What Is a Veterinary Behaviorist?

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The best in health, wellness, and positive training from America’s leading dog experts

By  Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KAPublished: March 2, 2024

When neither your dog trainer nor your veterinarian have been able to solve your dog’s problem behavior – such as aggression, extreme fear, obsessive/compulsive behavior, or separation anxiety – a consultation with a board certified veterinary behaviorist is advisable.

All experts approach problems from the perspective of their education and experience. Given a dog with problematic behavior, a trainer may recommend equipment changes, behavior modification, and management steps. A veterinarian may prescribe medications that reduce anxiety and increase social behavior.

A consultation with a board certified veterinary behaviorist can help solve the most troublesome dog behaviours.

Aggression, self-mutilation, phobic or extreme fear, obsessive or compulsive behaviors, and severe separation anxiety are the behaviors that most frequently prompt a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist.

However, behavioral problems can result from neurochemical imbalances, medical conditions, past life experiences, current living conditions, and every combination of these. Veterinary behaviorists are uniquely positioned to use tools from both medicine and behavior science to most accurately diagnose and efficiently treat dogs with severely problematic behavior, such as aggression, self-mutilation, phobic or extremely fearful behavior, obsessive or compulsive behaviors, and severe separation anxiety.

One of the most valuable benefits of working with a veterinary behaviorist is their extensive knowledge of how psychotropic medications can further your dog’s behavior modification program. (By law, only veterinarians can prescribe or give you prescription medication for your dog.)

Some owners are resistant to using behavior medication for their dogs. Sometimes their resistance stems from working with a veterinarian who wasn’t experienced enough with behavior-modifying medications to tweak the dog’s prescriptions for the best results. The client’s dog may have been given medication that was too strong (“I don’t want my dog to be a zombie!”) or too weak (“It didn’t do anything!”).

This is sad, because often medication can make the most impactful contribution to improving the dog’s quality of life. In many cases, the right medication(s) can make a good training professional’s behavior-modification program much more successful, much sooner. If you are working with a skilled training professional, the addition of the right medication might make the visit with the behaviorist unnecessary!

But if neither your trainer nor your vet have answers to your dog’s challenging behavior – or when they are failing to work together to provide an all-encompassing treatment plan for your dog – a consultation with a veterinary behaviorist is well worth the cost.

THE TERM “BEHAVIORIST” IS IN WIDE BUT VARIABLE USE

Would it surprise you to learn that literally anyone can call himself or herself a behaviorist? The title means nothing. There are any number of dog trainers – qualified and unqualified, educated and uneducated – who call themselves behaviorists. However, here are a few titles that include “behaviorist” that actually do mean something:

-Veterinary behaviorist. Only licensed veterinarians who have been certified by the can use the title of veterinary behaviorist. The formal term is Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (DACVB). You can find veterinary behaviorists at dacvb.org/search/.

-There is another professional organization that has “veterinary” and “behavior” in its title – the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) – but it does not provide certification of any kind. Veterinarians and persons holding a PhD in animal behavior or a related field may join this membership organization, but it does not confer certifications or presuppose a level of expertise in animal behavior. Behavior consultants who are members of AVSAB are listed on its website (avsab.org/directory/).

-Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (ACAAB). These are scientists, educators, or other animal professionals with advanced academic backgrounds in the principles of animal behavior. Certification for these titles is provided by the Animal Behavior Society, which describes its certificants this way: “A professional applied animal behaviorist has demonstrated expertise in the principles of animal behavior, in the research methods of animal behavior, in the application of animal behavior principles to applied behavior problems, and in the dissemination of knowledge about animal behavior through teaching and research.” You can find these professionals at animalbehaviorsociety.org/web/committees-applied-behavior-directory.php.

-Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) and Certified Animal Behavior Consultant (CABC). These certifications are bestowed by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), which offers animal credentialing examinations for several animal species and specialties. Obtaining a CDBC credential indicates a superior level of knowledge as well as skill in practical application of behavior change principles following least intrusive, minimally aversive (LIMA)-based strategies.

What to Expect From a Veterinary Behaviorist Consultation

A particularly thorough medical and behavior history is the first prerequisite for any veterinary behaviorist consultation, with the behavior history being the longest and most detailed part of the intake form. When did the problematic behavior first start, how often does it happen, and how has it changed?

The behaviorist also needs to know what interventions have been tried and how the dog responded to those treatments. The intake form will also ask the owner, “What are your goals for your dog? What outcome do you hope for?”

If the problematic behavior is unlikely to be observed in a veterinary office setting, the owner will be asked to try to capture video of the dog while he’s displaying the troubling behavior. Video can often provide the most valuable clues to the causes or significant contributors to the dog’s behavior.

After reviewing all of the above, the veterinary behaviorist will then meet with the dog and owner in order to observe the dog’s behavior first hand (or at least via a video conference).

At the end of the first visit, the client is usually given some management strategies that can be implemented right away – especially if the dog’s behavior has the potential for endangering anyone.

Afterward, the veterinary behaviorist will prepare a comprehensive treatment plan for the dog’s owner, which is typically reviewed and discussed in a subsequent appointment. The plan may include a request for medical tests (or further medical tests) in order to diagnose or rule out medical contributors to the problematic behavior. Usually, it will also include recommendations for the owner to undertake behavior modification exercises under the guidance of a training professional working with or recommended by the veterinary behaviorist.

The treatment plan may also recommend the use of supportive therapies such as supplements, nutritional therapy, and/or prescription medications (when appropriate).

Because there are few veterinary behaviorists, it’s impossible for many dog owners to book an in-person consultation with one. That’s why most of these professionals also offer phone or video consultations with their clients’ veterinarians. Instead of seeing the dog and owner, they will review the veterinarian’s report of the dog’s issues and directly communicate with the dog’s veterinarian to offer suggestions for further medical testing, medication, and behavioral interventions.

HOW TO BECOME A VETERINARY BEHAVIORIST

Veterinary behaviorists are veterinarians who have achieved board certification in the specialty of veterinary behavior. Certification takes a minimum of three years of study and training after a candidate has obtained a veterinary graduate degree.  The certifying board for this specialty is the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB); certificants, who are known as Diplomates, may use the initials DACVB along with DVM after their names.

To gain board certification, candidates must complete at least one year of internship or primary care practice. They must also undertake additional behavior-specific training, which includes at least three years of case supervision by an established DACVB. They must also conduct original behavior research that earns publication in a peer-reviewed journal, author three formal case reports that are approved by a review committee of Diplomates, and pass a rigorous two-day board examination administered by the ACVB.

There are only about 95 DACVBs located throughout the world (though other countries also certify veterinary behaviorists).

Some veterinary behaviorists have a solo practice, where they provide clients with support and referrals to other training or medical professionals as necessary. Others work in group practices, where other staff veterinarians can provide any diagnostic tests that the veterinary behaviorist recommends and staff trainers will work with the client and the client’s dog on behavior modification exercises.

Sample Case History

We asked a veterinary behaviorist to describe a typical case to illustrate how these professionals draw on their medical and behavioral expertise differently than their vet or trainer peers. Chris Pachel, DVM, DACVB, CABC, owner of the Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland, Oregon, accommodated us with a description of one of his veterinarian-to-veterinarian consultations.

The patient was a 3-year-old, intact male Labrador who had perpetrated a number of troubling episodes of what was described as unpredictable and unprovoked aggression in his home. His humans were highly experienced dog owners who were active in dog sports and had other dogs in the home, including additional dogs who would sometimes stay with them in a casual boarding scenario.

While the patient was usually a social butterfly with an affable temperament, the owners described a number of incidents where he had suddenly behaved aggressively. Fortunately, they had three of these incidents captured on video, thanks to their home security system.

One incident, where the patient became aggressive with his male owner, occurred in the backyard of the home when other dogs were present. In another incident, the dog aggressed toward that man’s mother when she moved a chair that was three or four feet from the dog. In the third incident captured on video, the patient aggressed toward a visiting dog.

Since the patient was perfectly social and appropriate in between these incidents – even in situations that were identical to the conditions in which he showed aggression – the owners brought the dog to their vet. About six months prior to the first aggressive incident, the dog had slipped and fallen with his front legs splayed out in an unnatural position. His owners were concerned that he might be experiencing pain that caused him to lash out at others.

On physical exam, their vet did find some pain and prescribed pain medication. The dog’s pain went away, but the troubling behavior did not. So, with the clients’ approval, the veterinarian scheduled a consultation with Dr. Pachel.

