Can My Dog be a Therapy Dog?

I’ve received several requests recently asking to train or certify a dog to be a therapy dog. Let’s look at what a therapy dog is (and isn’t) and whether your dog might be a fit for therapy work.

A therapy dog does Animal-Assisted Interventions (AAI) which is an umbrella term for Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA), Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) and Animal-Assisted Education (AAE). AAA dogs make visits to institutions like hospitals and senior care facilities and participate in crisis response. They also serve as stress reduction helpers in the workplace and at universities. For example, CWU runs the Paws and Relax program where dogs provide stress relief for frazzled students during finals week.

AAT dogs work in physical or occupational therapy settings. For example, a dog might assist a patient working to regain motor control by retrieving a ball the patient throws. AAE dogs participate in reading or other education programs. The Ellensburg public library has an animal-assisted reading program for children.

Therapy dogs differ from Emotional Support dogs who provide comfort and companionship to their owners. Therapy dogs are family pets and not recognized by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and don’t get the public access privileges that Service Dogs have.

Therapy dogs can be any breed or size but must have a calm temperament. They’re not upset by new places, strange equipment and sudden noises. They’ll willingly engage with people when given the opportunity and are friendly to all people regardless of age, race, gender or physical ability. They enjoy people touching, patting and hugging them.  

Because they’ll be working in public situations, they must reliably perform basic obedience skills (sit, down, stay, leave it) even when there are distractions, and walk politely on leash past other people and dogs.

You’ll need to be attuned to your dog’s body language and stress signals to gauge your dog’s comfort level in public settings. While studies show decreased stress levels for humans during animal-assisted visits, some studies indicate increased cortisol levels (stress hormones) in some therapy dogs, possibly related to the number of visits the dog makes or whether the dog has a choice to move away from a person when needed.

While there isn’t a national certification program for therapy dogs, there are some respected organizations that help handler/dog teams develop skills needed for therapy work, as well as providing liability insurance during visits. Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society) is probably the oldest and best known. Every organization has their own certification and may have differing requirements.

If you like putting titles after your dog’s name, The American Kennel Club (AKC) issues therapy dog titles based on the number of visits your dog has completed. They require the dog to be certified by one of their AKC approved therapy dog organizations, such as Alliance of Therapy Dogs or Pet Partners.

Organizations that allow animal-assisted visits or therapy may have varying requirements. CWU for example requires dogs to pass the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test prior to participating in the Paws and Relax program. Other local organizations may not require anything other than a clean, well-behaved dog. Check first with the business you’re interested in visiting to find out what they require.

Teaching Your Dog to Greet Politely

Don’t you love the look of absolute joy on your dog’s face when you come home from an absence? They’re all wiggly and goofy, dancing around with smiling faces. However, that joyful reunion can quickly turn to irritation if your dog starts jumping on you.

Jumping up probably starts innocently enough. Our puppy jumps up on our legs, and we automatically bend down and give them attention because they’re so darn cute. It’s thought dogs are trying to get to our faces, as their wild ancestors used muzzle-to-muzzle greetings when reuniting. We also reinforce (reward) the jumping by giving the attention they’re seeking.

Before you know it, Fido is a 70-pound torpedo launching at guests or knocking over the grand kids and the jumping becomes embarrassing, irritating and potentially dangerous. It’s up to us to teach them a more acceptable way to say hello to people. Here are some things you can do to help your enthusiastic greeter.

Prevention comes first

Set up the environment to prevent her jumping on people. Use baby gates or fold-able pens to block your dog’s access to doorways so family and friends can enter without Fido leaping at them.

If your dog likes toys, keep one near the door to toss as you enter. While she’s off chasing the toy, you have time to put your things down. Or, try tossing a handful of treats on the floor as you come in. It will temporarily distract your dog so you can get past her without getting jumped on.

Keep some yummy food dispensing toys or chew bones ready, so you can remove your dog from the area and give her something to do while people are visiting. Keep a leash handy too, so you can calmly remove your dog if she starts to jump.

Don’t reward jumping

Behavior that is reinforced (rewarded) happens more often, so our dogs keep jumping because it works for them. Turn your back when your dog jumps on you. When she stops jumping, turn around, crouch down and give attention at her level. Keep turning away every time she jumps up.

If your dog jumps as you come in the door, go right back out and close the door behind you. Removing yourself will leave your dog wondering what happened! Wait a few seconds, and then come in again. Reward with a treat and/or attention when she keeps four-on-the-floor or sits to greet.

