Does My Dog Need Behavioral Therapy & How To Find A Behaviorist Near You

Dog behaviorist with black Dachshund on leash (caption: Dog Behavioral Therapy)Have you noticed a change in your dog’s behavior? Does your dog seem more aggressive or anxious than normal? It could be that your dog has a behavioral issue that needs diagnosing and they could benefit from behavioral therapy. Find out how behavioral therapy could help eliminate unhealthy behaviors.

Article Overview

What Is Behavioral Therapy?

Behavioral therapy is a term used for types of therapy that treat mental health disorders. The purpose of behavioral therapy is to identify and change self-destructive or unhealthy actions.

Behavioral therapy can be different for each dog, depending on the action(s) you want to fix. However, some general tips can help your dog live life more comfortably.

Routine Provides Stability

Having a consistent routine for your dog and a well-established schedule for feeding, playtime, walks, rest, and potty breaks can help your dog know what to expect and when throughout the day. This allows you to meet your dog’s basic needs and keep your household orderly.

Exercise Is A Necessity

Puppy playing with owner (Caption: How Much Exercise Does a Puppy Need?)The other thing you’ll want to focus on is giving your dog daily physical exercise. The amount of exercise can vary depending on the breed and their activity level. A sedentary life can increase the risk of illness for your dog (e.g., obesity, diabetes, etc.).

Once your dog’s basic needs are met consistently, you can then speak with your vet about your canine’s specific behavioral therapy needs.

Does My Dog Need Behavioral Modification Therapy?

Does your dog’s behavior put him or others in danger? If you answered, “Yes,” then you may want to speak with the vet about therapy.

The two most common behaviors treated through behavioral therapy are aggression and anxiety.

Aggression

2 dogs fighting (caption: dog on dog aggression tips)Aggressive behavior can be easier for you to see in your dog if you’re used to them being less confrontational. Taking your dog for a walk may cause so much stimulation that they feel more aggressive. A dog behaviorist can help your canine feel more comfortable whenever other dogs or people are around. This can make walks more enjoyable for everyone. We have some tips on how to deal with aggression towards other dogs.

Signs of aggression in dogs include:

Anxiety

Sad golden laying next to tennis ball (caption: Anxiety in Dogs)Your dog may not be suffering from something as obvious as aggression to warrant the need for behavioral therapy. Your dog could be experiencing anxiety or even separation anxiety from being left alone.

Signs of anxiety in dogs include:

  • Panting
  • Pacing
  • Shivering
  • Excessive barking
  • Urinating or defecating in the house
  • Destructive behavior (e.g., chewing, destroying furniture)
  • Self-harm, including excessive licking or chewing
  • Restlessness
  • Running away or cowering in a corner
  • Lip licking
  • Looking away
  • Aggression
  • Whining

Dog with CBD oil (caption: CBD oils for dogs)Your dog may experience anxiety if left alone, when there’s a loud noise (e.g., thunderstorms and fireworks), or there’s a change in routine. A dog behaviorist can help ease anxiety via many methods, including brain-stimulating activities, medication, natural remedies (e.g., CBD oil, CBD treats, melatonin, and essential oils), and more.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Behavioral Therapy?

Dog at the vet getting checked out (caption: Pet Insurance Comparison)Some pet insurance providers offer coverage for behavioral therapy. We’ve compared more than a dozen pet insurance companies to help you see how they stack up against one another. One of the items we’ve compared is behavioral therapy. Take a look at our pet insurance coverage comparison table to see which companies offer this coverage.

Keep in mind that if your pet is already displaying signs of a particular behavioral issue, then it most likely won’t be eligible for pet insurance coverage since it will be flagged as a pre-existing condition* by the pet insurance company.

*Pre-existing conditions: Every major pet insurance company excludes pre-existing conditions from their coverage. This means that any ongoing condition your dog was diagnosed with before being covered by their policy will not be covered in future claims. For example, if your dog has already been diagnosed with anxiety, any costs associated with this condition will not be covered by most pet insurance policies.

