• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Pup acting up? Call the pet shrink

January 13, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
More and more pet owners are turning to antidepressants to help with their animals' behavioral problems. But a pill won't tell you why your dog is acting out. When people reach their breaking point over a barking or destructive dog, it's time to call in the "pet shrink."Cute? Maybe at first, but imagine hearing barking over and over, all day long.

"Almost constant throughout the day and sometimes during the middle of the night, too," said dog-owner Maggie Ford. "To the point it would wake me up out of a dead sleep."

Nothing Maggie tried put a stop to Lucy's tail-chasing until she hired Laguna Beach expert Dr. Jill Goldman.

Dr. Goldman is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), one of just 50 worldwide. After studying Lucy's daily routine and case history, Dr. Goldman decides her tail-chasing is a compulsive disorder brought on by excess energy.

"When you have an excess of energy that's not allowed to be directed at an appropriate behavior, then you have an animal doing whatever is available," said Dr. Goldman.

Redirect that energy to healthy behavior. Dogs love to scavenge for food. Dump the doggie dish.

Making Lucy work for her food stimulates her mind and relieves boredom.

Adding physical exercise -- 2-mile walks twice a day -- reduced Lucy's tail-chasing by 75 percent.

Nancee Wells saw her Labrador's aggressive behavior toward other dogs diminish when she started using food to distract her. Rewarding rather than punishing brought success.

"I think I would have just been scolding her or smacking her on the butt. Something light like that," said Nancee.

Problem behavior is the major reason pets end up in shelters. Tend to their basic needs and Dr. Goldman says you can solve most puppy problems right at home.

Animal therapists like Dr. Goldman have advanced degrees in the science of animal behavior. They charge on average between $125 and $175 per hour.

MENTAL HEALTH FOR PETS

BACKGROUND: Behavior problems are the most common reason given for the surrender of cats and dogs to animal shelters in the United States. No matter how mystifying, confusing or unusual your pet's behavior, there are Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB) who can help. CAABs are professionals who have advanced degrees in the field of applied animal behavior. A CAAB has the following qualifications:

  • Six to 10 years of academic education resulting in a master's or doctoral degree with a focus on animal behavior
  • Supervised experience and mentoring in a formal behavior program
  • Original research and publication in professional journals
  • Some have a DVM or VMD (Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine) and post-graduate training in animal behavior

FIXING THE PROBLEM: A veterinarian is the first person who should be contacted if a pet's behavior changes. Changes in behavior can be a direct result of an underlying medical problem. Once medical conditions have been ruled out, interventional behavior therapy can be sought. Without appropriate intervention, even a simple problem in pet behavior can get worse. Basic obedience training will not solve behavior problems like aggression, fear or separation anxiety. A CAAB will evaluate an animal by gathering his or her behavioral history. They will then determine why the animal is behaving in a way that causes concern. Finally, they will create a customized plan for both owner and pet. The cause and motivation of the behavior will be explained and the remedy demonstrated.

COST: While every CAAB has his or her own rates, most are done on an hourly basis and range from $125 to $175 per hour. An initial consultation appointment usually lasts between two and three hours, depending on the complexity of the case. If the visit is a house call, the CAAB will probably charge a fee for travel as well. To find a CAAB in your area or for additional information visit http://www.AnimalBehavior.org

If you want to contact Dr. Jill Goldman, you can e-mail her at help@drjillgoldman.com


MORE L.A. BREAKING NEWS, WEATHER, TRAFFIC, SPORTS

USEFUL LINKS:
SEND TIP || REPORT TYPO || TWEET @abc7 ||  WIDGET


Load Comments