Medical Issues or Poor Training?

Dogs can’t tell us what they’re feeling, so it can be difficult to determine the right course of action when it comes to resolving bad behavior problems. How do you know if you should take your pet to a trainer — or if you should go straight to your vet?

There’s a growing trend of veterinarians and trainers partnering to create the best overall treatment plan for a behavior issue. In certain instances, behavior problems may be caused by underlying medical conditions, such as when an abscessed tooth causes pain, resulting in growling and snapping. Other times, the behavior is rooted in a training issue, like when a dog jumps on people to get their attention.

But, many times, a behavior problem is a complex issue, so it’s important to determine the cause of the aggression first. While behavior modification may work in some pets, other cases may require both medication and training.

When to Consult a Veterinarian

First become aware of how a medical issue could impact the behavior of your dog.  For example:  Your dog suddenly began exhibiting anxiety. Before starting on a behavior modification program, take him to a veterinarian to see if there is an underlining cause.  Your veterinarian found a painful staph infection in between his footpads. As soon as the condition was treated, his anxiety disappeared. This is why seeking help from a vet should always be your first course of action.

When to Consult a Certified Dog Trainer

Although some poor manners — pulling on a leash, jumping on people, stealing food off the table or chasing the cat — may appear to be obvious training issues, others may actually stem from a medical condition, so you should still check in with a vet first.

If you are unsure about whether your dog requires a medical professional or a trainer, always see your veterinarian first to rule out any medical issues. The vet can then refer you to a trusted trainer who can craft the best approach for tackling your dog’s behavior problem.

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