Behavioral Therapy & COVID-19

Dog laying on computer laptop (caption: Pet Insurance Companies)The need for behavioral therapy is a growing concern according to several pet insurance companies and many pet parents. Since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown started in early 2020, many of us have been working from home in the U.S.

Our pets have been ecstatic. They get more time with us since we’re spending a lot more free time at home and many are even working from home to stay safe and avoid contracting coronavirus.

But what about when we return to the office? Pet insurance companies expect to see a rise in the diagnosis of behavioral issues and a increased demand for behavioral therapy. I have firsthand experience with this.

Author’s Experience

I’ve always worked from home, so my dog, Sally, was used to roaming the house freely during the day with me. However, our family’s personal life and activities really changed in the past year.

We aren’t leaving our home as much since the pandemic hit. As a result, we found activities to do around the house to reduce our exposure to COVID-19. Sally was able to tag along with any outdoor activities we did, like going to the park or taking long walks as a family. This meant that she was with us 24/7, and we all loved it.

One afternoon, I left to take my child to her doctor’s appointment and left my dog in the basement to roam freely, like I always did before the pandemic. The finished basement is comfortable, and she has a dog bed or couch to relax on. She’s always done well with being left out of her crate. (The only time we crate her is when we’re gone for the majority of the day.) However, this was the first time my dog was left alone for longer than 20 minutes in almost 10 months.

I came home a few hours later and saw that my dog had thrown up in multiple areas. I could tell she was anxious because she was left alone for the first time in months.

She struggles with being away from “her people.” We’re her world, and she wants to be with us. I can’t fault her for that.

I’ve since learned that if she’s going to be left alone for more than 20 minutes, then it’s best to crate her. She feels more comfortable and safe in her crate, and never gets sick in it. – Kimberly A., Canine Journal

How Do I Find A Dog Behaviorist?

The resources below can help you find a dog behaviorist near you. You should also speak to your vet about any recommendations they may have.

Dog Trainer vs Dog Behaviorist

To put it simply, dog trainers try to help resolve the symptom of an issue while dog behaviorists treat the underlying cause.

What’s A Dog Trainer?

A dog trainer has various levels of knowledge. Some are self-taught and learn through reading and experience, while others attend professional classes and become certified. Dog trainers teach dogs skills, including obedience, agility, tracking, etc. A trainer teaches in a group setting or one-on-one sessions. Dog trainers are typically more affordable than behaviorists because the latter requires additional education.

What’s A Dog Behaviorist?

Dog behaviorists have advanced college degrees and are experts in canine conduct. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs) could be vets who completed a residency in animal behavior, adding a DVM title to their name. CAABs study animal behavior, psychology, biology, and zoology, so they often have more scientific, medical, and research knowledge than a dog trainer.

CAABs can explain why dogs behave a certain way and make recommendations on how the owner can change the behavior. They may also identify potential medical causes for abnormal behavior and prescribe medications to assist with emotional issues such as phobias, separation anxiety, and compulsive practices. However, CAABs do not treat physical problems, so they refer pet parents to vets for assistance with those cases.

How Much Does A Dog Behaviorist Cost?

The cost of a dog behaviorist varies depending on the type of therapy needed and your location. Generally speaking, group sessions are typically less expensive than individual ones.

Ultimately, there’s no clear answer to this. It’s best to speak with your vet or a local dog behaviorist to better understand the potential costs in your area.

Should I Consider Pet Insurance Now?

Are you worried that your dog could require behavioral therapy in the future? As long as your dog isn’t showing any symptoms of behavioral issues now or during your policy’s waiting period, you could consider pet insurance that includes behavioral therapy coverage. But, before you sign up, be sure to read all about pet insurance, including how it works, what it covers, possible costs, which companies are best, and more.

What kind of behavioral issue does your dog struggle with?