“It’s always necessary to have someone provide a thorough physical examination, but it doesn’t have to be me,” Dr. Pachel explains. In this case, he discussed the results of the primary care veterinarian’s physical exam, neurologic exam, and notes regarding the dog’s response to pain medication; he also read the behavior history and viewed the owner’s video clips.

From early on, Dr. Pachel suspected a medical cause for the aggression. “What stood out to me was the inconsistent relationship between the antecedents (things that happened around the dog prior to the aggression) and the behavior,” Dr. Pachel says.

“Seeing the variability and expression of those aggressive behaviors, and understanding that the dog has been in identical situations hundreds of times without eliciting any aggression – the most notable thing about the incidents were how inconsistent they were. That increased my level of suspicion that something internal, not external, was driving the incidents. The inconsistency also made me think about potential causes that have a waxing and waning, variable expression, such as hormonal issues or endocrine- related disorders.”

Dr. Pachel first suggested that the dog’s vet run a comprehensive thyroid profile (laboratory test). Dogs whose bodies produce too much or too little thyroid often experience changes in behavior and coping skills. However, the test results were normal.

Next, he considered endocrine conditions that could have an intermittent influence, impacting the dog’s ability to respond to mild provocations and stress. He suggested testing the dog for Addison’s disease – which may have appeared to the dog’s primary care vet as a stretch. “The dog had never had an Addisonian crisis (collapse, lethargy, dehydration), his electrolytes were normal – there were none of the hints in his bloodwork that would make you want to run an ACTH stim test (a test that demonstrates the capacity of the dog’s adrenal glands to produce cortisol),” describes Dr. Pachel. “It was the waxing and waning nature of the aberrant behavior and lack of response to other treatments that led me in that direction.”

While he may have thought the test was a shot in the dark, when the results came back, the dog’s primary care vet was happy to report that the picture was now clear: The dog had Addison’s disease, a deficiency of the hormones that regulate electrolytes, blood pressure, hydration, metabolism, and … stress responses! Addison’s patients require lifelong supplementation of those hormones, but thankfully, with treatment, the dog’s troubling behaviors stopped.

Is it just marketing?

It bears repeating: Anyone can call themselves a behaviorist. The term doesn’t guarantee that they are educated or experienced with complex behavior problems. When hiring a dog trainer, we recommend you choose a behavior professional who is certified by and/or a member of one of the organizations we list here: whole-dog-journal.com/training/find-the-best-trainer-for-you-and-your-dog.

Any ethical behavior professional will explore your dog’s behavior with you, help with behavior modification if they can, and refer you to a veterinary behaviorist if they realize your dog’s issues are beyond their experience and capabilities, or if their efforts to help are not successful.

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn “Pat Miller Certified Trainer” certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.

Give Them Time!

Shelter and rescued dogs need safe space and enough time to decompress before you should make any serious judgments about them.

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By Nancy KernsPublished:February 29, 2024

When you bring home a dog from a rescue or shelter they need time.
We won’t really know what kind of dog he is for weeks or months; we need to give him time and space to learn all about him. But I suspect that Chief is going to make the right family very happy.

Today I am dog-sitting Chief, a 1-year-old German Shepherd-mix from my local shelter – just for the day. He’s actually being fostered by my favorite person at the shelter, my friend Lynee.

Chief was brought to the shelter over a year ago as a young pup. As yet ANOTHER uneducated, no-manners, anxious, all-black dog in a shelter full of them, he has lingered and lingered. He got adopted once but was brought back because the family’s old dog didn’t like him. (Few old dogs like wild young dogs with no social skills, especially within days of having the wild youngster arrive in their homes.)

Recently, Chief got adopted again – but he was so overwhelmed in the new family’s home that he hid behind the couch and wouldn’t come out. When the family tried to insist, reaching behind the couch with a leash, he growled at them. Since the family brought him home on a Saturday, and this happened on a Sunday, when they called the shelter in an apparent panic that the dog was vicious, the message on the shelter’s answering machine said, “In an animal-related emergency, call the (local) police department…” So they did!

Fortunately, the police contacted the animal control officer who was on call, and he went to the family’s house to pick up Chief. (Literally. He picked up the 60-pound dog and carried him to the animal control truck. He reported that Chief was petrified.)

Worried that two bad experiences in homes reduced the odds that he would get a third chance at a family, Lynee took Chief home last weekend. She reported that he had to be pulled out of her car, but he followed her into and then around the inside of her home like he was glued to her side. At first, he was too afraid to go outside to go to the bathroom, but she encouraged him, and, partly lifting him by his harness to get him out the door, pulled him outdoors. Once there, he went potty, and then rushed back into the house.

Lynee stayed home with Chief for three days. She said that every day he made progress. After that first time being lifted/pushed outdoors, he went outside to potty with just encouragement. He wouldn’t eat food or treats the first day, ate only canned food the second day, but ate kibble with just a little canned food mixed in on day three. He wouldn’t interact with her other dogs on day one, but by day three was playing chase games outside.

On day four, Lynee and her husband lifted Chief into their car and took him and their oldest dog for a short field trip to our local wildlife area. They let him explore on a long line and he waded into the river and enjoyed sniffing all the interesting smells. He got into the car on his own power for the trip home.

Both of the families who adopted Chief before were told that he had been brought into the shelter as a puppy, and didn’t know anything else. That he was undersocialized and essentially didn’t know anything about the world outside nor any dogs other than dogs he was kenneled with in the shelter. And yet neither family gave him the time and space to acclimate and learn about the world outside a shelter.

Lynee had to go to work today, and she didn’t want to leave Chief home alone all day; nor did she want to bring him back to the shelter. So she asked if I could do a little daycare duty. Of course! This will give Chief even more experience in yet another environment – but a safe, non-demanding space, where no one will have any expectations of him and he can observe everything in the environment without pressure.

I met Chief a month or so ago at the shelter, when Lynee had him in an exercise yard. My impression of him then was of a hyper but nice young dog – just what you would expect of a dog who had grown up in a loud, busy shelter. So far, walking around my property and laying in my office as I write this, he’s calm and quietly observing everything. He’s taking treats from me, and hasn’t been too afraid to enter and exit the outbuilding where I work. And this transformation is after just three days in Lynee’s home.

When you bring a dog home from a rescue or shelter – or anywhere, actually! – give them space and time! Be friendly and encouraging, but don’t loom or fuss over them. Try not to make demands on them at first, but reinforce every behavior you like to see. Set up the environment (with pens or gates) so they can’t get into places or getting into things you don’t want them near, so you don’t have to scare them by rushing them out of those spaces. Keep in mind that they might not know anything about human cars, homes, or other animals, and they may react with fear, and yes, even growling. Remember, a growl means, “I need some space!” It’s meant as a distance-creating message. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you or plan to attack you!

There has been a “3-3-3” meme going around the shelter and rescue community for a while that says something like, “The first three days with your newly adopted dog should be used to adjust, the next three weeks for training and bonding, and the next three months for continued training and socialization.” Our contributing editor Pat Miller hates this meme and wrote an article with her preferred version of the good intentions behind the meme: Give your new dog all the space and time they need to decompress and get to know you. Sometimes this happens quickly – even immediately. But take it from Chief: Sometimes you just need a little more time.

Nancy Kerns Nancy Kerns has edited horse and dog magazines since graduating the San Francisco State University Journalism program in 1990. The founding editor of Whole Dog Journal in 1998, Nancy regularly attends cutting-edge dog-training conferences including those for the International Association of Animal Behavior ConsultantsPet Professional GuildAssociation of Professional Dog Trainers, and Clicker Expo. To stay on top of industry developments, she also attends pet industry trade shows such as Global Pet and SuperZoo, educational conferences of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and Pet Food Industry’s Pet Food Forum. As a regular volunteer for her local animal shelter, the Northwest SPCA in Oroville, CA, she fosters large litters of puppies and helps train wayward adolescent dogs in order to increase their chances of adoption. Nancy shares her life with her husband and two canine alumni of the NWSPCA, mixed-breed Otto (whose adorably fuzzy visage was incorporated into WDJ’s masthead some years ago) and Pit/Lab-mix Woody. 

Dog Bite Statistics By Breed You Need To Know in 2023!

