Could a Veterinary Behaviorist Help Your Dog?

Trixie the greyhound lives surrounded by movie stars in her Southern California home, but for many years, she was hardly a talent agent’s dream. Fearful and aggressive toward strangers who came to visit, Trixie wouldn’t even go on walks without becoming skittish. Her owner tried just about everything and was at the end of his rope, until he found a dog savior.

Los Angeles-area veterinary behaviorist Karen Sueda, DVM, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (DACVB), came to the canine’s rescue. After spending time with Trixie’s owner, Dr. Sueda started a behavior modification program where she slowly introduced new people to the anxious greyhound and conditioned Trixie to respond with behaviors other than growling or snapping. She encouraged the dog to sit or offer a paw and rewarded her with a treat for doing so. Dr. Sueda also prescribed a psychiatric medication, similar to human medications such as Prozac, for the stressed-out pooch to help her get accustomed to busy streets and loud noises.

“It’s really hard to predict the triggers, and you can’t prevent the anxiety,” Dr. Sueda says. “So we talked to the owner about teaching him another behavior the dog could do besides becoming startled or running away, such as sitting.” She adds, “The medication helped speed up the process. Rather than months, it only took a few weeks.”

This type of “dog whispering” is becoming more common for dealing with canine behavioral woes -- and for good reason.

Increasingly, pet owners, veterinarians and the research community have come to believe that many canine behavioral problems, such as aggressive behavior or biting, destructive chewing and elimination troubles, have their roots in the emotional health of dogs. When that emotional health is unwell, your dog may need the help of a human psychiatrist equivalent. That’s where veterinary behaviorists step in.

What Veterinary Behaviorists Do
Veterinary behaviorists are fully trained veterinarians who complete an additional specialized program in behavioral medicine. They then apply to be board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Behavior (ACVB). There are only 47 such certified veterinary behaviorists in the United States today. Ask your general veterinarian for a referral if you think your dog might benefit from this treatment, or look on the ACVBs Web site for a list of certified behaviorists and where they practice. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) Web site may also be a good source. In addition to veterinary behaviorists, this site lists veterinarians who have a special interest in behavior, as well as members with a Ph.D. in animal behavior or a related field.

Dr. Sueda says that veterinary behaviorists are the dog world’s equivalent to psychiatrists for humans. But since our dogs can’t talk, it’s usually the pet owners who meet first with the “shrink” and provide a history of the dog’s behaviors. Veterinary behaviorists use this information, medical records, what they know of the animal’s behavior in the wild and how the species communicates with other animals or humans to make a diagnosis.

Once the diagnosis is made, the behaviorist lays out the options for treatment. “Every home situation is different. Every dog is different,” says veterinary behaviorist John Ciribassi, DVM, DACVB, who practices in Carol Stream, Ill. “What is done with one family isn’t necessarily done with another. You have to tailor your approach to situations and people. You have to get the whole family involved.”

Problems Behaviorists Treat
There are several common problems that cause dog owners to seek out a veterinary behaviorist. The referrals sometimes come from their dog's general veterinarian.

  • Aggression The most common issue veterinary behaviorists deal with is aggression in dogs, Dr. Ciribassi says. Some aggression in dogs is natural, such as territorial aggression in canines who are allowed the run of the house or the yard. But aggression that is fear- or anxiety-based is an individual temperament issue, usually caused by a flawed system of transmitting nerve impulses within the dog. “The messages don’t get from one to the other part of the brain,” Dr. Ciribassi says. In cases where fear and anxiety are the result of a chemical imbalance, medication may be part of the solution in addition to behavior modifications, he says.
  • Separation anxiety This tends to be the second most common issue veterinary behaviorists treat in dogs, Drs. Ciribassi and Sueda say. Separation anxiety is often a situation in which a dog becomes anxious or nervous in instances where they are separated from their primary attachment figure -- typically an owner. Separation anxiety often results in destructive behavior. Dogs will sometimes chew or scratch at furniture or doors, or may even destroy items left in the home. Dr. Ciribassi says behaviorists try to desensitize the dog to being left alone by decreasing how much the owner interacts with the dog in the house and teaching the owner to be low-key when they leave and return. Sometimes medication is needed.
  • Elimination disorders These include elimination of waste inside the house and territorial marking. Behaviorists have to get to the root of the problem. Sometimes it can be as simple as a bad habit that the dog has formed and needs to break. Other times, marking, in particular, can be caused by aggression between multiple dogs in a house.

