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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've posted a little about my shy boy, Tyson. Most of the time, he's a sweet, happy, playful 16-month-old pup. However, he's shy with strangers and fearful of / reactive towards other dogs. Based on everything I've read about fearfulness in dogs, I'm concerned about what might happen and I hate that his fear is interfering with his enjoyment of life.

Short version: How do I decide whether to consult with a skilled, experienced trainer or a vet behaviorist for Tyson's fear issues?

On the one hand, I think a skilled trainer with the ability to read subtle body language cues and excellent timing would be sufficient. On the other hand, I don't want to discount a more thorough assessment and the possibility that he needs meds. I am confident that the trainers I have in mind would be honest about referring me to a VB if they thought it was necessary.

Long version: Not long after we brought him home, we took 4 group classes (puppy kindergarten, manners 1 & 2, and advanced manners) in quick succession. He was generally fine; a little standoffish, but he was able to participate fully. Those classes ended in late April.

We've also been taking not-quite-weekly nose work classes since February. He doesn't seem bothered by the dogs or people in that class even though they're walking past him / he's walking past them. Some of the dogs/people have been the same since the first class, but a few new people joined in May. His only problem is that he doesn't like needing to be crated away from me and will bark the entire class.

Earlier this month we started a new group class and he's not doing well. He did great the first week, but for the past two classes his behavior has gotten worse - he's distracted, vigilant, and reactive towards dogs that get too close.

I plan to talk to the two instructors at our training club who know him best, but I'm also trying to gather as much information as possible.

Thanks!
 

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I would start with a trainer who has experience with fear based reactive dogs. He or she should be able to evaluate and implement a good training program. A good trainer will also be able to refer you to a vet behaviorist if he or she sees that's what's needed.
 

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I would start with trainers. I know you have some great trainers available to you through your club! I've always been so envious! Wish I lived over in that part of the state! They should be able to guide you in the right direction.:)

Also, Pam Dennison is going to be having a REWARD Zone in September. It's a lot of fun and something that might interest you. Breaks things down, Pam will help with fine tuning/fixing handling, and you'll do lots of desensitization in the presence of a trigger. Would be just a single dog first day (likely one of Pam's dogs) and she goes from there based on each individual dog's progress. There are certain skills all teams practice but each REWARD zone is different as is each dog's session. It's very individualized.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks so much for the advice! Of course, the problem with seeking information is that one very often gets conflicting recommendations... I had asked the same question elsewhere and was advised to start with a VB. :confused:

My gut is to start with a trainer - either one we know or one recommended by a trainer we know. The issue is more situational than pervasive, and I really think a few sessions with the right trainer (someone who can read body language, has good mechanical skills, and can set up successful training situations), would make a huge difference.

On the other hand, sometimes I think we both would be better off with a valium before leaving the house. ;)

I would start with trainers. I know you have some great trainers available to you through your club! I've always been so envious! Wish I lived over in that part of the state! They should be able to guide you in the right direction.:)
You could move here. :p

We do have great instructors at our club. I'm not sure which ones do private sessions for behavior, but it would be easy to find out. If none of them do (I doubt it) they could certainly refer me to someone.

Also, Pam Dennison is going to be having a REWARD Zone in September. It's a lot of fun and something that might interest you. Breaks things down, Pam will help with fine tuning/fixing handling, and you'll do lots of desensitization in the presence of a trigger. Would be just a single dog first day (likely one of Pam's dogs) and she goes from there based on each individual dog's progress. There are certain skills all teams practice but each REWARD zone is different as is each dog's session. It's very individualized.
REWARD Zone sounds great, but we'll be leaving for vacation that weekend. :( I almost attended a dog body language seminar with her a few weeks ago, but ended up at the vet with both dogs.

Thanks so much!!
 

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Hi, Perhaps you should go with your gut and consult a trusted trainer on a one to one basis .

I'm sure you know that dogs go through fear periods at various ages and go through behaviour changes as they mature. Perhaps this might explain why Tyson isn't doing so well this time in the new group classes but maybe he is just finding them too stressful. It might be best to stop taking him until you consult a trainer / behavourist.

Is there any compromise between a trainer and a Vet behaviourist in the US . In the UK , there are qualified Behaviourists who are not vets but who study training and body language etc.
 

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A trainer or standard behaviorist should be fine! I think most good force-free behaviorists and trainers are educated and experienced enough to assess the dog and tell you whether they think he needs meds. They see a lot of reactivity cases and know when something is more strictly behavioral and can be dealt with through modification vs. not.
 