From the World Animal Foundation – December 9, 2023

By: Monika Martyn

dog bite injuries

Originally published on January 30, 2023, this article has been updated on December 09, 2023 to reflect the latest research and statistics. Our editorial team has ensured you’re viewing the most current data on this topic. Need help or have a question? Email us.

There’s no point in sugar-coating the topic; dog bites are a serious problem. It’s irresponsible to lay blame without having the facts. It’s just as foolish to ignore the problem and pretend that the poor dog had terrible owners. Sometimes, the beloved family pet inflicts bite injuries.

A few breeds have risen consistently to the top for causing severe dog bite injury that requires medical attention. Breed-specific legislation has been proven that it doesn’t provide the right solution and might even create a false sense of security.

Top 6 Most Crucial Statistics

Dog Statistics at a glance:

Dog Bite Statistics by Breed

It’s hard to envision our beloved pet dogs as potentially vicious animals that can inflict serious physical harm and even death. But as responsible pet owners, we must face the fact that it can happen.

Dog bite numbers confirm that some dog breeds bite more frequently, though big dogs bear the burden because their bite causes much more serious dog bite injuries.

People who get bitten by little dogs are less likely to report the incident. However, larger breed dogs and mixed breeds can inflict severe physical damage by sheer force of PSI (pounds by square inch or newtons).

dog bites

Pit bulls(a class of dogs like the American Bully, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier and any mixed breeds from the lineage of these dogs) are known as the most aggressive, with 64% of bites. It does not distinguish the breeds listed under the pity umbrella in dog bite attacks. PSI of 241.

Rottweilers have an immensely potent bite at 1,180 and 1,460 newtons of force or 328 PSI.

German Shepherds have a dog bite force of over 1060 newtons and a tendency to bite smaller dogs. PSI of 238.

Doberman Pinschers were in demand a few decades ago, and the last death caused by Dobby happened in 2011. PSI of 228 (though some suggest 600PSI)

Bull Mastiff, this 130-pound powerhouse dog, injured a young girl and killed a boy trying to save her. PSI of 556.

Husky dogs are working dogs, and Siberian Huskies killed 15 people in the USA from 1979 to 1998. PSI of 320.

Malamutes don’t like other smaller animals and have five human fatalities on their record. PSI of 328.

Wolf Hybrids caused 14 deaths and constitute any mixed breed with one wolf parent. These dog mixes are illegal in many states. PSI of 406.

Boxers are descendants of hunting dogs and have powerful jaws. The last recorded fatality happened in 2013. PSI of 230. (Just spent a month hand-feeding a boxer and didn’t think they could bite through pre-moistened kibble.)

Great Danes weigh 200 pounds, and in 2003, one of these gentle giants killed a 2-year-old. PSI of 238.

Interestingly enough, the pit bull group PSI is on the lower spectrum and similar to the PSI of a Labrador Retriever at 230 PSI. Further study on why some dogs bite is needed.

Note: Many people call several purebred dog breeds pit bulls. The Rottweiler, German Shepherd, and mixed dogs rank in the top five.

Dog Bite Statistics in the U.S.

Let’s look at some eye-opening insights into dog bite incidents and their impact with these informative dog bite facts:

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Dog Attack Stats in the US Reveals, Annually Dogs Bite Almost 4.5 Million People (Center for Disease Control)

No self-respecting dog owner believes their dog is capable of biting. Yet, 4.5 million dogs are likely to bite. The vast majority of bites are underreported, but over 800,000 people bitten by dogs require medical attention. Using 2019 population figures, 1 out of 73 are victims of dog bites.

dog biting

The Third Deadliest Creature on Earth is Dog (Statista)

Our beloved canine friends make the top three in the most dangerous animal list in the world. Part of that is the sheer number of dogs in the world. Statistics show there are between 700 million to 1 billion dogs (pet and unowned).

In underdeveloped nations, 30,000 people die yearly from rabies transmitted by dogs. Sadly, rabies is 100% preventable through vaccines.

Among 4.5 Million Bite Victims, Half Are Children (CDC)

The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) continually seeks to provide a better understanding of bite statistics.

Hospital Emergency Departments treat 885,000 patients who seek medical care from bites; 370,000 of those need emergency attention, and 16 deaths occur. Children are more vulnerable and receive 70% of all bite-related deaths.

70% of Dog Bites Happen from Unneutered (Male) Dogs (ASPCAPro)

american dogs

Unneutered dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite people and other dogs. That means 70% to 76% of biting dogs are male. Further, restrained dogs (chained or tethered) bite 2.8 times more.

Approximately 78% of “Breed-Specific Dogs Are Kept for Safety, Status, Brawling, and Breeding ( ASPCAPro)

Breed-specific bans exist in America. Many states are working to remove these unfair restrictions on responsible dog owners and don’t protect the public from irresponsible owners with large dogs.

As many as 78% of people with regulated dogs don’t bring them into the family. Instead, these dogs are mistreated as chattel, neglected, abused, and involved in fatal dog attacks. Statistics from NCRC suggest that 70.4% of dog bite deaths were not family dogs.

Top Five US States For Fatal Dog Bite Statistics (Injury Lawyers)

serious injury by family dogs

Statistics are always interesting when you see just a snapshot of the information. These numbers don’t speak about population density vs. dog bites; they list the number of incidents recorded, which leaves out any real context of how or why.

  • California = 48
  • Texas = 47
  • Florida = 31
  • North Carolina = 22
  • Ohio = 21

California’s population density is 251.9 (per mile²), while Texas is at 110 and Florida is 405.45. So, depending on which state is your home state, you might be more or less susceptible to dog bites.

In 2020, Dogs Attacked Nearly 6,000 Postal Employees (Universal Postal Union)

Letter carriers receive training to prevent dog bite attacks but still become bite victims that require emergency care treatment. In 2020, nearly 6,000 postal workers were victimized compared to 5803 in 2019. The numbers were increasing, and Houston and Los Angeles ranked at the top with the most incidents annually.

In a downward trend, there were over 5,400 postal employee dog attacks in the United States in 2021, and this number decreased to over 5,300 in 2022 during mail deliveries.

dog attacks

In 2005, More Than 28,000 People Underwent Reconstructive Surgery After a Dog Bite Incident (NIH)

Insurance companies and hospitals monitor these incidents closely, and in 2017, insurance liability claims totaled 700 million for dog-related accidents and injuries. That is a 33% share of insurance claims.

Of that significant number, 28,000 underwent reconstructive surgery; average dog-related injury claims rose by more than 90%. Dog bite-related hospitalization and treatment averaged around $18,000 between 2003 and 2017.

Police Dogs Were Responsible for 243 Bites in Indianapolis from 2017-2019 (Indy Star)

why do dogs bite

The IndyStar investigated IMPD dog bites and found that many of the bite recipients were unarmed or not in breach of any high crime activity. Out of 243 victims, more than half were black, and 28% of the population.

Before we blame these invaluable police dogs, it’s the handlers that release these working K-9s more frequently on blacks than whites. At the time of the investigation, 25 officers handling K-9s were white, and only one was black. Racism, seriously, needs to end!

Dog Breed Attack Statistics

Among 46 Dog Bite Related Fatalities in 2019, 33 Were Caused by Pit Bulls (Dogsbite.org)

Pit Bulls (which constitute more than one breed) caused 33 out of 46 fatal attacks in 2019. The chart below lists the top 10 dogs responsible for deadly attacks between 2005 and 2017.

dog attack statistics

From 2010-2021, There Were 430 Fatal Dog Bites, Among Which Pitbulls Are Responsible for 185, and Another 41 Were Pitbull Mixes Which Account for 60% (Injury Lawyers)

Breed legislation is a turbulent topic. Each side of the debate brings valuable content to try and help resolve the ongoing issue. What remains a fact is that the Pitty keeps making the list of dogs responsible for 185 of the 430 fatal dog bites (2010 to 2021).

Pitty breeds make up five registered breeds, and for once, it would be nice to see actual figures separating which of these terrier bulldog breeds causes the most damage.

Based on percentages, 60% were either full-blooded or mixed pitty breeds, 7% had a Rottweiler lineage, and 4% were of a German Shepherd pedigree.

Although Pitbulls and Rottweilers Make up Only 6% of Dogs in the US, They’re Responsible for 77% of All Dog Bites (Injury Lawyers)

dog bite statistics

Pitbulls and Rottweilers may seem to be on trial, but the figures don’t lie.

