The assessment goes both ways, it’s a chance for the owner to meet me and to see that I’m capable of handling their dog. For me, meeting new dogs is a job interview, every time. Anyone can call themselves a trainer or behaviorist – but prove it. And just because I’m on your doorstep, doesn’t mean you should hire me. That’s is simply honest truth.

The primary goal of the assessment is diagnosis – to show owners that the dog is capable, able to change in a short period of time – give them hope that they can have the dog that they really want. There is no magic to all this. Most “aggressive” dogs that we meet are actually insecure, frustrated, fearful – and misdiagnosed. When dogs are labelled “aggressive”, it changes the owners perspective, and makes them want to manage the issues – that’s not fair to the owner or dog.

The assessment time is about talking to the owners, find out what they believe is wrong with the dog and what they would want from their dog – end goals. I also want to find out what other people believe is wrong – like other trainers diagnosis and what they tried. Then we meet the dog, find out the real underlying causes for the behaviors – and start working on changes right away.

I generally bring my dog during initial assessments, he’s a very confident and easy going Miniature Pinscher. We run dog parks, he has no fear at all of dogs. He’s a mentor for fearful dogs, and sometimes a trigger for dog aggressive dogs – it’s hard to diagnose if a dog really is dog aggressive if there is no dog to trigger a response. He trusts me to put him in harms way – also trusts that I won’t let him get hurt.

When you call me to talk about your dog, think about a few questions and have some answers ready to go. This isn’t an interrogation, but these are some of the questions I’m going to ask. And honesty is always best, I’m not here to judge, only help. It’s ok if you are afraid of your dog.

  1. What are your realistic goals for your dog?
  2. What are your unrealistic goals? What would you really like from the dog?
  3. Are you afraid of your dog or what your dog is capable of?
  4. How do you perceive your dog? Aggressive? Reactive?
  5. Have you dealt with trainers? Positives? Negatives?
  6. If you’ve dealt with trainers, what techniques did they use?

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