Change is difficult.
It is an easy sentence to type; it is a hard sentence though to work through.
Doctors, lawyers, veterinarians and even dog trainers are trying to adapt to a world in which we are not allowed to see each other in person. Every day I encounter people who ask for help with their dog. When I tell them I can’t do in-home visits right now; but I can do video chatting or phone consulting; 99.9 percent of the time the person says she will just wait until we can meet in person. Most of us are convinced someone has to physically see the problem in order to fix it.
I am no different. I had cataract surgery in my right eye just before Covid-19 shut everything down. Four weeks after the surgery my right eye started to bother me. It watered all the time and I noticed that eye was swollen. It constantly felt irritated. The eye center that did my surgery had closed for two weeks and I decided my issue wasn’t an emergency so I waited for them to reopen. Then they didn’t reopen in two weeks, but instead offered a teledoc option. I was skeptical. I NEEDED that doctor to look into my eye with one of those fancy pieces of equipment. Instead I was given the option to take a photo of my eye as well as a video explaining what was wrong and then submit it through the online service the eye center was using.
An hour later an ophthalmologist called me and said he had no idea how to access the photo or video I submitted and would I mind just explaining it to him over the phone? My mind immediately balked. How could he diagnose my eye by just talking about it?
What option did I have? I explained all my symptoms. He asked several questions. Then asked a few more based on my answers. He said he would call in a prescription eye drop. He wanted me to use the eye drop over the weekend and he would follow up with me on Monday. He said if the eye drops didn’t help; we would look at next steps and possibly schedule an in-person consult.
Twenty-four hours later my eye feels so much better. I didn’t even realize how much it had been bothering me until it had stopped bothering me. The eye doctor was able to diagnose me and treat me just by listening to me. How was this possible?
Simple: my eye issue was not unusual or at least not so unusual that he had not seen patients with this issue in the past. He could ask the right questions to get me to provide the information he needed to determine a course of action.
People who work with animal behavior issues can do the same thing. We can listen to you and provide you with information. I don’t need to see your dog growl or lunge at another dog on a walk. I know what that looks like. I know what it looks like if a dog snaps at a toddler. I know what it looks like if two dogs suddenly don’t get along or fight over a resource. I know what questions I need to ask to find out more about what is behind different behavior issues.
Plus, believe it or not; I am not training your dog when I work with you. I am helping you change your dog’s behavior. I can work with you and help you and then you can help your dog.
Technology is amazing, but it can take a bit of getting used to. I am learning how to use Zoom and helping my clients learn how to position their cell phones so I can see their dogs. Clients can send me video which we can then review via telephone. If you live in a place where Internet connections aren’t strong; we can talk on the phone.
So, please don’t suffer through an issue with your pet right now. No one knows how long changes to our daily lives with continue. The longer a dog practices behaviors you are not comfortable with, the longer it may take us to help the dog change to a different behavior.
Dogs are just as stressed right now as we are in many cases. Dogs are often affected by their owner’s moods and stress levels. Also, how we live in many cases has been dramatically changed. If your dog is used to you leaving for 8 hours a day and suddenly he is with you 24/7 that is bound to cause some anxiety.
Don’t wait for the pandemic to be over to seek help for any behavior issues you are having. And if you have a puppy; many trainers are now offering virtual puppy classes to help you raise a fun and confident pup. I know people who are offering virtual nose work classes as well as virtual dog obedience.
As with any situation; choose your trainer with the same care you would your physician. I did not turn to the Internet to diagnose my eye condition. I did not pop on Facebook and ask my friends what they thought was wrong with my eye. I asked an ophthalmologist who I already had a working relationship with. I had been to the office, met the staff and knew their reputation.
You should pick your trainer the same way and now with more trainers offering virtual offerings you are not limited to someone just because he or she is local. Pick a trainer who has been through some type of educational process to be a trainer such as a graduate of the Karen Pryor Academy or a person who is the Knowledge Assessed through the Certified Professional Dog Trainer program. You will often find these certifications listed on the trainer’s website. For example, I am a KPA-CTP which means I am a Certified Training Partner through the Karen Pryor Academy. You might also see someone with CPDT-KA, which means that person has passed testing through the Certified Professional Dog Trainer Program. Now is definitely not the time to just pick a person who says they train dogs but who can’t back up their methods or prove they have some type of positive, reward-based or scientifically proven training method. Our dogs are stressed enough as it is; we don’t need to add harsh training methods into the mix.