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Behavioral Change is an Investment

DogPACT celebrated 20 years in business in October 2017. When DogPACT was founded in 1996, it was still rare to find positive reinforcement trainers and behavior consultants. Twenty years later that has changed. Now, with careful due diligence, you can find a trainer who meets your training goals without abusing your dog. There are now certification programs for trainers that require continuing education to retain certification. This is a positive change in a field where uneducated and inexperienced people call themselves "behaviorists" without the credentials to back up their claims (see Who is a Behaviorist). We hope that by reading the information in this site that you will be able to make an well informed decision about your dog's training.

Changing behavior is an investment, both short term and long term, in our dogs' quality of life and that of our families and neighbors. If you have been told that there is a quick fix for your dog's behavioral problem, please get a second, third, and even fourth opinion. Try not to be tempted by the quick-fix schemers. Behavior change requires behavior change on your part as well as your dog's. We help you understand how your behavior—and willingness to change it when necessary—affects your dog's behavior. We help you learn how to manage or control your dog's behavior while you and your dog are learning new skills. There are no quick fixes.

Be an informed consumer of training services, read the information here and throughout the web site, and when you are ready to commit to real behavior change, Contact Us. Our mission is to work with dog owners who are willing to commit to a comprehensive program that will help manage and change their dog's behavior.

Common Behavior Problems

Behavior modification simply means changing, or modifying, behavior. Most commonly, we use the term behavior modification when we are talking about addressing complex or serious behavior problems such as:

  • Unruliness, including mounting, tugging at clothes, and biting
  • Separation anxiety
  • Aggression toward people, dogs, or other animals
  • Fearfulness
  • Noise/sound phobias
  • Destructivenss
  • Barking
    • Territorial
    • Alarm
    • Attention-seeking
    • Fear-induced
    • Excitement
    • Frustration
  • Male marking in the house

DogPACT Behavior Modification Programs

All behavior modification cases are handled on a private basis since these types of behaviors cannot be worked on in a group class setting. We schedule a two-hour initial consult during which time we take an in-depth history, evaluate the behavior in action (when appropriate; we will not provoke aggression just so we can see it), and then outline an overall program that includes the following components:

Management

Controlling the environment so that the behavior cannot occur serves several purposes:

  • Eliminates the opportunity for the dog to continue “practicing” behavior we are trying to modify or eliminate
  • Reduces the chances that the behavior will get worse with practice
  • Keeps all parties (people, dogs, etc.) safe
  • Reduces the underlying stress for the dog
  • Reduces financial liability (in the case of aggression towards other dogs or people)

Training Replacement Behaviors

We know what we don’t want our dogs to do, e.g., lunge, bark, grab things off the counter. The question is: What do you want to teach them to do instead? Rather than buy into the myths of dominance and alpha, our time is better spent training our dogs to do something to replace the behaviors we find undesirable. We call these other, desirable behaviors replacement or alternative behaviors that are incompatible with the old behaviors. A few examples include sit instead of jumping on people, hand targeting instead of lunging at other dogs, and settling on a mat in the kitchen instead of counter-surfing, and so on. Training replacement behaviors to a high degree of proficiency is an important part of a comprehensive behavior change program.

Changing the Association

Desensitization/Counterconditioning is a process that utilizes a concept called “classical” or “Pavlovian” conditioning, and it works very well with dogs. By changing your dog’s internal emotional feelings about specific things, we can change her behavior in the presence of those things (triggers).

The Role of Punishment

Although we at DogPACT would like to say we simply choose not to use many of the most common aversive methods because we feel they are inhumane, we know that that is often not enough to convince our clients to eschew them.

It is the opinion of many veterinary behaviorists (board-certified vets with advanced studies in behavior) and certified applied animal behaviorists (non-veterinarian PhDs) under whom the trainers of DogPACT have studied that most punishment is contraindicated in behavior modification cases. Specifically avoided are things that can easily raise stress levels or inadvertently make negatives associations. These include:

  • The use of choke chains where hard collar corrections are applied
  • The use of pinch/prong collars because of the discomfort/pain that is applied through their use
  • Yelling
  • Hitting
  • Alpha-rolling or scruff shakes
  • Dominance exercises (forcing a dog onto its back, usually done as a well-intentioned puppy exercise that often backfires)
  • Threatening (verbal and intimidating body language)

Not only can pet manners training be accomplished without the use of aversives, it is imperative to avoid their use in behavior modification cases where underlying stress is often what is causing the behavior in the first place. Adding more stress often makes the behavior worse.

In all our consultations, we provide many alternatives to the use of aversives and explain why, in each case, they are not recommended.

Our Programs and Pricing

Our pricing is specific to the exact issues your dog is experiencing. Please Contact Us and we will help you select the DogPACT program best suited to address your dog's behavior problems and discuss our rates with you.

Have questions? Please ask us how we can help.

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