Train an alternate behavior

If you want your dog to sit to greet, you’ll need to start by training a reliable sit-stay. Dogs need lots of repetition and rewards to learn the “tricks” we humans want them to do, so practice a lot in the absence of guests first, until your dog will sit quickly, every time.

Consistency is key, so all family members need to be on board with the plan. Enlist the help of some dog loving friends too and educate everyone on how to use management strategies, remove attention, and reward appropriate behavior.

Reducing Excessive Barking

Barking is one of the ways dogs communicate different emotions and information. They bark when they’re excited, when they want something, when they’re afraid or to alert others to intruders. While barking is normal dog behavior, many people find it frustrating. To reduce excessive barking, it’s important to first understand your dog’s underlying motivation and emotional state.

Let’s say your dog drops a toy at your feet and starts barking. To make him stop, you pick up the toy and toss it. Your dog learns barking works to get the toy tossed, so he’ll likely repeat it again. This is Demand Barking. To reduce it, you’ll need to stop rewarding the barking. Remove yourself from the area or put the toy away as a penalty for barking. Don’t throw the toy unless your dog is quiet. Be warned though that the barking will likely get worse before it gets better. Don’t give in, no matter what.

Dogs who bark at people walking by, cars pulling in the drive or doorbells ringing, are Alarm Barking. It’s your dog’s way of alerting you to the presence of an intruder and to let the intruder know they’ve been noticed. For some alarm barkers, modifying the environment can help. Remove his access to windows where he might be able to see passersby. Applying window film can obscure the view, while allowing light in. Give your dog interesting food puzzles or chew items to keep him busy.

Dogs who alarm bark when visitors arrive (usually triggered by the doorbell or knock) can be taught to lie down and stay on a mat in exchange for yummy treats. If your alarm barker loves to fetch, teach him to go get his toy when someone knocks or rings (it’s hard to bark you’re your mouth is full). Teach the behavior before actual visitors arrive so the doorbell or knock becomes the prompt to “get your toy”.

Another technique is a time-out for barking. When he barks, say “thank you”, or “be quiet”, and then reward with treats when he stops barking for second. If he doesn’t stop, say “oh darn, too bad” and escort him to a time-out space well away from the door. With repetition he’ll learn barking gets him removed and he’ll start to heed the warning.

If your dog is fearful of strangers or visitors, he may be Spooky Barking. It’s his way of saying, “Please stay away, I’m not comfortable.” Spooky barkers are typically under socialized and need to learn that visitors or strangers predict good things for them. This is one reason early socialization for puppies is so important. Punishing a fearful dog for barking will do nothing to assuage his fears. Working with an experienced trainer or behavior expert your fearful dog can become more comfortable around strangers and the barking will decrease.

Dogs left alone all day, can develop unacceptable behaviors including frustration and boredom barking. Dogs are highly social and don’t cope well with prolonged isolation. Consider a dog walker or daycare if you’re gone all day. Provide daily physical exercise and mental enrichment. Searching for and unpacking food puzzles are great mental exercise. Fill them before you leave and hide them around the house. If your dog must spend part of the day outdoors, install fencing he can’t see through to reduce barking at people and dogs passing by. Provide him with chew bones and other food-dispensing items scattered around the yard to keep him busy.

Dogs who bark when left alone and exhibit other behaviors including whining, howling, trying to escape through doors or windows, and urinating or defecating indoors may have Separation Anxiety. Dogs with this affliction have a phobia of being left alone or separated from a specific person and need professional help to get better.

When dealing with excessive barking, understand the motivation behind it and then teach your dog an acceptable alternative.

Easy Peasy Dog Treats

Check out this easy way to make perfectly sized dog treats! It uses a pyramid style silicone baking tray. If you turn the tray over, the little pyramids are hollow and you fill those with the batter for your treats. I ordered my trays online, but they may carry them at Freddies or BiMart.

Here’s a recipe I used.

1 can salmon (I also made a batch with sardines)

2 eggs

1 cup of flour (I used rice flour but any flour will do).

Blend the ingredients in a food processor to a smooth batter that’s close to waffle or pancake texture.

Put the silicone trays on a metal baking tray or cookie sheet. Spread the batter into the holes on the silicone tray. The recipe fills 2 trays. Make sure the batter fills the holes cleanly or they won’t come out as individual pieces.