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A trainer or standard behaviorist should be fine! I think most good force-free behaviorists and trainers are educated and experienced enough to assess the dog and tell you whether they think he needs meds. They see a lot of reactivity cases and know when something is more strictly behavioral and can be dealt with through modification vs. not.
Just out of curiosity, what is your definition of a standard behaviorist? How is a "standard behaviorist" different from a trainer? Why would a person call themselves a behaviorist rather than a trainer unless they held the title veterinary behaviorist? Would that term imply that the person had some special expertise that a trainer lacked? Isn't all training a process of modifying behavior?

I bring this up because more and more I'm hearing of people calling themselves behaviorists and now some are even labeling themselves behavioralists, whatever the heck that means. Seems the dog training world gets more confusing for dog owners every day. I'd rather see people use professional credentials, if they've got any, rather than made up terms that imply a level of education and experience they may not possess.

Maybe consumers are pushing trainers in this direction. They're becoming more sophisticated and asking questions of trainers they didn't ten or fifteen years ago. Maybe trainers feel they're missing out on a portion of the market if they don't label themselves to fit what they perceive the owner is seeking when interviewing a trainer.

A bit off topic and I hope cookieface doesn't mind me wandering around here.
 

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@Grabby - to me, a "standard behaviorist" would be someone who did have that extra education and credentials but did not also hold a veterinary degree.

The woman I am beginning to work with is "just" a trainer - her skills come from experience, I don't know what credentials she has. But the owner of the small school I'm with has several credentials and I'd consider her to be more of a behaviorist, though I think she just calls herself a trainer.

I think you're right that the terminology gets muddled and messy because different people think they mean different things.

I don't personally think trainer vs. behaviorist matters (unless you're talking about a vet behaviorist) as long as the experience and the education is there.
 

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A standard behaviorist has an animal behavior degree. I usually just say behaviorist but I wanted to make sure I was distinguishing from a vet behaviorist, who has gone through vet school. A trainer does not have a degree from a university in animal behavior. Just experience and perhaps some certifications.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the additional comments. @Grabby, don't mind the detour at all - I appreciate the discussion.

I was deliberate in not asking about a behaviorist because that term is so misused and abused. I do think there is a difference between a trainer and a standard, non-vet behaviorist, but I'd be hard pressed to offer a good definition. I would think anyone who is identified as a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, Certified Behavior Consultant - Canine through CPDT, or possessing similar certifications or with an educational background in animal behavior, ethology, zoology, comparable psychology, or similar area. I'm sure there are other qualifications that I'm not thinking of, too. My thought, for anyone who cares, is that there should be some type of official distinction between someone who can teach specific skills (e.g., sit, down, agility, obedience) and someone who can read an animal, and develop and implement a behavior modification plan for uncomplicated problem behaviors. Maybe that's what certifications like CAAB are for, but they're just not well known or well regulated????

I know one at least one CBCC and several trainers who I would classify as knowledgeable and experienced in animal / dog behavior. Those are the type of people I could consult with (not that I thought anyone had a different impression).

So, after talking with the two instructors who know Tyson, I'm not sure what to do. One suggested trying Rescue Remedy and to keep doing what we're doing. She didn't think private sessions with a trainer would be helpful as, in her opinion, he needs more positive experiences around other dogs. The other said essentially the same thing - she worked through her dog's fear issues by continuing in classes and CC as needed.

I did try Rescue Remedy before nose work this morning. Even though I was positive it wouldn't work, but it was an easy thing to do. Two people commented (and others agreed) that he was much more relaxed during class. Was it RR? Was it some odd coincidence? Who knows. I do plan to try it again before our Tuesday night class, so we'll see.
 

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I'd be inclined to not use the rescue remedy before the next class as a little mini experiment. As you mentioned, several factors could have been at work and the reason Tyson seemed to do better in class. You've obviously got a healthy amount of skepticism about the efficacy of flower essences. Years ago, I too was intrigued by the idea but after some research into homeopathy I concluded that I'd skip that path.


This blog sums up why I am not a believer. Granted they do no harm as long as a person doesn't eschew CC and other behavior modification that is based on science.
Bach Flower Essences for Animals | The SkeptVet
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I love SkeptVet. Part of the reason I want to try in our next class is to see if today was a fluke or if there is something to it. On the one hand, if it was a fluke, Tuesday night will be hard (for both of us).* On the other, if it wasn't, Tuesday's class could be a good opportunity for building positive associations. Someone I know from another forum shares a research article that showed a positive effect of flower essences and reduced anxiety. I'm not sold, but if it helps him remain calm so that solid CC and training can be effective I'll set aside my skepticism (for now).

* I wouldn't feel bad about walking out or spending most of the night just feeding treats so that he learns that dogs = good things.
 

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Would you send me the research article? I remain firmly skeptical. Research is a vague word when speaking of proof of anything. You could claim you've researched the affect it's had on Tyson based on one trial. :) I'm equally skeptical of many studies because of huge flaws in many so called studies.

Regardless of any of the above, I'm glad Tyson did better in class. Here's to another good experience for him. :)
 
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