FDA-approved Medications
Prescribing psychiatric meds for dogs is a last resort, Dr. Sueda says, and is only considered after other forms of behavior modification have failed. The behavior modification techniques often include desensitization of the dog to a certain trigger and then counter-conditioning the pet to react with different behavior. These methods are similar to teaching humans how to overcome their fears -- such as a fear of flying.

When medications are called for, veterinary behaviorists have three types of psychiatric medications approved for behavioral uses in dogs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These three medications are as follows:

  • Fluoxetine, a generic form of Prozac, has been approved to treat separation anxiety in dogs.
  • Clomicalm, aka clomipramine hydrochloride, has also been approved to treat separation anxiety in dogs.
  • Selegiline (sold as Anipryl for veterinary usage) has been approved for treating cognitive dysfunction in dogs -- akin to Alzheimer’s disease in older dogs.

Dr. Sueda says that early intervention is the key to solving your dog’s behavior problems. “Behavior problems are just like any other habit. The more we’re allowed to practice bad behavior, the better we get at it,” she says. “For the dog’s well-being -- as well as the owner’s -- you need to catch it early.”

How Aggressive Is Your Canine?

When Aleta Watson’s 1-year-old grandson, Xavier, tried to crawl on Aggie, her golden retriever, during Watson’s recent visit to Portland, Ore., there were no worries. The large, imposing dog simply got up and walked away, says Watson. “We love golden retrievers because they tend to be so mellow,” says Watson, 62, a writer based in Ben Lomond, Calif. “Aggie is our fourth purebred golden, and she’s really easygoing. We’ve never seen any sign of aggression in her or our previous goldens.”

A recent study backs up Watson’s experiences with golden retrievers. Evaluating surveys of two groups of owners, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society rated dog breeds on their levels of aggression. The study, accepted for publication in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, indeed found that goldens rate among the least aggressive breeds. But the study also offers somewhat unexpected conclusions when it comes to canine feistiness. You might be surprised to find where your dog’s breed ranks.

Small Dogs, Big Attitudes
Using a survey called the C-BARQ (Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire), researchers collected results from both online respondents and a sampling of members of 11 breed clubs recognized by the American Kennel Club. Remember the saying “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog”? It turns out the surveys found two small dog breeds, Chihuahuas and dachshunds, rated high on aggression toward both humans and other animals.

“Initially, I was quite surprised by how aggressive these smaller breeds came out,” says Dr. James Serpell, study co-author and director of the Pennsylvania center. “In smaller dogs, I think we tolerate higher levels of aggressive behavior,” he says, adding, “the prospects of being seriously injured by a Chihuahua are small. Part of the problem with these little dogs is that they probably do live in terror a lot of the time because they are so small, and they are surrounded by giants -- both humans and dogs.”

How Other Breeds Rate
Akitas and pit bull terriers ranked high in aggressiveness toward other dogs, while Jack Russell terriers, Australian cattle dogs, American cocker spaniels and beagles were noted for aggression toward humans. Among the mellowest dogs were golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, basset hounds, Siberian huskies, Bernese mountain dogs, greyhounds, whippets and Brittany spaniels.

“Interdog aggression is scarily high in some breeds,” says Dr. Serpell. “Close to 30 percent of Akitas, for example, had shown serious aggression toward other dogs in the recent past,” says Dr. Serpell. Indeed, says co-author Dr. Deborah Duffy, the amount of dog-versus-dog aggression reported by owners was alarming.

“What surprised us most was the percentage of owners reporting that their dog had bitten or tried to bite other dogs,” says Dr. Duffy. “When we think of canine aggression from a public health perspective, aggression toward humans is typically what gets discussed. However, our study found that serious aggression among dogs is surprisingly common for some breeds, and this also presents a public health hazard because people can get bitten trying to separate dogs that are fighting.”

Genetics likely plays a role in the aggressiveness of breeds such as the Akita, says Dr. Serpell. However, the researchers point out that these aggressive traits are often balanced by positive attributes, such as loyalty. Aggressive dogs, even the tiniest ones, tend to make terrific watchdogs, letting us know when strangers are around.

Nature or Nurture
Nagja Bamji says that her dachshund, Ronny, is far from aggressive. Ronny gives other dogs a wide berth, loves kids and recently backed off when a squirrel hissed at him, says Bamji, 46, a homemaker in Fremont, Calif. You also might find that your dog doesn’t fit the profile developed in this study.

