How would YOUR life be different if your dog weren't aggressive? What could you do that you cannot do now??
NOTE: Due to a very busy schedule, I am currently not taking stranger, child, and dog/dog aggression cases. I *will* take on Aggression cases where the dog is biting and growling at family members in the home (growls when asked to move, or be handled, is fine with most other people, but challenges his family members, etc.)
The Aggression Consultation is usually a last resort for dogs with biting and growling problems towards either people and/or other dogs. The session is a combination of evaluation, education, and setting up a treatment/management plan, as well as some basic training exercises.
Prior to our appointment, you will fill out 2 questionnaires (see below) so I can prepare a personalized packet for you. When we meet, we begin by going over these histories and I evaluate the dog, making a preliminary assessment of the aggression (or other behavior problem such as separation anxiety, phobias, etc.). Then we discuss the relationship between dog and his family and simple things that YOU can do that change how your dog acts; this is key. Many families have told me that they notice a dramatic difference after just the first session by implementing these simple techniques. Trying to fix a behavior problem without first working on the relationship is like swimming upstream. If your dog has inadvertently been allowed to be in control (VERY common!), s/he needs demotion, which is relatively simple to do and totally non-confrontational; it's all psychology! People are amazed at the little and big ways their dog has THEM trained instead of vice versa. YOU’RE supposed to decide who is dangerous, not her/him (for example). We will also set up a management program so s/he is not allowed to practice the aggressive behavior anymore.
I use positive reinforcement methods and psychology- no choke chains, prong collars, shock collars, or yelling (though I AM firm when necessary). As you may have discovered, punishment doesn’t work and usually causes more problems than it helps. Since most aggressive dogs are very anxious and stressed, I use a lot of dog psychology and clicker training to build up their confidence; click here for info on clicker training. It's fun and easy, and the dogs love it. We will need to change your dog's emotional response to people and/or dogs (and maybe some other issues, also).
"I wouldn't have believed it before, since Iris was so unpredictably aggressive, but we noticed a huge change in less than 24 hours after our session! I realized how doing a few simple things to remind her that she does not have to take responsibility or make decisions- makes her life so much easier. She gets absolutely nothing for free these days - yet, none of this appears to be mean at all- her behavior is way calmer than it was- she's a different dog. My husband can't believe it, and he wanted to get rid of her. Thanks so much for opening our eyes to what was going on." L.K., Traverse City
I have a passion for working with individuals (and their families) to solve their problems and train their particular dog at its own speed (each dog has a totally unique personality and temperament). That’s why I can’t tell you sight unseen how long it’s going to take. But unlike clients who call for basic training and manners, aggression cases are more serious and can take more time to figure out and resolve, though you will probably notice immediate improvement. I usually tell people that we have to strengthen the foundation training and management techniques, which usually takes 2-4 sessions, while putting in place a program of desensitization and counter-conditioning (I’ll explain!), and go from there. You’d be surprised how quickly some dogs improve, but of course I cannot guarantee an animal's behavior (including it's owners!). I often find several underlying problems; the aggression is simply a symptom.
These consults cost more because of the specialized knowledge required and increased risk and danger. Most trainers won't take on aggression cases, but they represent almost 25% of my practice. I feel for these troubled animals; usually there is a sweet loving heart underneath that ferocious display- dogs don't want to be aggressive!
Everyone in the household is required to come (except under age 5).
Session is VERY comprehensive, lasts 3 hours, and is $250.
As an alternative to me, I can refer you to the well-respected Tufts Animal Behavior Clinic, where they do professional behavioral counseling by phone/fax. You receive a 5-10 page assessment and plan after submitting a history form. Cost is $250. Call 508-887-4640. 90 minute in-person sessions at Tufts are $389. www.tufts.edu/vet/behavior
"Dear Patty, It has been a while and I don't know where I left off with you on Mylo since we came so close to putting him down for biting us about a year ago.
You were right, it did get worse before it got better, and it did get better doing what you taught us about dog dominance and how to deal with it. He is doing fine. He is calm, he is wanting to please, and he is a wonderful, wonderful (and Happier) pet and I ultimately give you credit for saving his life."
Once again, Thank you!!! D.S., Alden
"We almost returned Dillon to the shelter due to his aggression, and our vet recommended seeing you. I'm so glad because we really fell in love with him, but couldn't have an aggressive dog around. The turnaround was dramatic in just 2 days. 3 weeks later, we couldn't ask for a nicer dog."
W.R., Traverse City
"We're so glad we met you after you learned the new protocol- our life is So completely different now. We could never take Mishka anywhere, not even for walks, nor could we have anyone over, and my husband needs to have clients meet him at home. She was so aggressive to both dogs and people, but we loved her so much. We knew she was a very serious case and that therapy would involve some time and money, but we were unprepared for the quick turnaround! I mean after our second session, we were able to take her camping where there were lots of other dogs and horses. No reaction- we just couldn't believe it! We can walk around the neighborhood now and she ignores all the other maniac dogs. The Gentle Leader is a miracle! She is so well-behaved, too, with the basic training. We still need to work on her men issue, but it's all so much better we can't thank you enough. You've changed our lives; we're relaxed now!"
T.C. , Walloon Lake
"In this economy, we felt we couldn't afford to see you. Our vet recommended you a year ago, and things have just gotten worse. We took the plunge, and WOW! We have a changed dog just after that one session. We can't get over the difference! Thanks so much for helping our family."
K.D , Wolverine