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Services for Pet Owners: Behavior Consulting

Frequently Asked Questions




What animals do you work with?

Mostly dogs and cats. Dr. Estep also works with birds, ferrets, rabbits, pigs and horses. (top)

Do you guarantee results?

No, this would be unethical. Animals are living creatures, not inanimate machines. No one can ever completely understand, predict, or control their behavior. Neither can human counselors guarantee that relationships can be saved or families can overcome their problems. However, we will work with you to the best of our ability to help you change your pet's behavior. Because you work with your pet, results also depend on you. (top)

What's your success rate?

This is a complicated question. Generally, our clients report that their pets’ behaviors are definitely improved after working with us. But, people define 'success' differently. Realistically, success means the behavior rarely happens, you can manage it better when it does, and you better understand the reasons for your pet’s behavior. Because you - the pet owner - will be the one who works with your pet, success also depends on you. (top)

How long before I see improvement?

This varies a great deal. You may see behavior changes in just a few days, or it may take several weeks. Some problems can be resolved quickly, others may require months. Improvement can be ongoing for months after our first consultation. (top)

How much work will this be?

Again, this depends on the problem. For example cat elimination problems don't require consistent time training your cat, but will require you to take the time to make the environmental changes we suggest, and to alter your routine to better manage the cat's environment. Dog aggression problems may require you to set up 'practice sessions', which we will describe to you, 3-5 times per week. (top)

Will you take my pet and train him for me?

No. Your pet’s surroundings and lifestyle, your relationship with him, and your pet’s individual experiences and characteristics have all worked together to create a problem. We believe it is vitally important for you to work with your pet where he lives, and in the places where the behavior happens. Taking your pet to someone else for training doesn’t allow changes in your relationship and in your pet’s environment to be part of the solution. For this reason, we do not recommend “board and train” programs. (top)

Can I change my pet’s behavior even if he's older?

Yes. Age is not an important factor in determining success. Sometimes, how long the behavior problem has been going on is a factor, but not always. (top)

How many times will I need to see you?

It works quite well to do follow-up by telephone after our initial consultation. Our telephone follow-ups are available to you for three months. We’ll describe the details of how followups work during our initial consultation. It is your responsibility to call us for follow-ups. Follow-up past three months is available for an additional fee. (top)

Should I see my veterinarian before I see you?

If your pet’s behavior has changed, it’s always a good idea to see if there is a medical cause. Medical conditions can affect your pet’s behavior even when he’s not acting "sick". A veterinary visit is especially important for housesoiling, aggression, compulsive behavior (e.g. tail-chasing) or self-destructive behavior (e.g. hair-pulling) before considering behavioral consulting. Almost all of our clients come to us through veterinary referral. We have both yours and your pet's best interest in mind when we recommend making sure your pet is healthy before consulting with us. (top)

Why is behavior consulting different from dog obedience training?

Teaching your dog to sit, down and stay does NOT resolve behavior problems such as separation anxiety, aggression, barking or housesoiling. If your dog can follow these commands, this may be one useful part of our behavior modification plan, but not enough by itself to resolve the problem. If we think your dog can benefit from training, we’ll refer you to a trainer we trust, or tell you what to look for in a good trainer. (See our handout on "Selecting an Obedience Trainer"). Or go to The Association of Pet Dog Trainers website to find a certified pet dog trainer. (top)

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