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By Sharyl Mayhew BA, LVT, CPDT
Published: June 03, 2010

At VCA Chancellor Animal Hospital we believe in the importance of the human-animal bond and view the relationship between owners and pets as a critical part of keeping pets healthy for life. Veterinary care provides a way to help keep organs and immune systems functioning properly, but also we emphasize the critical importance of keeping the mental and emotional state of pets healthy and happy as well.

More pets lose their homes, and/or consequently their lives, due to behavioral issues than because of any other disease or syndrome. A young dog or cat who is destructive, aggressive or not housebroken is far more likely to be given up or euthanized than he or she is to get sick or die from an incurable disease during youth. As with most deadly medical problems in a young pet, behavioral problems are greatly preventable and treatable. Therefore, it is our duty and ambition to help our clients understand appropriate, responsible and effective treatment for and prevention of behavioral discord.

Just as we vaccinate puppies and kittens against killer diseases like Parvo, Distemper, and Rabies, so too, must we "vaccinate" them against the social pressures of living with humans. We give them monthly heartworm and parasite prevention and treatment, but much of the"training" we give our pets is not appropriate or does not persist for life.

At VCA Chancellor we encourage all pet owners, particularly dog owners, to work closely with trainers who have passed the testing and requirements of the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and who understand how to teach owners to use Positive methods to train their dogs. See The Association of Pet Dog Trainers website at . There are also veterinary behaviorists available by referral to those clients needing more than a training program or individual can offer. We are here to help direct you in your search for help in either preventing behavioral problems or fixing existing ones.

We strongly recommend that people avoid trainers, websites, books or TV programs that promote "dominance theory" or punishment based methods. Furthermore we want every owner to recognize that it is well established that using aggressive methods to train your dog or cat is likely to promote fear and subsequently elicit MORE aggression from the animal. Attempting to physically subdue or punish an animal is misguided at best and very dangerous at worst. Techniques such as hanging, "alpha rolls", scruff shakes or forcing to the ground are abusive and do not teach anything other than FEAR. Dogs and cats respond to these types of threats with more fear and often subsequently "fight or flight" aggression.

The position statement from The Association of Pet Dog Trainers states that "physical or psychological intimidation hinders effective training and damages the relationship between humans and dogs. Dogs thrive in an environment that provides them with clear structure and communication regarding appropriate behaviors, and one in which their need for mental and physical stimulation is addressed. The APDT advocates training dogs with an emphasis on rewarding desired behaviors and discouraging undesirable behaviors using clear and consistent instructions and avoiding psychological and physical intimidation. Techniques that create a confrontational relationship between dogs and humans are outdated. Modern scientifically-based dog training should emphasize teamwork and a harmonious relationship between dogs and humans that fulfills both species’ needs. Most of all, it should be a fun and enjoyable experience for everyone involved."

The Pet-Owner-Veterinarian relationship is very important. The caring team at VCA-Chancellor is here to help you keep your pet healthy; not just in body but also in mind. Building cooperative relationships between humans and their pet dogs and cats is part of our most important agenda in service to our clients and community.

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