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Stay In Your Lane!

The hallmark of any good professional is knowing his/her limitations. 

I sometimes get asked about medical issues with dogs. "Is this bump weird?" "Does it look like this dog is limping?" "What should I do?"

I can confirm, yes, xyx looks weird, but I immediately refer to a vet. I do this because I am not a vet, and I'm not trained in medicine, my schooling is in behavior. While we're talking about behavior, some behaviors need pharmacological support. Again, we as trainers may know of common meds used, but we don't advise on them because some meds interact with others with disastrous effect. This isn't our place. A vet will consider your dog's overall health, other meds they may be on and how they'll interact, etc. before treating. This isn't our wheelhouse. An ethical trainer will stay in their lane. The behavior lane.

How to find a good dog trainer - Rocky Mountain Dog Training

On the flip side, your vet may say, "yes, this behavior is odd", but should not then go on to dispense behavior advice. They are not trained in behavior, they are trained in medicine. They should refer you to a qualified, certified trainer. Unless your vet is a veterinary behaviorist who has been trained in both behavior and medicine (and there are only a couple in the state), it's unlikely they know the ins and outs of behavior modification, of puppy socialization and developmental milestones, or even operant conditioning (how we teach dogs new skills). They should stay in their lane. The medicine lane.

The hallmark of any good professional is knowing his/her limitations. While both fields are here to help, the greatest kindness to the animal is to get them to the right source via referral.

Recently, I've had clients who have been told by well intentioned but ill-informed vets all sorts of inaccurate information:

"Don't take your puppies out until they've had all vaccinations." I get it. Diseases are scary, and their job is to keep a puppy free from illness.

Unfortunately, if you follow this advice, you will miss the most critical developmental window of this animal all together - the socialization period. This can be and often is disastrous for the dog and the household. You know what else is scary? Living with a dog who finds the world dangerous and has sharp teeth to keep themselves safe. And they're not wrong to find these things scary, they're just scared, and weren't properly socialized, or perhaps genetics are at play. Socialization tips the scales in our favor of having a well adjusted dog. Yes, some need more support in the long run, but it exponentially increases the likelihood of raising a behaviorally sound dog. Warehousing a puppy through their socialization period is a much higher risk than disease. And dogs die for it all the time.

I've had students under the misconception they need to "be alpha" or "show their dog who is boss" because their vet has advised them of this when a scared dog is barking at something that scares them. Just no. No, no, no, no, no. They aren't trying to rule the world, they're trying to stay safe. Behavior modification helps them to feel safe.

Please, when looking for behavioral expertise, go to the expert in behavior. And when looking for medical advice, go to the expert in medicine.

When we all stay in our own lane, it's for the good of all involved.

And if you're ever in need of an expert on both sides, let us know, we know some great veterinary behaviorists who can help.