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:
- Loki’s aggression directed at us, his owners.
- 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.