this blog about dogs & not humans.

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