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Should I follow the advice of a TV Behaviourist?

Before trying to copy something you may have seen on television, you should stop and think about why the programme was made. The main purpose of TV is to entertain. A thorough professional canine behaviour consultation takes quite a bit of time, relies a lot on the behaviour counsellor asking the dog owner fairly detailed questions and, to be honest, wouldn’t be particularly entertaining for the average TV viewer.

Becoming fully involved in the process of working out what has caused your dog to start behaving in the way he has can be absolutely fascinating; the dog’s behaviour is merely a response to some combination of circumstances and events, so the best route to a long-lasting improvement in the behaviour is to work through those causal factors with the behaviour counsellor and make the necessary changes to produce a permanent behavioural improvement. The changes can often take a few months to yield results and so don’t sit comfortably with the TV Producer’s requirement to put together a snappy 30-minute episode.

Here’s a clip from a typical TV programme:

Clip copyright BBC Television 2011. All rights respected. Also available on YouTube

As they often say on TV programmes: “Don’t try this at home”! Adopting a technique like this one with a bigger, stronger or more reactive dog could very easily lead to the owner getting savaged and the dog being put to sleep as a result.

You’ll notice that the person working with the dog has had to dive straight in and try to create some ‘action’ for the TV viewers. This isn’t the way a professional behaviourist would proceed, in fact sometimes at the first consultation I will hardly interact with the dog at all, instead focusing on the owners — after all it’s the owners, not me, who have to build a positive relationship with their dog; one that will last forever.

So, to summarise, my advice would be to always enrol the assistance of a practising behaviour counsellor who’ll be able to take a look at your own situation and not try to copy something from a TV programme that has been designed to address someone else’s situation. Every case is different and every set of solutions will be different.

If you need advice from a canine behaviour counsellor in your area, please contact me and I can refer you to a colleague from one of the professional groups I belong to.