  • 77% of fatal bites come from Pittys and Rotties
  • Pittys will bite 2.5 times more likely in multiple anatomical locations (hands and feet)
  • Pittys will attack strangers at 31% more likely
  • Pittys can attack 48% more likely without cause
  • Pitty victims are more likely to die and have increased injuries and hospital costs than other breeds

Further, dog bites are preventable, according to many sources like the CDC.

Chained Dogs Are Inflicted to Bite 2.8 times More Than Unchained Dogs (NCBI)

Chained dogs bite 2.8 times more than unchained dogs. Since 2003, chained dogs have accounted for the killing of more than 450 Americans. Children are especially vulnerable to dog attacks. PETA outlines the events for many recorded chained dog attacks

dog attack statistics

Pit Bull Attack Statistics

The Tendency of Pitbulls Attacking a Stranger Is 31% Higher Than Any Other Dog Breed (NCBI)

Studies on cases of aggression prove again that bull terriers consistently act aggressively toward strangers and have a recurrence of 31%. However, pitty advocates want to prove the general public wrong and produce heartwarming versions of how lovable these dogs can be.

In 2018, Pit Bulls Were Responsible for 26 Deaths (Dogs Bite)

Many Pitty rescue missions believe in saving pittys. However, Pittys are on the list for being responsible for the most dog attack deaths in 2018, with 26 out of 36 deaths. Pit bulls only represent 7% of the dog population.

Pitty defenders blame the owners and argue that statistics only tell half the story.

From 2005-2017, Pit bulls Killed 284 Americans (Dogs Bite)

Americans need to decide how to handle the pitbull problem. Anyone with compassion for animals might easily fly to the defense of these dogs (the writer), but when pit bulls account for 284 victims killed out of 433, that number speaks loudly. Victims deserve a voice in this debate too.

Dog Bite Statistics

Globally, Tens of Millions of Dog Bites Occur Annually (WHO)

dog bites injuries

Universal numbers to calculate global dog bite numbers are challenging to obtain. In impoverished countries, dog bite injuries don’t receive any liability claims. Most don’t receive medical treatment.

While navigating injuries caused by dogs’ aggressive behavior, addressing preventive measures becomes crucial. Effective training and utilizing technological aids like smart dog collars are instrumental in mitigating aggressive behaviors.

Be sure to explore our Halo collar reviews and Spoton fence reviews to understand how these tools can be pivotal in establishing safe boundaries and potentially minimizing aggressive tendencies in dogs.

There Are Approximately 1-2 Deaths in Canada Due to Dog Bites Yearly (NCBI)

Annually in Canada, 1-2 deaths occur due to dog bites. Data published by the Canadian Veterinary Journal, following dog bite stats from 1990 to 2007, revealed 28 deaths from serious dog bite injuries. The report didn’t list any particular breed responsible.

A set of 2010 numbers concluded a decline of 28.2% over 2005, and the number of pit bull-type dogs fell by 92% since 2002 ( Toronto banned them in 2005)

According to Australian Dog Stats, Almost 13000 People Need Medical Care After Dog Bites Annually (The Royal Children Hospital)

dog bite injury

Stats found that children under five have a significant risk and suffer from injuries to their face and neck. The NSW government banned these fighting breeds:

  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • Dogo Argentino
  • Fila Brasileiro
  • Japanese Tosa

In 2020, canine bite statistics suggested that 75% of most attacks come from other breeds.

Between 2015–2018, Dog Bite-Related Hospital Visits Increased by 5% in the U.K. (Royal College of Surgeons)

Brits love their K-9 companions, and the Royal College found there were 7693 dog bite-related hospital admissions yearly. The total number of admissions between 2015 and 2018 was 23,078.

Education about how to cope with dog bites might have increased these figures.

In 2020, People Between Age of 50-59 Became the Most Common Victims of Dog Bites in England (NHS Digital)

Hospitals reported 1453 admissions of dog bite claims for this demographic. The group, ten years their junior, became the second largest segment with 1181 victims. Children aged nine and younger had 1178 admissions, while 80 and older had 443 hospital admissions.

Rabies-Related Dog Bite Statistics

dog biting human

99% of Rabies Cases Occur Due to Dogs (WHO)

Rabies is a preventable but incurable disease that affects every continent except Antarctica. The rabies vaccine invented by Louis Pasteur has saved millions of lives. However, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), rabies is still a problem in Asia and Africa, where 95% of rabies deaths occur. Most victims are children.

The post-bite vaccine prevents millions of deaths.

In the US, Only 2% of People Die from Rabies Annually (Injury Lawyers)

Due to strict regulations and preventive measures, “the U.S. has been free of dog rabies since 2007.” It’s definitely a little sigh of relief after learning all the shocking details of dog bites.

Dog Bite Fatalities by Gender and Age

  • Of 430 Fatalities Between 2010-2021, 32% Were Infants From 0-4 Years
  • 13% Were Adults Above 75 years
  • 10% Were Children from 5-9 Years Old
  • 5.5% of Adults Were 60-64 Years Old
  • 5% Were Between the Ages of 50-54 Years Old

Dog Bite Claims Statistics

In 2022, the number of dog bite claims in the US decreased slightly, but the total cost of these claims increased significantly by 28%, reaching $1.13 billion. The average cost per claim also rose by 32% to $64,555.

Dog Bite Claims Statistics

In 2022, Home-Owner Insurance Companies Paid $1,136 Million in Dog-Related Injuries Claims, Including Dog Bites (III)

The insurance industry paid out hefty dog bite liability claims in 2022. A total of $1,136 million dollars, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), were paid to settle claims.

Dog bite claims decreased by 2.2% in 2022 to 17,597 from 17,989 in 2021.

In 2022, There Were 1,954 Claims in California Alone (III)

dog bites statistics  2022

California maintains its lead in dog bite claims across the US, recording 1,954 claims in 2022 (down from 2,026 in 2021), followed by Florida with 1,331 claims. Notably, California also tops the list for the highest average claim cost at $78,818, followed closely by Florida at $78,203.

The state of California also had the highest fatality rate in 2019 with 9 deaths.

FAQ’s

Which Dog Breed Bites the Most?

Pit bulls cause more dog bite injuries and hurt more people than any other dog, with labrador retrievers coming in second place.

Which Dog Breed Has Killed the Most Humans?

Pit bulls are responsible for more deaths than any other breed, and their overall population is only 6.5%.

What Happens to Dogs When They Bite Humans?

It might depend on where you live and the events leading up to the dog bite injuries. Stray dogs are often euthanized and tested for rabies. In other cases, criminal charges and lawsuits might decide the outcome.

Are Pit Bulls More Dangerous?

Although they score high on temperament tests, Pittys often live in less-than-desirable situations. Many are chained and sometimes trained for the fighting ring.

How to Handle an Aggressive Dog?

Aggressive dogs sometimes need professional intervention and behavior modification. Working with any dog takes time and energy.

Conclusion for Dog Bite Statistics

Dog bite injuries are a grave problem. Not all dog bites are predictable, though; with proper training and education, fatal dog attacks are preventable. Dog bite injuries and dog bite victims are serious.

Owning any kind of pet takes a considerable commitment. Dogs are not disposable. They rely on us to teach them acceptable dog behavior. If you don’t have the time, try fostering or volunteering.

Monika Martyn

Monika Martyn is a nomadic minimalist and published author. Her pet portfolio includes experience with over forty cats and dogs, and she becomes their surrogate and a valued pack member. One of her proudest accomplishments is typing while petting a fur baby on her lap. She also excels at dog-speak and cat-talk and is working on mastering fish lingo. Aside from her animal advocacy, she is passionate about the environment, plastic pollution, and living with less (not including chocolate and coffee). She practices yoga and meditation faithfully. She’s experienced living abroad and believes that together people can evoke change for the better. Or at least be kind to one another despite our differences. She has an uncanny knack for remembering people’s names. She’s proud of her two Pushcart Nominations, her debut novel, and her marriage. When she’s not writing, she’s thinking about writing. Monika believes that education is the biggest gift to humanity at any age.

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American College of Veterinary Behaviorists Issues Statement on Adversive Training Methods

AVMA News

Done with Dog Daddy

By Coco Lederhouse October 16, 2023

Outfitted in a flashy Gucci tracksuit and sunglasses, and often seen walking beside his German Shepherds, Augusto DeOliveira, also known as “The Dog Daddy,” certainly commands attention.