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 mins (adjust time for your oven). I like the treats to come out fairly dry, but for a softer treat you could increase the temp to 350 and bake for 15 or 20 minutes or until they’re done to your liking.

The treats pop right out and are the perfect size to use in training (about the size of your pinkie finger nail). Store them in the fridge or freezer.

I first saw the idea on the eileenanddogs blog. She recommends using tapioca flour to make the treats noncrumbly. I’m planning to try that next time, although these treats didn’t crumble.

I tried a ground turkey recipe, but the stringiness of the turkey meat was difficult to spread in the trays and didn’t come out very cleanly. I’m making another batch today using canned chicken meat. Let me know if you try this method and how you like it!

No-Fail Coming When Called (Recalls)

During hot summer days when I was young, a little ice cream truck would make the rounds in the neighborhood. All the kids knew the truck was coming because it blasted a silly tinny song we could hear from blocks away. We’d all get excited and run out to the sidewalk, shouting to our Moms to please let us have some ice cream. We were Pavlov’s dogs.

Ivan Pavlov is famous for his study on dogs which documented a type of learning called Classical Conditioning, which is an unconscious process by which a predictive relationship is formed between two unrelated stimuli. In other words, we loved ice cream. The silly tinny song reliably predicted the arrival of ice cream, so we got excited when we heard the silly tinny song. Our response was emotional and automatic, and that’s very powerful.

Our dogs learn these predictive relationships too. What makes your dog’s eyes light up? Does she jump for joy when you pick up the car keys or her leash? Does she come running with tail wagging and a smiling face when you open the food cupboard, or shake a bag of treats? Your dog responds happily and automatically because one event (leashes, car keys, treat bags) is a tip-off that something they love is about to happen (car rides, walkies, cookies).

We can use the power of classical conditioning when teaching our dogs to come when called (recall). Start by choosing a cue. This is the word or sound you’ll use to call your dog. It can be a word like “come” or “here” or a sound like “woohoo!” or even a whistle. To be most effective, it’s best to choose something new.

Next, pair that word or sound with something your dog loves. With repetition, your dog will respond enthusiastically when she hears the cue. Trainers call this a “yippee” response. Sounds simple enough, but there are some things to keep in mind.

The “something your dog loves” needs to be extra special and initially something she’ll only get during your training sessions. Make it something your dog will do back flips for. Cooked chicken, string cheese or freeze-dried liver treats generally work great. She needs to get these tasty treats every time she hears the cue. Every single time.

Don’t let your dog know a training session is about to start. We never knew when the ice cream truck was going to come by. The only tip off was the silly tinny song. The cue should be the only thing that signals to your dog that tasty treats are about to happen.

Our dogs are keen observers and notice when we get the treats out, or put on our training pouch, and they’ll follow us around anticipating getting a goodie. Prepare ahead of time and stash some goodies where your dog can’t get them. When she’s not expecting anything, say your cue, wait a couple seconds and then give her a big spill of treats on the floor. Use lots of praise too. This should be party. When she’s done collecting her prize, go about your day again.

For the first week or so, only practice a couple times a day. Part of the excitement over the ice cream truck was that it only came by a couple times a week. If the truck kept coming back every few minutes, our “yippee” response would have waned to a “ho hum” response.

Once your dog excitedly seeks you out when she hears the cue, you can start practicing actual recalls. Make it easy at first by keeping distractions low and staying close. Don’t destroy your recall cue by doing something your dog doesn’t like after she comes to you. Avoid scolding or ending fun. Keep rewarding, every single time. Incorporate other rewards like a rousing game of tug or fetch. If you want your dog to stop what she is doing and come running to you, make it worth her while. Great rewards build great recalls!

Easy Indoor Enrichment Ideas

Is your dog going stir crazy from not getting out during these cold snowy days? Here are some easy homemade ideas to keep your pup happy until the weather warms up.

Hide some tasty treats in various locations around the house and encourage your dog to “search”. Make it more challenging by putting several

empty cardboard boxes on the floor and toss some treats into one of them. Your pup will have to search the boxes to get the goodies.  If you have small critter pets or birds, put some of their used litter in a baggie, poke some holes in it and stash it for your dog to find. You’ll need to supervise this one to make sure she doesn’t eat the baggie or the litter.

Spread some kibble on the floor and cover with an old towel or blanket. Your dog will have to burrow under the blanket to get the goodies. Caution, my dog decided it was easier to just chew through the blanket, so you might not want to use anything valuable.

