Dog Behavioural Counselling
It is very common for dogs to have some behavioural issue or concern that requires training and therapy. This could be in the form of separation anxiety, being on a leash or in the car, fear of new environments, or fear of visiting the veterinary clinic. Some other behavioural concerns include guarding tendencies around food, toys or specific people. Further issues can consist of anxiety during thunderstorms or fireworks. Another area we often counsel for is aggression issues between dogs and people, other dogs or animals.
Often, our dogs will try to give multiple non-verbal cues that they are feeling upset or anxious in a situation, but those cues (if it is not known what to look for) can be missed or misinterpreted, and the problems can escalate. Untreated behavioural issues can often be a source of unhappiness, both for the pets and their owners, and if not resolved, can negatively impact the human-animal bond.
How can behavioural consultations help?
Consultations are used to help pinpoint the underlying cause of the inappropriate behaviours, whether it be from anxiety, inadequate response to training, environmental triggers, or other components. Once the root of the issues is addressed, then an appropriate behavioural modification plan can be put in place. The consultations can be used to ensure that there are no underlying medical issues that can trigger a behavioural condition – by completing a thorough physical exam and pursuing additional diagnostics if needed. The goal is to aim to treat the behavioural concern and any underlying triggers, to achieve a happier and more comfortable pet, and preserve the precious human-animal bond.
What happens at a consultation?
A comprehensive history is taken to determine the root of any behavioural concerns. The pet will be observed in the clinic to pick up non-verbal cues, and a physical exam is performed if possible. A discussion of body language and signals to watch for at home can be done if relevant. The most significant component is formulating a behavioural modification plan: what steps need to be taken to help resolve any behavioural issues. This plan can involve multiple stages and elements and is individualized based on the specific patient and issue that needs to be addressed. Often, treatment includes positive reward-based learning and desensitization techniques. Sometimes, medications or additional supplements are used to calm more anxious dogs – for them to be calm enough to be receptive to training.
Will my insurance policy cover the cost of behavioural counselling?
Insurance coverage varies from insurance policy to insurance policy – it is best to call your insurance provider to find out what type of coverage you have for your pet.
What to expect after a consultation?
The most significant component of success in behavioural issues is the owner’s willingness to participate at home, especially in cases of anxiety. Consistent and appropriate training at home will lead to the best level of success for the pet. Follow up rechecks are recommended, to check in on the training process.
If a dog is anxious about veterinary visits, and this is seen in the initial consultation, then we recommend returning for “cookie therapy” visits. These are designed to be happy and fun visits for the pet – where they can come to the clinic, receive treats and attention from the staff, and go home – without anything they perceive as scary happening during their visit. These visits can help make your pet feel more comfortable when visiting the clinic in the future.