“We do have breed differences; there is no question,” says Dr. Gail Clark, a canine behavioral psychologist based in Fort Collins, Colo. “But there is a tremendous amount of factors in dog behavior.”

She explains that environment and training, as well as breed, help determine how your dog behaves. For example, she says, the owners of little dogs tend to pick them up frequently in threatening situations. Perched high in their owners’ arms, the little dogs feel mighty brave. When the dogs return to the ground, they might feel defensive and threatened. How you perceive your dog’s breed, regardless of size, might therefore influence the way you train or handle your pal, thus affecting your canine’s long-term behavior, says Dr. Serpell.

Where you obtain your puppy can be another significant factor, says Dr. Serpell, who recommends finding a reputable breeder, visiting the breeder and even meeting your pup’s parents, if possible. Dogs produced in puppy mills often have behavioral problems, he says. Puppies tend to be removed from their mothers and littermates too soon, and they don’t have enough positive human contact in their early weeks. Their mothers often are kept in highly stressful environments during their pregnancies, which likely has a longstanding impact on the puppies, says Dr. Serpell.

Individuality Can Overcome Statistics
Dr. Serpell believes that the next step for researchers is to understand the factors that contribute to individual dogs behaving aggressively. When it comes to this study, it’s important to not paint every dog with the same brush, he thinks. “The No. 1 thing we’d like you to take from the study is it’s based on breed averages,” says Dr. Serpell. “Branding a breed as dangerous or aggressive is inappropriate. Within any breed, you’re going to find many, many individuals that are really nice and well-tempered.”

If you’re interested in evaluating your dog’s behavior, you can still take the C-BARQ. The survey, which takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete, is located on the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine Web site.

Show Dog Skills for Any Mutt

Whether Champion Blackjack Porpoises’ Ship Zin UDX III is under the bright lights at a dog show or visiting sick kids in the hospital, Dr. Gail Clark knows she can count on the Portuguese water dog to behave well.

Ship, as the 5-year-old dog is affectionately known, handles crowds, other dogs and unfamiliar situations with ease, says Dr. Clark, Ph.D., a dog behaviorist in Fort Collins, Colo., who offers training for both household dogs and classes for potential show dogs like Ship and their owners.

“He’s fabulous,” Dr. Clark says of her dog Ship. “I bred and raised him. Without a doubt, if he hadn’t had this training, he couldn’t go into schools and hospitals. He’s just a great dog overall. He’s a pleasure to take to shows.”

Ship behaves so well, no doubt, because he is showered with affection and attention, regularly exercises and eats a balanced, nutritious diet. But the secret to the way show dogs like Ship respond to both their handlers and situations with strangers lies in their training. Although you might not need your dog to trot enthusiastically beside you under the careful scrutiny of a panel of judges, you can put lessons from dog show experts to work with your furry pal.

Our dog show experts say you can apply their expertise in these areas:

Socialization
Show dogs must keep their cool among hundreds of their own kind, not to mention unfamiliar people. The value of early socialization can’t be overestimated, says Dr. Clark.

However, make sure your dog or puppy is in a controlled situation, say both Dr. Clark and Pat Malan, a West Virginia-based breeder of giant schnauzers who also shows dogs and offers handling instruction. For instance, dog parks can be unpredictable places where your dog might be jumped and frightened by other dogs, say these experts. Be cautious even when it comes to free play during a puppy class, they caution.

A traditional obedience class is a good place to get your pal accustomed to other dogs and humans, says Dr. Clark. Your calm reassurance will go a long way toward helping your dog handle the unfamiliar, Malan adds. “The owner needs to be calm,” she explains. “Basically the message you’re going to send is, ‘All is well.’”

Stacking, aka Standing Still
We’re amazed to watch dogs “stacked” at shows so that judges can evaluate the animals’ appearance and behavior. The dogs are placed in position by their handlers and then hold the positions without moving. But does this have any value when it comes to your tail-wagging buddy? Certainly, say our experts.

After all, wouldn’t it be easier to manage your dog at the veterinarian’s office or during a grooming visit if you could get your pal to stand still? Simply placing a new collar around your dog’s neck is a snap if you know the secrets of the show dog.