Fold the end of an empty toilet tissue tube. Drop some kibble or yummy treats inside and fold up the other end. Hand it to your dog and let her tear it open! Other variations on this theme include placing treats in an empty yogurt or cottage cheese container. Slap on the lid and encourage your pup to open it.  Wrap up some treats in some butcher paper, twist the ends and let your dog rip it up. To make a bigger challenge, stuff the paper inside one of those holey-roller toys, or pack inside a cardboard box (taped up for the doggie PhD). Snuffle mats are all the rage these days and when loaded with kibble give your dog foraging opportunities. The mats are easy to make or you can order them online.

Do some reward-based training. Tricks are a fun way to bond with your dog and have fun together. Anything from high five, to opening the fridge can be taught with rewards. Have fun with it.  Create a mini obstacle course and teach your pup to crawl under the coffee table, circle the sofa and jump over a broomstick. You get the idea. Have fun and before you know it spring will be here!

Preparing Your Dog for a New Baby

If your dog has been the “only child” in your family for a while, adjusting to the arrival of a new human baby can be overwhelming and upsetting. Your routines will change along with the amount of time and attention you’ll have for your dog. By preparing ahead for the new arrival, you can make the transition go smoothly for you and your dog.

The time to start prepping is when you first learn you’re expecting. Brush up on your dog’s obedience skills or sign up for a positive reinforcement obedience class. Essential behaviors include ‘sit’, ‘down’, ‘stay’ and greeting without jumping on people. Basic behaviors should be on a verbal cue, so you can ask for behaviors while you’re holding the baby. Practice carrying a baby-sized doll (or sack of sugar) around and practice verbal cues with your hands full.

Behaviors like ‘leave it’ will help prevent your dog from picking up baby items and ‘drop it’ is useful if he’s already got something in his mouth. Teaching ‘wait’ can keep you and baby from being knocked over while passing through doorways, getting into and out of cars, and navigating stairways.

If the baby’s room is going to be off limits for your dog, teach him to lie down and stay just outside the room. Go into the room, mess around a bit, then come back and reward him for doing a great job. Start with a few seconds at first and gradually increase the time he must stay. Keep the door to the room closed when you’re not training.

Introduce your dog to the baby equipment you’ll be using. Let him investigate and be quick to redirect to appropriate dog toys if he tries to play with or chew the item. Many dogs can get spooked or overly excited around something that rolls around. If you’re going to bring the dog along when using a baby stroller, get him used to it now. Start by moving the stroller a bit, and then give a treat. Don’t force him to interact with it. Reward him for staying near on his own, and gradually move the stroller more. When he’s comfortable near the moving stroller, practice taking leash walks while pushing it.

If your dog hasn’t been around babies, the experience can be distressing and even frightening at first. Babies don’t look like adult humans, they smell different, make screeching sounds and flail about. The sound of a baby crying can be especially upsetting to dogs who are sensitive to loud or strange noises. Purchase a recording of babies crying and play it at various times to get your dog used to the sound. Pair the crying sound with tasty treats and attention, so your dog learns to anticipate good things when babies screech.

As much as we love being with our dogs, the truth is, you’ll be spending less time with him once the baby comes home. Get him used to spending time alone each day. Set up a confinement area, crate or dog bed, and practice having him spend time there during the day when you’re at home. Put him in his area and give him something to chew on to help him settle in.

A doggie space also gives your dog an appropriate place to be while you’re feeding or holding the baby. With practice you can teach your dog to automatically go to his place when the baby starts to cry, or when you have the baby in your arms. You can also use the doggie space as a permanent sleeping location if you’re going to prohibit him from sleeping on your bed or the sofa once the baby comes.

Some dogs become stressed with a sudden change of routine, so think now about how the daily schedule will change. Will you be walking the dog or feeding him at different times once the baby comes? Will you need to hire a dog walker to ensure your dog is getting enough exercise? Start shifting to new routines now, so it’s normal when the baby arrives.

With a bit of practice and prep work, your dog will be ready for the big changes that come with a new baby. Next month we’ll look at what do once the baby comes home.


Holiday Gifts for Dogs

The holidays are here and it’s time to shop. The pet industry is brimming with practical, fun and techie gadgets for that special dog in your life. Here are some ideas for pet presents beyond the usual dog treats.

If you travel with your dog a lot, check out Overland Dog Gear’s variety of travel bags for pooches. They have sizes ranging from a purse-size bag for day trips to large rolling bags and duffels for long trips. The average size comes with zippered carriers for food and treats, extra space for toys and water and collapsible water and food dishes with their own placemat. They claim it meets airline carry on requirements.