Augusto DeOliveira “The Dog Daddy”, has gone viral on social media for his ability to control dogs.  However, numerous behavioral science organizations, including the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB), are warning owners that aversive training methods can be dangerous. 

His dog training practices have caught the attention of concerned animal welfare groups, trainers, veterinary behaviorists, and pet owners. On September 13, the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) issued a statement expressing serious concerns regarding DeOliveira’s training practices and warning of the damaging effects that his methods could have on dogs.

“The training methods we see in the videos are using physical force or correction,” said Dr. Kelly Ballantyne, president of the ACVB and medical director at Insight Animal Behavior Services in Chicago. “We know that those methods are a big threat to animal welfare, they have a high risk of causing or increasing fear, panic, and aggression. They also put the handler and any of those people nearby at high risk for a bite.”

Instead, Dr. Ballantyne advocates for teaching animals through the reinforcement of desired behaviors and managing their environment to prevent undesired behaviors.

While aversive techniques may appear to stop a “bad” behavior, she explained that the effectiveness of the intervention isn’t determined by what happens in the moment, but if the behavior is changed over time. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior issued a position statement in 2021 on humane dog training that advises against aversive training methods.

Video clips on social media are just a snapshot in time, and it’s “pretty easy to get swayed by the quick fix,” Dr. Ballantyne said.

Zak George, an evidence-based dog trainer and educational content creator, has been a strong opponent of DeOliveira’s training approach. George has organized peaceful protests at DeOliveira’s appearances around the U.S. and worked to raise awareness among pet owners.

“Our collective aim is to illuminate the dangers and inefficacies of inhumane training techniques,” George said. These techniques create an atmosphere of mistrust between dogs and their owners, and are associated with increased behavioral issues and aggression, he explained.

Several other organizations, including the Animal Behaviour and Training Council and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raised concerns about DeOliveira’s group training sessions in London earlier this summer.

Similarly, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the Pet Professional Guild Australia issued a statement in response to DeOliveira’s training techniques.

Both George and Dr. Ballantyne warned of trainers who use outdated language like “dominance” or “alpha.” Dominance theory, based on the perceived dynamics of a wolfpack, has been debunked even in wolves, Dr. Ballantyne explained. Using those terms to explain a dog’s actions is not supported by current scientific consensus on dog behavior.

“The issue we’re confronting in the dog training community isn’t confined to any one individual like Augusto DeOliveira,” George said. “His practices, unfortunately, aren’t outliers; they’re part of a troubling pattern prevalent among a significant number of trainers employing antiquated and harmful methods.”

In the current “buyer beware” environment, accountability is a challenge, George said. Many owners aren’t equipped to identify harmful practices, he added, “[They are] often misled by trainers who have mastered the art of pseudoscientific rhetoric. That’s why it’s imperative to rely on trainers who employ evidence-based, force-free methods—endorsed universally by reputable behavioral science organizations.”

Veterinarians play a key role in helping to guide clients towards trainers who use appropriate methods and are knowledgeable about dog behavior. The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists has information about choosing a dog trainer, U.S. dog training organizations with certification options, and a list of animal behavior profession.

© 2023 American Veterinary Medical Association All rights reserved

How to Be a Better Owner for a Pet Rabbit

The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Improve pet rabbit welfare in the home and vet clinic with simple techniques.

Updated July 7, 2023 |  Source: Dr. Lori Gaskins for Psychology Today; Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

Photo by Satyabratasm on Unsplash

Source: Photo by Satyabratasm on Unsplash

by Lori Gaskins, DVM, DACVB, DACAW

Research regarding rabbit welfare and behavior indicates that there are many things that general practitioners and pet rabbit owners can do to improve the welfare of pet rabbits.

Veterinarians can play an active role in improving rabbit welfare during veterinary visits by using and recommending stress-reducing techniques. Some of these techniques include recommending owners bring a bonded companion to the exam; using aromatherapy; handling in a stress-free fashion; and offering treats and hiding places.

Veterinarians can also help prevent behavioral complaints of owners such as aggression, destruction, and house soiling. The majority of rabbits are fearful when lifted and handled, which can result in aggression to owners. Providing advice on reading the communication signals of rabbits and not handling them in ways that induce fear will decrease the risk of injuries to both the pet and the owner, and improve the human-animal bond. Other examples of responsible advice include housing the rabbit in a large and complex environment, getting rid of the food bowl and allowing the rabbit to forage for food, providing water in a bowl and not a water bottle, providing an appropriate litterbox, and always providing a companion and a hiding place. If veterinarians educate owners regarding their rabbits’ innate behaviors and emotions, this will increase the likelihood that each owner will provide a more welfare-friendly home for their pet.

How Rabbit Owners Can Improve Their Pets’ Welfare

Pet rabbit owners can improve their pet’s welfare in the home by providing their rabbit with companionship, foraging opportunities, hiding places, perches, digging boxes, positive reinforcement training, proper litterboxes, and a large enough enclosure to provide all of these things. Additionally, since the majority of rabbits are fearful when lifted and handled, these practices should be discontinued. An alternate method of moving the rabbit around is to train the rabbit to target an object, such as a finger or a stick with a ball on the end. The pet should be trained with positive reinforcement to place his nose on the target. This is done by luring the rabbit to the target with his favorite treat, then giving the treat if he sniffs or touches the target. Once the rabbit is trained to move to wherever the target is in order to touch it, the target can be placed wherever the owner wants the rabbit to go. This allows for fun interactions that can replace those that include picking the rabbit up and cuddling him.

Pet rabbit owners should work to decrease the stress of traveling, whether it’s for boarding or veterinary visits. The target training will help here, as the owner can place the target in a crate to get the rabbit crated for travel. Travel stress can also be decreased by always allowing bonded rabbits to travel together, using non-slip flooring in the crate, covering the crate with a towel, using aromatherapy such as lavender or valerian or blended essential oils, and providing favorite treats in the crate.

The 5 Domains of Welfare and the Pet Rabbit

Improving rabbit welfare can be accomplished using the framework of the 5 Domains of Welfare.

  • Health: Provide timely veterinary visits to ensure the rabbit is physically and mentally healthy.
  • Nutrition: Provide a nutritionally balanced diet and require rabbits to forage for food as nature intended.
  • Environment: Provide natural light, appropriate temperatures, and hiding places.
  • Behavioral Interactions: Provide a rabbit companion, stress-free interactions with humans, and a complex mentally stimulating environment which simulates the natural environment.
  • Mental state: Provide a life that approximates what nature intended and therefore makes life worth living.
Source: Dr. Lori Gaskins

Dr. Lori Gaskins – Lori Gaskins is a veterinarian who is a diplomate of the American College of Animal Welfare and of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. She has been a practicing veterinarian for over 30 years and has been teaching animal welfare and behavior for 16 years. For more, see her ACVB Webinar on Rabbit Behavior and Welfare.

How to Optomize Your Home for a Service Dog

Written By Holland Webb April 25, 2023

Article compliments of Today’s Homeowner – https://todayshomeowner.com/blog/guides/how-to-optimize-your-home-for-a-service-dog/

Why You Can Trust Us

Service dogs lead their owners into more functional and fulfilling lives. These loving, highly trained animals bear a lot of responsibility as they help perform a variety of day-to-day tasks for people with disabilities.

Most people know about guide dogs, but did you know that service dogs can also watch for signs of seizures, listen for sounds that people with hearing impairments may miss, or help open doors and carry objects for their handlers?

Service dogs are valued working partners and companions to over 500,000 Americans. Welcoming a new service dog is an exciting opportunity for you and your family. 

It’s important to optimize your home for your service dog’s comfort, ease, and security. In this article, we’ll explore how to do that along with how to connect with organizations that provide service dogs and considerations for training your own service dog.

What is a Service Dog?

In addition to being great companions, working dogs perform a variety of jobs. They may aid in search-and-rescue operations, sniff out illegal substances, detect cancer, or provide therapy for people living in institutional settings.

Not every working dog is a service dog, though. The Americans with Disabilities Act specifically defines a service dog as one individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. 

These disabilities may be physical, intellectual, psychiatric, or sensory. To qualify for a service dog, you typically need to work with an organization that serves people who live with your specific disability.

Common Service Dogs

The kind of disability you have partly determines which breed of dog you’ll get. The tiny Pomeranian, for example, lacks the physical strength to pull a wheelchair, but it has sharp hearing, a keen sense of smell, and enough dexterity to open cupboards and doors.