You can practice by placing your dog on a bath mat on the counter at home, if your dog’s size makes it practical, says KT McKee, a British Columbia show dog breeder and trainer. That’s great practice for the veterinarian’s exam table. Place your hand under your dog’s head to get it to stay, and don’t pet your pooch. Offer a treat as your dog stays in place. Remember: Your goal isn’t to show off your dog’s perfect position, but to instead have it remain cooperatively still for a while.

Handling an Exam
It helps to think like a dog when you’re training a show dog or a household pal, say dog show trainers. Imagine how canines will perceive noises, other dogs and crowds. But it doesn’t hurt to think like a human, either. Imagine a stranger at a party coming up to you and touching you without your invitation, says Dr. Clark. That slight moment of fear and surprise multiplies for dogs that don’t understand why they’re being handled.

When her dog shied a bit once a judge wanted to exam the pup’s private parts, Dr. Clark told the judge he needed to offer her dog a kiss first. In other words, says Dr. Clark, make sure your dog is “properly introduced” to someone who wants to touch your pal. “Anytime a dog is touched without an invitation from the dog, it’s negative,” she explains.

Place your hand lightly in your dog’s collar. Let it become familiar with the person, then offer a food treat when someone touches or examines your dog. Your dog will learn to associate the touch with something positive.

Gaiting
It might be the most impressive scene at dog shows: Dog after dog runs smartly alongside the handlers. There are a couple of keys to accomplishing a modified version of this behavior with your dog, say the experts. First, Dr. Clark begins by teaching her dogs with her hand on a lead right near their heads. “My hand is probably an inch from the neck of the dog.”

Remember the phrase “short leash?” It’s applicable here. Practice with a short lead, walking your dog back and forth in a confined area. Reward your pet every time it follows you in an appropriate, well-behaved manner. Gradually move to larger areas and allow a bit more leash. If you teach your dog these gaiting techniques, you’ll have an easier time on crowded sidewalks or other places where there’s not much room to negotiate.

Think about your collar selection too, says McKee. Harness-type collars and collars low on a dog’s neck can trigger a pulling instinct, she says. Use a collar at the base of the head.

And give your dog a sense of purpose, McKee says. She trains her dogs by having them carry weight-appropriate backpacks weighted with a few cans and her bottle of water. “I stop, take out my bottle of water and take a drink, then carry on, stop, take out my bottle,” she says. “The dog is providing a service.” If your dog is serving you on that walk, your pal is more likely to stay in tune with your commands.                                                         

The real trick to having your dog take its cues from show dog training comes down to you, however. “Most people don’t have the patience,” says Dr. Clark. “It takes patience, and it takes consistency.” With both, you and your dog will be strutting away proudly just as Ship the champion Portuguese water dog does when he’s in and out of the spotlight.

Rehabilitate Your Reactive Dog

When 27-year-old Jodi Carp of Royal Oak, Mich., moved in with a friend and his German shepherd, she was happy to help out by walking the big boy. Her roommate, however, told her that his dog, Guinness, tended to be overprotective of women walkers. “Just hold his leash tight when men are walking toward you on the street,” her new roommate instructed. No problem, she thought.

Following this directive, Carp pulled the leash as men walked toward them on the sidewalks of her neighborhood and Guinness summarily lunged, barked and pulled with each approach, his behavior ratcheting up a notch if another dog was in the vicinity. Over time, Jodi herself became increasingly tense on these walks and was horrified -- though not altogether surprised -- when Guinness finally went at someone with his teeth, nipping their 82-year-old neighbor’s wrist with his sharp fangs. At this point, Carp decided her dog-walking days were done. She remembers, “I felt awful about the incident, and I didn’t want to risk something even worse happening while I was out with Guinness.”

According to Sandy Case, a certified pet dog trainer and co-owner and training director of Positively Canine in Oklahoma City, Carp and her roommate simply needed some training on how to care for their reactive dog. “They were basically doing everything wrong, and with a little instruction, they could have prevented a lot of their difficulties,” says Case.

What Is a Reactive Dog?
Reactive dogs aren’t hard to spot. Outdoors, such canines will lunge at people or dogs that get too close. They usually also bark loudly, growl forebodingly and may even bite anyone foolish enough to get close. In the home, the reactive dog can appear threatening to visitors as it jumps, barks and stares. Reactive dogs tend to stress out their owners as they try to keep visitors and passersby safe from their intimidating, if loveable, best friend.