Another travel-related gadget is a trailer hitch-mounted step. Jumping out of trucks and SUVs can be harmful on joints and is not recommended for growing puppies and giant breeds. The Twistep attaches to the trailer hitch mount and can be stowed by swinging it under the car body. The reviews I’ve seen (I don’t have one myself) are largely favorable, and the construction looks solid.

Whether your dog likes to roam, or just mosey around the house and yard, there several GPS trackers on the market to help you monitor your pet’s location and activity. The Whistle 3 is the highest rated among reviews I’ve found. Most offer real-time mapping, and some will alert you if your dog leaves a predefined area. Most require a monthly subscription for data transfer.

A more budget friendly option is a dog tag with a Qr code. When someone scans the code with a smart phone, they can see details about your dog, along with your contact information through a website you set up. Some, like the PawPrintsID will also alert you via text message and email with the GPS location of your pet and contact information for the person who found your pet (if the finder has a smartphone). Most tags allow you to store medical information and photos too. The Qr tags don’t require a monthly subscription.

If you’ve got an obsessive ball fetcher in the family, an automatic ball launcher will keep your pup busy while you’re glued to your mobile device. The ifetch uses smaller tennis balls and is great for small to medium sized dogs. For larger dogs, use the ifetch Too. You can adjust the launch distance to 10, 20 or 30 feet, so it’s useable indoors and outdoors.

The GoDogGo launcher shoots regular sized tennis balls, and while it claims to be adjustable for indoor use, it appears to shoot more vertically than the ifetch devices, so that may be an issue indoors if your dog likes to leap up to catch.

If you’re looking for something for your nervous pooch, the icalmdog® is a tiny speaker that uses SD cards loaded with specially developed music to soothe the stressed-out dog.  It also has a Bluetooth function, so you can stream music from another device.

And don’t forget to shop locally. Ellensburg Pet Center, the Whole Pet Shop (in Roslyn), Ranch and Home and Old Mill Country Store carry a great variety of toys, treats, beds and more for your doggie gift giving. Happy shopping!


Keeping dogs safe and healthy over the holidays

What a glorious autumn we’ve had!  Chilly nights, warm days, colorful trees and blue skies. Unless you go into a shopping center where Christmas decorations are already on full display, it’s easy to forget the holidays are just around the corner. Including our pets in the season’s festivities can be enjoyable for everyone if we keep some tips in mind.

Halloween can be especially scary for dogs. They simply don’t understand the little goblin or ghoul at the door is really a child in costume. The sight of a strange human combined with doorbells ringing and kids yelling “trick or treat” can be frightening to nervous dogs, causing them to bolt through the door. Territorial dogs may growl or bite an innocent child. If your pet is wary of strangers, or easily frightened by all the activity, don’t let her greet the scary monsters at your door. Confine her to a crate or other room with a good chew item to keep her comfortable until the trick or treating is done.

Dressing our dogs up in costumes can be a lot of fun for us, but our dogs may not feel the same. Many short-coated breeds or small dogs get used to wearing coats and sweaters during cold weather and may not mind a costume, while other dogs find the experience unpleasant. Watch for signs of cowering, tucked tail, flattened ears, panting (when he’s not hot), or refusal to move, as these may be signs your dog is stressed and not enjoying the experience. Respect your dog’s comfort level and let him choose if he’s okay dressing up. If Fido does wear a costume, just as with children, make sure he can see clearly and move freely.

All those Halloween candy treats can present hazards for dogs. Many candies and sugarless gums contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is particularly dangerous for dogs. Ingesting even small amounts can cause hypoglycemia, seizures, liver failure and even death. Chocolate contains stimulants that can cause a range of problems from gastric upset to seizures and death. The darker the chocolate, the greater the danger. Keep the candies out of Fido’s reach.

While indulging in all the special foods and treats is the norm for most of us over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, too much of a good thing can be bad for our canine companions. Too many rich, fatty or new foods can cause gastric upset for many dogs and in some cases lead to pancreatitis, a painful and severe inflammation of the pancreas. If your dog is used to eating home cooking and leftovers, make sure it’s low fat, and don’t give too much. Stick to items such as mashed potatoes (no gravy) a bit of turkey and plain green beans. Stay away from cooked bones, as these can splinter and cause lacerations in the digestive system. For dogs with sensitive tummies, keep them happy with some healthy dog treats.