Labradors, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds, and Great Danes may be employed for jobs that require physical strength and agility. Poodles are often used for tasks that require keen vision and problem-solving skills. A Pomeranian can work in tight, confined spaces due to its small size. Whatever the breed, a service dog must have qualities like intelligence, friendliness, a calm demeanor, and a love for work. 

It takes about 18 months and can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 to train just one service dog. More than half of service dog candidates do not complete their training. Fortunately, these dogs can find homes as companions for loving families, while service dogs who complete their training programs go on to find work.

Optimizing Your Home for a Service Dog

When your new service dog arrives at your home, you’ll want it to feel welcome. That means optimizing your home and garden to make them accessible, navigable, and easy to work in.

Interior of the Home

Your dog needs clear, wide spaces that are simple to navigate and memorize. If you’ve had a disability for a long time, your home is probably already well-suited to your needs — and probably in good shape for your new dog, too. On the other hand, if your disability is recent, you may need to make some prompt modifications to your home.

Bathroom

The bathroom is probably the most hazardous room in your house. Every year about 235,000 people go to the emergency room because of an injury sustained in the bathroom. Small, slippery when wet, and filled with small objects in out-of-the-way cupboards, the bathroom can be tricky to manage

Help your dog out by storing anything it needs to retrieve in a low storage container. If you use non-slip coverings on your floor, make sure they’re well-positioned to avoid either you or your dog getting tripped up.

Living Room

The clearer your floor is, the easier your dog will find it to navigate. Store remotes, magazines, throws, pillows, and other small items in baskets or bins that open from the top. 

Keep personal belongings put away and debris picked up. In case of emergency, your dog will have a much easier time helping you get to safety. 

You’ll also want to keep your living room well lit. If your dog will be turning lights on and off for you, be sure that switches are within easy reach of his nose or paw.

Bedroom

Most likely, your service dog will share your bedroom so it can respond to any nighttime emergencies. If your dog is a seizure detection specialist, it may need to sleep in the bed with you. If it will remain on the floor, however, make sure it has a designated sleeping spot.

You’ll also want to keep cords secured to the wall, slippers put in the closet, and pajamas picked up off the floor. Nothing should be scattered around that could distract the dog from its important job.

Kitchen

The kitchen is the primary workplace for many service dogs. Here, they may put away groceries, operate appliances, or alert their humans to alarms or smoke detectors. You’ll want to talk with your trainer about what your dog needs to do his specific jobs well. 

For example, you might need to install tugs on the refrigerator doors or even remodel your kitchen so that countertops and cabinets are easy for your dog to access. Sometimes installing a lazy susan or pull-down shelf can be a great way to make your kitchen canine accessible without major renovations. 

Doorways

Modern doorways are generally 32 inches wide or more to allow space for wheelchairs to get through. In an older home, however, you may be facing doors that are too small for you and your dog to pass through easily. Check with your dog’s trainer to see if your doors will be feasible for your animal to use. If not, you could have a remodeling project on your hands.

Some doorways are easy for an avid DIYer to enlarge on their own. If a door is part of a load-bearing wall, though, you need a licensed contractor to do the job.

Hallways

Narrow by nature, hallways can be a real challenge for your dog to navigate. Help your dog out by keeping them clean and clutter-free. You’ll also want to relocate furniture or decor that’s currently obscuring any part of the space. 

Finally, keep this space well-lit. Maximize any natural light the space gets, and make sure overhead lights are clean and bright. If you haven’t already painted your hall a light color, now’s a good time to do that, too.

Exterior of the Home

Your dog will spend time outdoors. It’s important to keep your yard, sidewalk, and garage in good shape.

Garage and Driveway

If your dog will assist you in getting into and out of your car, it will need plenty of space to work. Trim any bushes or shrubs that extend into your driveway. You can also keep your space clear by moving other vehicles to another area outside your home. Most importantly, if your driveway is less than 12 feet wide, consider having it enlarged before your dog comes home.

Sidewalks and Pathways

Will your dog walk with you on the paths around your home or garden? If so, your sidewalk needs to be at least 36 inches wide if you use a wheelchair or 24 inches wide if you walk. Here again, you’ll want to trim any shrubs or other growth that may obscure the path or trip up your dog.

Yard

If your home has a yard, your dog needs a fence. A six-foot high barrier that discourages digging is enough for most dogs. You’ll want to check into the policies governing what kind of fence you can have in your area, and consult with the service dog trainer about the right kind of fencing for your dog’s breed and build.

General Accessibility Tips and Emergencies for Service Dogs

As you plan to welcome your service dog, look at your home as a whole space, not just a collection of individual rooms. What could you reorganize or remodel to help your dog live and work comfortably? 

Avoid The Following For Your Service Dog

  • Tight Spaces: Like people, dogs can’t work well in confined quarters. Find out your dog’s size, and then look for places that might feel like a tight squeeze.
  • Obstructions: Your dog is probably much smaller and closer to the floor than you are. What might seem like a small obstruction to you could be a big impediment to it.
  • Situations Your Dog Is Not Accustomed To: Dogs work best in predictable environments. Although service dogs are trained not to react to their surroundings, they will appreciate fewer distractions when working.
  • Overstimulating Settings: While service dogs are chosen and trained to be gentle and quiet, they do experience a lot of work-related stress. Build in time for relaxation and exercise, and keep your dog out of intense environments as much as you can.
  • Highly crowded Areas: Your service dog may be trained to lead you through a crowd or to provide crowd control if you have PTSD. You’ll probably want to keep your dog away from rowdy, crowded areas whenever possible, though.

Emergency Plan Tips

  • Establish a safe spot for earthquakes. Make sure the area includes ample space for yourself, your dog, and any supplies both of you will need.
  • Create a flood evacuation plan that your dog can follow.
  • Designate an area with access to communication services during tornadoes or storms.
  • Plan for power outages with an emergency kit that includes battery packs, medications, and first aid kits that the dog can reach.

Organizations that Help Find and Train Service Dogs

  • The Seeing Eye
    • Located in New Jersey, the Seeing Eye breeds and trains dogs to assist blind and visually impaired people. They also instruct dog owners in the proper use of handling service dogs.
    • Good Fit For: People who are blind or visually impaired
    • https://www.seeingeye.org/
  • Assistance Dogs International
    • Assistance Dogs International is a clearinghouse of programs that provide guide dogs, hearing dogs, and service dogs. The organization also accredits individual programs around the world. 
    • Good Fit For: Anyone looking for a service dog
    • https://assistancedogsinternational.org/ 
  • Leader Dogs for the Blind
    • Fully funded by individuals and nonprofit donors, Leader Dogs for the Blind helps people who are blind or visually impaired live with independence and mobility.
    • Good Fit For: People who are blind or visually impaired
    • https://www.leaderdog.org/ 
  • Epilepsy Foundation
    • The Epilepsy Foundation provides resources for people interested in learning more about seizure dogs and their work. The foundation can connect you with an appropriate organization near your home.
    • Good Fit For: People with epilepsy or a seizure disorder
    • https://www.epilepsy.com/ 
  • Canine Partners for Life
    • Canine Partners for Life helps match people with disabilities with partner dogs. The organization provides canine partners for people with a wide variety of disabilities as well as people with diabetes and those who need a home companion.
    • Good Fit For: Anyone with a qualifying disability
    • https://k94life.org/ 
  • Fidos for Freedom
    • Fidos for Freedom provides trained service dogs, hearing dogs, therapy dogs, and combat-related PTSD dogs for people with disabilities, patients in health care facilities, and children with reading difficulties.
    • Good Fit For: People living in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. metropolitan community
    • https://fidosforfreedom.org/ 
  • Guide Dogs of America
    • Based in Los Angeles, Guide Dogs of America breeds, raises, and trains service dogs for veterans, children with autism, and people with visual impairments. The organization also provides highly skilled dogs for jobs in hospitals, courtrooms, or classrooms.
    • Good Fit For: Veterans, individuals with autism, or people with visual impairments
    • https://www.guidedogsofamerica.org/ 
  • Warrior Canine Connection
    • Using a Mission Based Trauma Recovery (MBTR) model, Warrior Canine Connection helps warriors reconnect with their lives, families, friends, communities, and each other. Warriors both train and use the dogs as service partners.
    • Good Fit For: Veterans, military families
    • https://warriorcanineconnection.org/ 
  • Puppies Behind Bars
    • Founded in 1997, Puppies Behind Bars partners with incarcerated men and women to train service dogs and places the animals with qualifying applicants. 
    • Good Fit For: Veterans
    • https://puppiesbehindbars.com/ 
  • Canines for Disabled Kids
    • Headquartered in Worcester, MA, Canines for Disabled Kids provides scholarships for children who need service animals. The organization also offers public education and training for families interested in acquiring a dog.
    • Good Fit For: Children and families
    • https://caninesforkids.org/ 

Tips on How to Train Your Own Service Dog

Service dogs do not have to be professionally trained. Anyone has the right to train a service dog. 