Some breeds are more prone to reactivity. Terriers tend to respond excitedly to other dogs, for example, while herding dogs, like shepherds, are innately reactive toward movement, such as joggers. Any dog, though, can become reactive if it feels its safety and security are threatened. “The majority of reactive behavior is fear-based,” explains Case. “If a dog is confident, it doesn’t need to do these things.”

Understanding the Reactive Dog
Human misunderstanding of canine social norms is responsible for a large percentage of reactive behavior. Case says, “Dogs have greeting rituals, and they don’t involve walking up to another dog. For dogs, that isn’t polite. Once we’ve got them on their leash and are dragging them toward another dog to say hello, we’re setting them up for what might be a bad reaction.”

Canine caretakers also fail to identify their dog’s own pre-reactive behaviors. “Dogs are peaceful animals,” says Case. “They don’t want conflict. When they begin to feel tense, such as when they’re around another dog, they engage in self-soothing behaviors like looking away, sniffing and yawning, to let themselves and the other dog know things are okay.”

If these initial calming behaviors fail, the dog may stare or growl. While owners tend to tense up and correct dogs for growling, they should really only take the growl as a signal that it’s time to soothe their pooch. “Growling is communication,” says Case. “Make your dog comfortable rather than punishing it for expressing itself. You can do this by simply staying calm yourself and walking it away from the situation.”

Staying calm yourself is key: Tightening the leash and tensing up is one of the most frequent mistakes made by dog companions like Carp. Explains Case: “Dogs should be confident that we will handle things for them. They react because they feel they’re out there on their own. If they see their person is confident and proactive instead of reactive, they’ll feel a lot better. Its person needs to be a good leader.”

How to Manage a Reactive Dog
If your dog is reactive, Case recommends the following five steps:

1. Buy a harness Any tightening of a leash is restrictive to a dog’s airway, which will only heighten its anxiety. A harness removes the possibility of pressure on the neck, and also helps to rebalance a dog that’s lunging forward.

2. Have a plan Knowing what you will do (e.g., turn and walk away, keeping the dog moving) when your furry friend responds to perceived threats will allow you to remain calm. Part of the plan should involve reminding yourself to relax.

3. Be familiar with the signals When dogs begin to become uncomfortable, they may lick, yawn and sniff. As they get tense, they may exhibit changes in posture, such as becoming more upright, tucking their lower body backward or stiffening up. Staring is usually the last move before a more intense reaction. If you can get your dog out of a situation before the stare, you will nip the problem in the bud.

4. Retrain your dog Walk away from the tense situation to a comfortable distance, keeping the object of the dog’s discomfort in sight. Get your dog to glance at the other dog or person before it gets to the point of staring, and then give it a treat. Soon the dog will begin checking back with you when it sees things that make it tense. 

5. Enlist help If you can’t handle the problem on your own, find a good trainer or behaviorist to work with. “A professional can observe your dog and possibly see a lot more about what it’s doing,” says Case.

With some time, effort and training, you can turn your reactive dog into a companion that any roommate would feel comfortable taking for a stroll around the block.

Get Connected With Your Dog

When Victoria Craig adopted her dog Weaver, the 18-month-old, black-and-white border collie had already developed a host of obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Highly reactive with zero impulse control, Weaver would go into a spinning frenzy whenever something as seemingly insignificant as a person walking across a room disrupted his usual routine.

On the positive side, it was clear Weaver was a smart, sensitive and loving dog. “I thought he was gorgeous and could see such potential in him,” says Craig, who lives in River Glade, New Brunswick, Canada. “But he hardly noticed me at all, even when I was trying my best to interact with him. He refused my treats and looked away each time I tried to talk to him.” Traditional training methods produced some results, but it was professional dog trainer Brenda Aloff’s Get Connected training philosophy that put Craig and her collie on the path to developing a strong and stable relationship.

The Get Connected Philosophy
Aloff’s training method, which is detailed in her book Get Connected With Your Dog: Emphasizing the Relationship While Training Your Dog (Dogwise Publishing 2008), promotes improved communication. “Get Connected is a program I developed to help humans understand dogs and help dogs understand their humans,” explains Aloff. “Better communication, mutual understanding and clear interactions always enhance a relationship, and this is what Get Connected is all about.”

