Thursday, April 19, 2012

Meeting of the Minds

I had a wonderful meeting this week with Portland's own Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist, Dr. Chris Pachel of Animal Behavior Clinic.  My expectations were high - before leaving Florida, Dr. Lisa Radosta (also a veterinary behaviorist - believe it or not they are two of only about 60 in the country) told me if we were headed to Portland, Oregon that I had to get in touch with Dr. Pachel.  She said he was an incredible behaviorist and an equally positive personality.  I had dealt with him already through a client that we shared, and hadn't been disappointed.

It was a great meeting.  Dr. Pachel is very down-to-earth, which means that even though he has incredible education and experience, he is easy to relate to.  I appreciate his approach to behavior and medicine.  It will be hard to know until we interact more, but I feel like his methods are very similar to mine, which will make it easy to refer my clients when they need his help, as well as to work with referrals of his patients to help them with follow through and moving their dog's behavior in a positive direction.

It's fantastic to know that I have a resource in Dr. Pachel.  For those of you that don't know, his position is why I never refer to myself as a "behaviorist."  Trainers that do are using the word inappropriately, because unlike dog training, there is a medical degree that makes someone officially a "behaviorist."  What's the difference? 

Dog trainers can work on a variety of things, including socializing puppies, house training, obedience training (like teaching sit,down, stay, come, heel, etc.) and changing problem behaviors like jumping up, bolting through doors or barking at squirrels in the yard.  A dog trainer may also choose to handle some behavior cases, if they have the education and experience to do so.  Those may include mild cases of separation anxiety, house training problems in grown dogs, or a dog who is afraid of the vacuum cleaner. Some trainers handle aggression and some don't - if you are looking for help with aggression make sure you find someone who is qualified and who uses positive methods. 

A veterinary behaviorist isn't likely to be much help for acclimating your new puppy to playing well with other puppies, or for teaching your dog to sit for meeting visitors.  But a veterinary behaviorist may be the right resource for a dog that has extreme fears or compulsions, or for a dog that is so intense in guarding his toys that he has bitten family members in the process.  A veterinary behaviorist can rule out medical causes, can create a behavior modification plan that is appropriate for a dog with complex training needs, and can prescribe medication if that is something that will be helpful in the animal's recovery.

We are fortunate to have a veterinary behaviorist in the Northwest, and even luckier that it is someone as caring and personable as Dr. Chris Pachel!                                                                              

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