We get a lot of questions about who we recommend – the answer has to be ‘it depends’. The right pet pro for you and your pet may not be a fit for the next family. The important thing is to be confident that the people you choose to put on your dog’s team will provide the level of care you expect.
We are always surprised how few people ask about our qualifications. We find people often wish they had asked more questions about qualifications and how someone approaches cases. Learning more may have prevented working with someone that wasn't a good fit. We know in many cases, knowing which questions to ask may be the challenge.
A real professional will welcome your questions, as an opportunity to demonstrate how they stand out. No matter whom you choose, you always have a right to advocate for yourself and your dog – you can ask to stop, request an explanation, or seek a second opinion. Your best friend is counting on you to keep them safe and happy – and if you or your dog don’t feel comfortable, speak up so that can be addressed. Don’t accept being bullied just because someone is the ‘expert’. You are paying for a service, and it is reasonable for you to want to understand what will happen and how your goals will be accomplished.
Expert medical care in the Columbus area isn’t hard to come by with the vet school at OSU. Finding a family vet that is comfortable with a dog that has significant behavioral challenges may be more challenging. The good news is there is momentum focusing on the psychological wellbeing of both the pets and their people in veterinary medicine and we have found the concepts of low stress handling are increasingly becoming the standard of care.
Ask to speak to the practice manager or a vet to gather more information (they may need to call you back at a better time, or you can ask for an email to send questions). You can ask if they do continuing education with their team to learn how to reduce stress for pets visiting the practice. Ask for some examples of how they do this when meeting with patients. They may have certifications in a formal program, like Fear Free Pets or Sophia Yin's Low Stress Handling. Vets can also be a great source of referrals to other pet pros – do ask them why they recommend a particular professional and what their personal experience with them has been.
When researching behavior professionals (trainers and consultants), know that anyone can claim to be a trainer and take clients. Look at their experience, reviews, and if they have any credentials. Review their website and social media for transparency in training philosophy and tools.
If they have a credential or are a member of a professional organization take the time to look it up and make sure they are an active member and understand how one gains membership or credential. If someone claims to be a Behaviorist – they should have a significant credential (ACVB or CAAB/ACAAB). Without one of these credentials, claiming to be a ‘behaviorist’ is meaningless and should raise some red flags.
Here are some things you can ask when interviewing a behavior professional (many of these questions will be answered on their website if they have one):
There are wonderful, low stress handling protocols to help dogs learn to enjoy grooming. There are some groomers that take seriously the physical and psychological state of the dogs they see, and others who would rather just get by powering through and then fire a dog when they get too difficult.
If you plan to use a groomer, be sure your pet is in good hands – it is far easier to prevent than fix a handling concern. Fear Free Pets now offers a program for groomers too. If your dog already has behavior problems around handling and grooming – you want a team of a groomer and behavior pro who can work together to help resolve those problems. Increased restraint is not the answer. The most important thing you can do, ask how the appointment went at pick up, every time – and get details about what went well and what did not. Ask how you can help make things easier next time. Don’t just take ‘fine’ for an answer.
There is huge variability in boarding/daycare facilities. Be sure to ask lots of questions, take a tour, and read up online about the facilities you are considering. Clean and safe should be the first priorities – focus on those aspects, not how pretty they make it look for people in the lobby.
Open play isn’t a fit for every dog – your dog must enjoy lots of playful/pushy dogs and unfamiliar people. Daycare is not a good place to socialize a dog, and is likely to create problems if a dog isn’t comfortable there. A typical boarding facility may be a better fit for some dogs, but if they are fearful/anxious you may want to consider an in-home option. Look to see if the facility offers cameras – they can be a great way to check in. Do look on your tour to see what areas are not covered and ask when the cameras are available.
Dog sitters are a good option for dogs that have fear/anxiety, young puppies, older dogs, or otherwise don’t do well in a kennel environment. In many cases, if you have multiple pets, a sitter can also be more cost effective.
Dog walkers do short visits during the day, and can be great for dogs that need a mid day break or potty let out (great for younger puppies). They don’t have to walk your dog, they can play in the home or yard – specify what activities you prefer.
Establish a relationship early, before you need services. Good walkers and sitters usually book quickly, especially around holidays.
There's so much more to learn to understand your pup. Check out more great articles here!
Gigi's Behavior Services has behavior pros that can support you in our facility, at home, and remotely via Zoom.
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