Tapping Into the Magic Switch
Getting connected helps you find what Aloff refers to as the “magic switch.” This is a doggie state of awareness that’s at the heart of why canines do what they do, according to Aloff. When Weaver goes from calm to manic in a nanosecond, it is just reacting instinctively. Dogs in this mental state are so hyped up, they can’t think as they normally would. They are not in a state of mind to learn or comprehend anything, even a relatively simple command, such as “Come,” “Stay” or “No barking.”

When dogs are in a more conscious frame of mind, and not merely acting on instinct, they can learn. Understanding the different emotional states, and which one your dog is in at any given moment, is an important part of getting connected. Grasping this concept improves your awareness of your dog, and an improved awareness can help you teach your dog how to switch from an aroused state to thinking and responding logically. Doing so, however, requires a mini-primer on the basic ins and outs of canine communication.

Decoding Canine Body Language
Dogs are savvy communicators and rely heavily upon body language to tell you what they are thinking and feeling. The placement of your dog’s head, ears, eyes and tail will tell you if it is relaxed, stressed, frightened, curious, eager to play or getting ready to bite. Here are a few common cues you are likely to see your dog displaying:

  • If its ears are up, its eyes are bright, and its tail is wagging, this usually means “I’m happy” or “Come on -- let’s play.”
  • If its ears are back, its lips are curled, and its tail is down, it usually indicates anger, fear, or stress. The dog is likely saying, “Stay back and leave me alone,” or, “Pull on my tail one more time and you’ll be sorry.”
  • If your dog is sniffing the ground, it could just be exploring an enticing smell or looking for a place to relieve itself, but dogs also sniff the ground when they are worried or ill at ease, explains Aloff. A dog that’s doing this may be telling another approaching dog, “I see you. Calm down. I’m minding my own business. I don’t want any trouble.”
  • Panting, yawning or drooling can sometimes indicate stress that, depending on your dog’s temperament, can be triggered by unfamiliar surroundings, isolation, crowds, strange or loud noises, other animals or your demeanor. 

Mind Your Own Body Language
Dogs have the uncanny ability to zero in on your body language, too. What you say verbally, and what your body language says visually, can send conflicting messages to your dog. The slightest shift in your breathing can tell your dog if you are nervous, happy, angry or worried. How your dog behaves is a direct reflection of what your body language tells it. By projecting a calm demeanor -- controlling your breathing, body posture, tone of voice -- you can calm your frightened or nervous dog. In the dog’s mind, it is thinking, “My owner is calm. She has everything under control. I do not need to worry.” On the other hand, if you are anxious or apprehensive, your nervous dog will sense this, and it will become even more nervous.

Analyzing Your Dog’s Personality
Figuring out your dog’s individual personality will help you to improve the human-canine relationship by fostering a better understanding between yourself and your dog. Is your pet pushy, bossy, cheeky, nervous, anxious, bold, confident, dominant or aggressive? “If I am sweet and overly tolerant with a strong, assertive dog, he will take advantage of me,” explains Aloff. “If I come on too strong with a timid dog, I will frighten him.” Either way, misjudging your dog’s personality can interfere with the learning process.

Be Consistent With Expectations
Dogs can’t understand the rules if the rules keep changing. If your dog is allowed on the couch every day of the week and then gets yelled at when he jumps on the couch with dirty feet, this is an unrealistic expectation that confuses your dog and derails the human-canine relationship. He doesn’t know that having dirty feet should pose a problem.

With their own communication system, dogs learn differently than humans do. Aloff hopes owners can “close the gap between what they intend their dogs to learn and what the dog actually learns.” In doing so, it becomes much easier for you to integrate dog training into your daily routine. In return, your dog will be better-behaved and more likely to be included in your family and friends’ day-to-day activities. Owners are happy. Dogs are happy. Everyone wins, because a well-trained dog means the human-canine possibilities are endless.

Dog and Owner Success
Admittedly, results didn’t happen overnight for Craig and her hyped-up border collie. Success came through gradual steps over time. After several months, Weaver began to trust his new owner. He stopped biting. He began to relax and enjoy himself. There were numerous setbacks, but nearly three years after the manic border collie’s rescue, Craig and Weaver are competing and winning in agility competitions at a national level.

“Brenda’s Get Connected protocol changed our lives,” says Craig. “Weaver now enjoys being touched. He is more focused, less reactive, better able to concentrate and is a much happier dog. Looking back, I am amazed we have come this far. We are definitely more of a team now.”