By Anthony De Marinis, CDBC, ADT, VSPDT, CBATI, VSA-DT
Certified Dog Behavior Consultant by IAABC
Accredited Dog Trainer by IAABC
“What do you suggest having prepared for the initial consultation?”
This is a question I often get asked by new clients as well as colleagues. So to answer everyone’s question, here it is!!! The golden ticket, the secret to success, information you won’t get anywhere else! Ok fine, maybe not, but the last one is true and I spent some time creating this so it is worth something for those who really need it.
Your Dog’s Consultation
If you are thinking of setting up a consultation with a behavior consultant or you already have one set-up, I suggest being prepared so that you can get the most out of your consultation. I cannot speak for other behavior professionals, but my consultations are a comprehensive and educational experience, so being prepared can be very beneficial so that we can use our time together in the most productive way possible.
When I provide a comprehensive behavior consultation for aggressive behavior I suggest owners have:
- Video Footage of issues (if safe to do so and without provoking issues or videos from the past)
- Writing out concerns, past incidents and their questions
- Review credible sources of canine body language and communication signals
- Have a pen and notebook handy (or a laptop)
- Have space on your cell phone or video camera device to record helpful parts of your consult
- Have a variety of high value treats ready for the consult
Upload Video Footage
If you have any videos of the problem behaviors, it is helpful to have them readily accessible. If you do not have video footage of the issues, do not worry. It is NOT worth trying to provoke your dogs behavior or put yourself, others or your dog in harms way for video footage.
SO, just to clarify…DO NOT put yourself, your dog, children, family, friends or the public at risk just to get Anthony some video footage of your dog’s problems!!! I have found one of the best ways to address this is by purchasing a portable camera like the Nest or CloudCam. I suggest having those cameras set-up in locations of the home where your dog is typically located. Doing this over the course of a few weeks can be helpful so that your behavior professional can see what your dog is like on a daily basis being him or herself. If an incident or event occurs, you will likely have footage if your camera is recording. This prevents owners from provoking the dog to display the behavior issue(s).
Lastly, I love when owners also provide a few videos of their dog just being him/herself, regardless if it shows any of the behavior issues. For example, feel free to capture video of your dog chilling out with the family, doing some training, playing or hanging out in the yard, little routines in the morning or at night, or anything else to give me a glimpse of who your dog is. I recommend uploading videos on Youtube (and make sure to select it as “Unlisted” so that it is not public for the world to see) as I find it most helpful to have all the videos in one place. All videos will be reviewed together during the consult.
Here are some rules to follow regarding video footage:
- They should be short, 30 to 90 second clips.
- Of normal happy behaviors – playing, resting, doing training exercises with you.
- Video of problem behaviors. For these videos the following rules apply, and if the rules mean that you aren’t able to provide these videos that’s okay.
- Do NOT purposefully provoke your dog into the problem behavior. This is not a safe thing to do and is not good for your dog.
- If the behavior occurs outside of the home, ask a friend or family member to be your video person. Handling a reactive, fearful or aggressive dog and taking video yourself is not safe.
- If the behavior happens in your home, there are a number of portable surveillance cameras on the market, that are inexpensive that will automatically record movement/sound. Having one in place over a period of a few weeks might yield some helpful footage. You can then clip and save the portions that show an “event” so we can review it together during the consultation.
Keep a Behavior History Journal
In a notebook, you should be writing down specific concerns and incidents that have occurred in the past and any incidents that continue to occur. Write down what might have caused the incident(s) to occur. You should also include what happens before and after the behavior(s) as this provides valuable information. Include as much detail as you can as this can be helpful.
Understand What Your Dog Is Saying
Our dogs are constantly communicating through their body language and behavior. Understanding canine body language and communication signals is important because it can help us learn about how our dogs are feeling and why they are doing the behaviors they choose to display. Taking the time to learn about canine body language and communication signals is the first step in treating any behavior issue. Here are some credible sources of information to learn about canine body language and communication:
Supplies & Additional Suggestions
- Have a pen and notebook handy to take notes (or your laptop). I also suggest you have a folder in case you want to place your notebook and/or any additional notes you have so that everything is organized in one place for you to reference down the road.
- Write down any specific questions that you would like answers to.
- Have space on your cell phone or video camera device to video record any helpful parts of the consultation this way you can review it after the consultation.
- If your dog is protective of bones or other specific items, make sure you have these items for the consultation. A new bone or new chew might be best as sometimes more novel and new items are more useful in the consultation as it might become more interesting to your dog.
- If your dog is reactive towards people and/or other dogs while on walks, start paying attention to specific times of day that are going to be best to practice in your neighborhood.
- In cases where a dog has a bite history towards people (and even other dogs), you might be asked to start teaching your dog to get acclimated to a basket muzzle (or similar safe secure muzzle).
- Please make sure your dog is hungry and ready to work for food during our session together. If our session is near your dog’s meal time, then do not feed the meal. If the session is a few hours after meal time, do not feed your dog the entire meal. Instead feed a quarter of the meal so that your dog is still hungry and ready to learn.
- Have a variety of your dogs favorite treats handy! Treats should be soft, so that your dog can swallow them quickly. Treats should be “high value”, which means something that your dog will be obsessed with! This can include (but not limited to): boiled chicken breast, hot dogs sliced into cubes, roast beef, cheese cut into small cubes, or meat rolls such as Happy Howies or Red Barn (cut into small cubes) or anything else meaty or smelly. Have enough of everything as this will be helpful in specific training and behavior modification situations if we end up doing some hands-on work during the consult.
- Have a secure leash, flat collar and harness.
- Have your phone by your side this way when I arrive to your home I can call you to instruct how to safely introduce your dog to me.
So there you have it! I hope that these suggestions are helpful in preparing for your consultation whether it be with myself or another behavior professional.
To learn more about my behavior consultations for aggression, click here. You can also learn more about what behavior modification is by reading my blog post on behavior modification. To read it click here.
Anthony De Marinis is the owner of De Marinis Dog Training & Behavior and provides comprehensive in-home behavior consultations and positive reinforcement dog training services across Long Island, NY. (Online Virtual Consultations for aggression and behavior modification are also available for clients who are both local and out of state.) His specialty is working with complex aggression and behavior cases. Anthony has 7 professional certifications which include: Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Accredited Dog Trainer by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Certified Graduate of distinction from the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior, Certified Behavior Adjustment Trainer, Certified Victoria Stilwell Licensed Positively Dog Trainer, The Third Way Certified Trainer and is a Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer. Currently, Anthony has a young Australian Kelpie named Journey. They are learning about agility and sheep herding. You can visit Anthony’s website and learn more about him and his services at: www.demarinisdogtraining.com