However, before you begin training your own dog, make sure that he or she would make a good service dog. To be trained as a service dog the animal should meet the following criteria:

  • Younger than six months old
  • Spayed/neutered
  • Properly sized for your needs
  • Calm personality
  • Long attention span

If you would like to train your own dog, consider the following best practices: 

House Training

Like other house-dwelling animals, service dogs must be trained to do their business in a designated place outside. Crate-training is an effective approach since most dogs want to keep their crates clean. In the early days of training, reward the dog for going to the bathroom outside so it associates outdoor bathroom behavior with positive reinforcement.

Teaching Focus and Attentiveness Towards Handler

Your dog should focus on you — and only you — while it is working. Start this habit by encouraging the animal to make eye contact with you. Give the dog a treat for staying focused.

Off-leash Training

A service dog must respond to you whether it is on or off a leash. In a safe and controlled environment, you can take off the dog’s leash and give it simple commands. Reward or praise it for obeying those commands. Over time, you can move the activity to more-public situations.

Task-Oriented Training

Your dog is more than a companion. He or she has a job to do, and it’s up to you to train them how to do it. What do you need the animal to do?

  • Be alert to seizures?
  • Answer the door?
  • Be alert to alarms?
  • Carry groceries?
  • Close doors?
  • Guide you through a crowd?
  • Be alert to allergens in food?
  • Pull a wheelchair?
  • Retrieve medication?
  • Find help?

Socialization and Task-Focused Training

A successful service dog can stay focused on specific tasks even when it is out in social settings where there are distractions. Puppies should be acclimated to different sounds and people as much as possible and as early as possible. Also, be sure the dog is comfortable staying alone to minimize separation anxiety.

Disability Specific Training

Some service dogs work in disability-specific roles. For example, a hearing dog’s job is to listen for certain sounds and respond to them. A mobility assistance dog helps a human partner with limited mobility. You may want to work with a coach who can help you focus on building your dog’s unique skill set. 

Emergency and Medication Focused Training

Medical alert dogs are trained to get help for those who need it. Some dogs also help manage their human’s medication. These dogs need to be individually trained to meet their job’s requirements.

Offer Relaxation Periods Between Training 

Don’t forget to let your dog have fun. Off-duty time to relax, chew on a toy, get some exercise, or play with other pets is a critical part of training — and enjoying — your service dog.

“Words Matter” – The Whole Dog Journal

Why the language you use makes a difference in your relationship with your dog – and perhaps even the success of your training program.

By Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

Published: April 1, 2023

Woman sitting with dog on jetty, rear view
If the words you use to describe your dog or your training methods align with your philosophy of creating a kind and nurturing relationship with your dog based on mutual trust and respect, you’re likely to behave accordingly. Think carefully about the words you and/or your instructor use and discard those that prompt you to send the wrong message to your dog! Photo by LWA, Getty Images

I’ve been training dogs professionally for 27 years, but I don’t use “commands” for this purpose, I use “cues.” What difference does it make? A lot!

The definition of command is “an authoritative order.” Even when we use gentle training methods, if we think “commands,” our brains connect to the authoritative definition and we are likely speak in a louder, harsher (commanding!) tone of voice. In contrast, a cue is an invitation to perform a behavior for which your dog can be reinforced with a treat, play, praise, or the opportunity to perform a behavior the dog enjoys. We are far more likely to speak softly and gently when we use “cues.”

Words to avoid

“Command” is just one of many words that we force-free trainers avoid. Here are others that interfere with the message of kindness and mutual respect we want to send to our dogs:

  • “It.” This word is used to refer to non-living objects. Dogs (and other animals) are living, thinking, feeling beings. Use he, she, him, and her rather than “it” when referring to a dog. When you acknowledge the sentience of non-human animals, you’re likely to treat them better.
  • “Breaking.” Breaking evokes force, and we’re not “breaking” anything, we’re “training” – so we use housetraining (not housebreaking) and say we are training desirable behaviors (not breaking bad habits).
  • “Obedience.” We want a partnership with our dogs – a happy willingness to offer behaviors we ask for, not their submission to our authority. That’s why we offer good manners training or family dog training rather than “obedience classes.”
  • “Make.” We don’t “make” our dogs do things. “Make” suggests force and coercion. Instead, we ask our dogs for certain behaviors, invite them, help them, and encourage them.
  • “Bad.” Dogs aren’t bad and they don’t do bad things – though occasionally they may do something inappropriate. When we think of them as bad, we give ourselves tacit permission to punish them. But when we frame their behavior as “inappropriate,” we’re more likely to think in terms of management and teaching appropriate behaviors rather than punishment.
  • More pejoratives. I cringe when someone refers to a dog as stupid, stubborn, disobedient, or any other negative adjectives, placing the blame for any unwanted behavior directly on the dog’s shoulders. When a dog doesn’t do what you ask, it’s because she can’t for some reason: she doesn’t understand, she’s too stressed, was distracted, didn’t hear you, is in pain or otherwise physically unable, you haven’t made the consequence of the behavior reinforcing enough, or you haven’t generalized it well (you haven’t trained her!). Figure out why she can’t do it and then help her succeed.

Respectful language

Think carefully about the words you and/or your instructor use to discuss training and your dog. Philosopher and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett suggests that language lays down the tracks upon which thoughts can travel. Your words connect to your thoughts and influence your behavior. If your words align with your philosophy of creating a kind and nurturing relationship with your dog based on mutual trust and respect, you’re likely to behave accordingly – and you and your dog will be well on your way to achieving that pinnacle.

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

WDJ’s Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn “Pat Miller Certified Trainer” certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.

Dog Parks

From WHOLE DOG JOURNAL

An excerpt from Turning Fierce Dogs Friendly by Kellie Snider

I’m going to take a detour into an area frequently associated with dog aggression just to get this out on the table. Earlier in the book, I told you about a pet owner whose dog began to behave aggressively toward other dogs soon after being attacked by two dogs in a dog park, and that the dog had become pushy and growly with other dogs on subsequently visits to the dog park. My response to this owner was, “Don’t ever take your dog to the dog park.” I wasn’t saying that no dog should ever go to any dog park. I was saying that this dog should never go to any dog park. He had such a bad experience there that each visit was painful for him and further convinced him that other dogs were dangerous. There was no way to perform aggression work inside the dog park, where the behavior of the other dogs was hit or miss. It wasn’t safe, and it was likely to make the dog’s behavior worse. Dog parks can be great fun, but they can also be dangerous and a place of high stress for dogs. You’ll often see dogs in dog parks who are overly excited and too poorly behaved to be there. The fact is, many dogs don’t really need to have dog friends. Some dogs really benefit from dog friends, but those dogs are usually not the ones that have aggression problems around other dogs.

Dogs need their owners to protect them from situations that are too overwhelming for them. The social life your dog has with you is the social life that is important to him. Taking him to dog parks isn’t always in his best interest. My advice is to only enter dog parks when there are just a few dogs (no more than three or four) and the owners are actively watching their dogs. If any of the dogs in the dog park is wearing shock collar or is being a bully, leash your dog and leave. If your dog is a bully, definitely leash your dog and leave! This happens. Once my own dog guarded a man he’d just met from the man’s own sixth-month-old Golden Retriever puppy! It was terribly embarrassing, and I gave a quick apology and left. That wasn’t behavior my dog needed to practice. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, although it may be momentarily embarrassing. Just apologize if needed, and leave.

To learn more about aggressive dog behavior, purchase Turning Fierce Dogs Friendly from Whole Dog Journal.

Consenting Cats Are Happier Cats

Cats must agree with how you choose to treat them.

By Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., and Steve Dale. for Phycology Today

KEY POINTS

  • Allowing cats to have their say supports their need for safety, security, and trust and enhances the bonds you form with each other.
  • It’s easier to get your cat to a veterinarian or get them to enjoy something else like being petted or playing when your cat agrees with you.
  • Consent underlies the development and maintenance of friendly relationships within and between species, and across a wide variety of activities.

The latest buzzword in the dog training world is referred to as consent training or cooperative care. Cats may benefit from this practice even more than dogs.1

Natalie Bond/Pexels

Source: Natalie Bond/Pexels

These are less productive approaches: “Just get it done.” “I’m the boss and you will do what I say when I say it.” However, the concept of consent training allows a companion animal to partake in decisions and make choices. This practice recognizes that these animals have agency, or are able to make choices about what they want to do. The dog or cat and their caretaker are partners—they both have to consent about something that is going to be done. For example, teach a cat that if you ask them to lift a paw before clipping their nails, in return they will receive a big payoff.

Getting your cat to the veterinarian

While dogs and humans benefit by feeling a sense of control, arguably this is true 10-fold in cats who are control freaks, to begin with. Think about it; being in control is synonymous with a sense of safety, which cats must have to feel secure. One reason cats like high vantage points is because they feel safe and in control of their world. And that’s one reason why cats are especially panicked at veterinary visits. They are suddenly kidnapped, forcibly removed from their safety zone, and whisked off to a place where they can sense the terror of others because of the pheromones that remain. They also are forcibly poked and prodded without their consent.

Imagine if you could merely ask a cat to simply hop into a carrier. There would be no chasing them all over the house to attempt to stuff a screaming cat into the carrier where a ladder to terror is then ascended with a car ride. By the time the exam begins, the cat may be struggling for dear life, actually thinking, “I am going to die.”

Rather than taking an unhappy, freaked-out cat to the veterinarian, carrier training can be conducted in a method consistent with consent. Here are some practical tips.

  • Leave the carrier out 24/7. If the cat was previously afraid of a carrier because of the negative association made with the veterinary visit, purchase a new carrier that looks different.
  • Randomly drop treats into the carrier so it becomes an automatic treat dispenser.
  • Once comfortable inside the carrier, begin to feed the cat in the carrier. Most cats may now hop inside, expecting a treat for doing so. Cats do train people—and now you comply.
  • Now, ask your cat to hop into the carrier on cue—and always offer high-value award for doing so.
  • Ask your cat to leap into the carrier, close it, and walk to another part of the house. Once there, open the carrier and feed. Good things happen after being inside the carrier.
  • Finally, teach the cat that car rides aren’t bad—before going to the vet, just drive around the block, and when returning home give them a meal. And when you do go to the veterinarian, go for a happy visit—no exam, only treats.

Of course, you can use force to get the job done, but we know there are deleterious psychological impacts, not to mention an erosion of trust.

Petting is okay as long as the cat consents

Another good example of how to use consent in cats is the issue of petting-induced over-stimulation. Some cats can be petted all day long, but others manage only a minute or two at a time before lashing out. Several reasons may help to explain why some cats barely have any petting patience. For some, it actually may begin to feel uncomfortable when touched for too long. The same goes for dogs, some of whom like to be petted or hugged, and others who don’t.

For cats who typically allow only a minute or two of petting, stop petting after around 30 seconds. Quit while you’re ahead, leaving the cat to decide, “I want more.” If so the cat asks to be petted more, offer only a few seconds, continuing to leave the cat wanting still more. At some point, the cat will likely say, “Okay, that’s enough.” You can increase the time you spend petting your cat while still allowing the cat to maintain control.

Likewise, if you want to play with your cat, be sure your cat tells you it’s okay. Catsdogs, and other animals clearly express their intentions and have to consent for fair play to continue; it’s best to be sure they want to play with you.

All of this is consistent with the Fear Free initiative, which is designed to minimize fearanxiety, and stress.2

The ubiquity of consent

Consent underlies the development and maintenance of friendly and happy relationships within and between many species, including animal-human relationships, and across a wide variety of activities. When you want a cat or other animal to do something, why force the issue when you don’t need to? The most significant explanation given by cat parents whose cat doesn’t like to go to the veterinarian is transit. Getting them into a carrier and the way cats respond in the clinic also are deterrents. Obviously, being able to see a veterinarian regularly benefits the welfare of our cats. Petting a cat who likes to be petted can be good for them and for us. A consenting cat is a happier cat.

Giving cats control by granting them agency and asking for their consent supports their need for safety, security, and trust, makes them happier, and enhances the social bonds you form with each other.

References

1) This essay was co-authored by Steve Dale, a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant (CABC) who hosts several pet radio shows and has contributed to and authored several books.

2) For more details about how to make cats happy, see Dr. Zazie Todd’s Purr: The Science of Making Your Cat Happy.

Dog Crate Anxiety

5 things to do if your dog suffers from dog crate anxiety

From WHOLE DOG JOURNAL

By  Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA Published:October 17, 2011Updated:March 24, 2020

dog crate anxiety

Properly used, the dog crate is a marvelous training and management tool. Improperly used, it can be a disaster. Overcrating, traumatic, or stimulating experiences while crated, improper introduction to the crate, and isolation or separation anxieties are the primary causes of crating disasters. If, for whatever reason, your dog is not a fan of the artificial den you’ve provided for him, and assuming he can’t be trusted home alone uncrated, here are some things you can do regarding his dog crate anxiety:

1. Find confinement alternatives

Every time your crate-hating dog has a bad experience in a crate, it increases his stress and anxiety and makes it harder to modify his crate aversion. Your dog may tolerate an exercise pen, a chain-link kennel set up in your garage, or even a room of his own. A recent Peaceable Paws client whose dog was injuring herself in the crate due to isolation anxiety found her dog did just fine when confined to the bedroom when she had to be left alone.

2. Utilize doggy daycare

Many dogs who have dog crate high anxiety are delighted to spend the day at the home of a friend, neighbor, or relative who is home when you are not, or at a good doggie daycare facility – assuming your dog does well in the company of other dogs. This is not a good option for dogs with true separation anxiety, as they will be no happier with someone else when they are separated from you than they are in a crate.

3. Teach him to love his crate.

Utilize a combination of counter-conditioning (changing his association with the crate from negative to positive) and operant conditioning/shaping (positively reinforcing him for gradually moving closer to, and eventually into, the crate) to convince him to go into his crate voluntarily. Then, very gradually, work your way up to closing the door with your dog inside, and eventually moving longer and longer distances away from your crated dog for longer and longer periods of time. (See “Dog Crating Difficulties,” WDJ May 2005). Note: If your dog has a separation/anxiety issue, you must address and modify that behavior before crate-training will work.

4. Identify and remove aversives.

Figure out why your dog has dog crate high anxiety. If he was crate-trained at one time and then decided he didn’t like it, what changed? Perhaps you were overcrating, and he was forced to soil his den, and that was very stressful for him.

Maybe there are environmental aversives; is it too warm or too cold in his crate? Is there a draft blowing on him? Is it set near something that might expose him to an aversive sound, like the washing machine, buzzer on a clothes dryer, or an alarm of some kind? Perhaps his crate is near the door, and he becomes overstimulated when someone knocks, or rings the doorbell, or when mail and packages are delivered. Is someone threatening him when he’s crated – another dog, perhaps? Or a child who bangs on the top, front, or sides of the crate? Maybe he’s been angrily punished by someone who throws him into the crate and yells at him – or worse. All the remedial crate training in the world won’t help if the aversive thing is still happening. You have to make the bad stuff stop.

If he’s a victim of generalized anxiety or separation anxiety and the crate aversion is part of a larger syndrome, or his stress about crating is extreme, you may want to explore the use of behavior modification drugs with your behavior knowledgeable veterinarian, or a veterinary behaviorist, to help reduce stress enough that he can learn to love his crate. Note – if your vet is not behavior knowledgeable, tell her that many veterinary behaviorists will do free phone consults with other veterinarians.

5. Take him with you.

Of course you can’t take him with you all the time, but whenever you can, it decreases the number of times you have to use another alternative. Some workplaces allow employees to bring their dogs to work with them; you don’t know until you ask. Of course you will never take him somewhere that he’d be left in a car, unattended, for an extended period of time, or at all, if the weather is even close to being dangerous. A surprising number of businesses allow well-behaved dogs to accompany their owners; if it doesn’t say “No Dogs” on the door, give it a try! Your dog will thank you.

Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA

WDJ’s Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn “Pat Miller Certified Trainer” certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.