How do you know if a Behavior Consultation is the place to start to get some help with your dog’s issues? And what really IS a Behavior Consultation anyway? Who needs one, and who doesn’t? In this blog, I’m going to answer these questions and demystify the All-mighty Behavior Consultation so you can go into your session knowing what to expect from your consult and how it will help you begin or continue your behavior modification journey with your dog.
What happens during a Behavior Consultation? Different trainers do consultations differently, but there are some common themes. During a consult, a trainer or Behavior Consultant will ask you questions and get to know your dog – and you. They’ll want to know things like where you got your dog, how long you’ve had your dog, and if your dog has any health issues. They’re going to want to know a lot about the issues you’re seeing and the goals you have for your dog. Why so many questions? All dogs are individuals and a one-size fits all approach may leave some crucial things out for your dog. Also, the details really do matter. If you’re seeing aggression, a consultant is going to want to know the specifics of when you see it, as well as what behaviors you’re seeing (growling, snapping snarling, biting, lunging?), how long they last, when they started, and what happens right before and right after the aggressive episode. A consultant is also going to want to know what you’ve tried in regard to changing the behavior, and if your dog has bitten, we actually want to know where and how hard. These details are really important to making sure the plan we come up with is right for your dog and that it helps keep everyone – you, your family, us, and your dog – safe.
Can’t you just start training? The consult will get people started with concrete action items they can start working on with their dog ASAP. This includes management, the most important piece of a behavior modification plan, as well as recommendations for enrichment, veterinary support, equipment to purchase, and depending on the case, training exercises. The training exercises specifically are a very small part of the overall plan, which encompasses lots of parts of your dog’s well-being. So yes, we can just start training, and a whole lot of other things, in the consult.
Can’t you just get the info you need over the phone? Some consultants do their sessions over the phone, some over Zoom, and some in-person. But we can’t take time on the phone to take a full history prior to the consult if a client isn’t sure they want to work with us going forward – this takes time away from other clients who have signed our liability waiver and are ready to get to work!
How can you train virtually? Virtual dog training has actually been around far longer than 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic began. Those of us who hadn’t tried it yet had others to rely on to provide a blueprint for how to work with folks effectively using virtual means, and many of us are continuing to do so as pandemic restrictions ease now in 2022. At Rockstar Dog Training specifically, we do our consultations virtually so that we can develop a safety plan in order to start helping your dog right away. For many dogs, having a new person in their space is what triggers their fear, anxiety, stress, or worry. We can eliminate this stress by meeting virtually while we get safety and management in place so that the first time we do meet in person – which we recommend – you and your dog can start working right away. Also – spoiler alert – dog training is about the trainer and the owners working together to help the dog. I very rarely train the dog myself, I train the people. You are the one who will be with your dog all the days between training session with me, so you have to know what to do to keep your dog moving forward! This starts at the consult, where we get on the same page so we are an effective team.
Don’t you have to see the behavior to change it? It is commonly thought that a consultant has to observe the dog doing the unwanted behavior in order to effectively change it. This simply isn’t true. I know what a dog fight looks like, as well as what it looks like to see someone get bitten. I don’t want to see these behaviors again! And I don’t want to put your dog’s safety at risk by setting up a situation where they might be afraid or stressed and do the unwanted behavior. Even in the case of a dog who jumps a lot, I want to start coaching you right away to prevent the jumping – no trainer wants to get jumped on! That being said, I do want to observe your dog interacting with you and being in the environment they spend most of their time in, so observations are important. But avoiding rehearsal of the problem behavior is best for your dog, and that starts on day 1.
Do all dogs need a Behavior Consultation? No, not necessarily. If your goals just include basic manners like polite leash walking, sit, stay, down, come, etc., and you aren’t seeing reactivity in the form of lunging, barking, snapping, biting, hiding, cowering, excessive pulling, or destructive behavior, then you might just need basic training. If you are seeing fearful, aggressive, or reactive behaviors, or any behavior that just seems excessive, then a consult is for you. If you’re just not sure, feel free to contact us and just ask! We’ll be happy to steer you in the right direction, whether that’s a consult with us or basic manners or separation anxiety training with one of our trusted colleagues.
Ready to schedule a consult? Still got questions? Contact us here!