The festivities wouldn’t be complete without all the beautiful holiday decorations. Unsupervised dogs and young puppies are at risk of electrical shock by chewing through cords and strings of Christmas lights. Some dogs will eat anything that remotely resembles food, including holiday wrappings, tinsel and even candles. Consider restricting your dog’s access to the decorated areas of the house during the holidays. Supervise carefully when your dog is near the Christmas tree, and provide entertainment in the form of a food-dispensing puzzle, or interactive dog toy.

Sudden changes in routine and lots of holiday guests can be upsetting for some dogs. Stick to normal feeding and exercise times to minimize stress. Give shy dogs a safe, quiet place away from the fun to relax and rest. The exuberant greeter may need a brush up on how to greet guests politely. If there is no time for training, use baby gates and leashes to manage the situation when guests are arriving. With some careful supervision and a few adjustments, your dog can have a safe, enjoyable holiday with the family.


Choosing a Dog Trainer

Making the decision to get some training for your dog is a great investment in your life-long relationship. Choosing a qualified trainer can be tricky. The dog training profession is unregulated, so anyone can call themselves a trainer regardless of their experience or education. Here are some things to know before hiring a trainer for your dog.

The essential thing to look for is a trainer committed to using humane, reward-based techniques to achieve behavior outcomes. Reward-based (sometimes called positive) means rewarding dogs with something they love (usually food or play) for appropriate behaviors, and teaching alternatives to unwanted behaviors. Training with rewards also strengthens the human-dog bond because the learning process based on trust and cooperation.

Some trainers falsely claim to be reward-based, or positive. Watch out for terms like ‘tailoring the training to the dog’, ‘being the alpha’ or offering ‘balanced’ training. These are euphemisms for using any means necessary to gain compliance, including physical and potentially harmful methods. Using force and intimidation in training is unnecessary and less effective than reward-based methods, due to the risk of adverse effects including increased fearful and aggressive behaviors.

The American Veterinary Society for Animal Behavior (AVSAB) recommends looking for someone who uses “primarily or only reward-based training with treats, toys and play.” They also recommend avoiding any trainer who “advocates methods of physical force”, which include using equipment such as choke, prong or shock collars.

The trainer you choose needs to have an education in training, so they’re well versed in learning theory, body language, good handling skills and able to communicate effectively with dogs and their humans.

Certifications demonstrate a commitment to learning and continuing education. The main credentials to look for are CTC, or KPA CTP, as these trainers have completed a course of study with the Academy for Dog Trainers or the Karen Pryor Academy, and are committed to reward-based training.

The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) is an independent certifying body which tests applicants on their knowledge and skills (CPDT-KA, CPDT-KSA and CBCC-KA) but is not a guarantee that a trainer will use only reward-based methods. The Pet Professionals Guild also certifies trainers (PCT-A and PCBC-A) and requires adherence to a humane, force-free code of ethics.

If your dog needs help beyond obedience training, you may need a behaviorist as not all dog trainers have the knowledge or experience to deal with all behavioral issues.

Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB) have a graduate or PhD level education in animal behavior. Veterinary Behaviorists (DACVB) have specialized education in animal behavior and can prescribe medications to aid with behavioral problems. Most CAABs and veterinary behaviorists focus on issues such as fear, aggression and anxiety.  Any ethical dog trainer will gladly refer you to a behaviorist if the problem is outside their area of expertise.

All these letters and titles can be confusing, but don’t worry. Renowned author and founder of the Academy for Dog Trainers, Jean Donaldson, created a transparency test for consumers. There are three simple questions. What exactly will happen when my dog gets it right? What exactly will happen when my dog gets it wrong? Are there any less invasive alternatives to what you propose?

You should get clear, specific answers from the trainer, not vague descriptions of energy projection, pack mentality, or other non-sensical language. For example, “When your puppy sits, he’ll get a treat, since positive reinforcement increases the likelihood of the behavior repeating”. Not, “When I project my alpha energy waves, the puppy will sit because he wants to please me”.

Finally, because behavior is variable and depends on many factors, an ethical trainer cannot and will not guarantee the results of training. At the same time, an ethical trainer should ensure their services are provided to your satisfaction.

In the end, you need to be comfortable with the methods and equipment the trainer uses, along with your ability to apply those methods as they will impact your relationship with your dog for years to come. If you’re not comfortable, keep shopping.