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USA Dog Behavior Blog

Upcoming Classes and Seminars with Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA

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July 10, 2018, Dog-to-Dog Aggression Group Class, Dallas, Texas

This one-hour group class is limited to a small enrollment and occurs once per week for four consecutive weeks.

Does your dog (or a dog you work with) appear overly aroused, fearful, frustrated or even aggressive to unfamiliar dogs when out on a walk, at the vet’s office, etc.? You’ve tried correcting the dog but this doesn’t seem to help. This behavior is commonly referred to as dog reactivity and is more common than most people realize.   In this hands-on group class taught once per week over four weeks, Scott Sheaffer will lead you through the following sessions to provide you techniques to manage this kind of behavior and ways to improve it. 

Session 1: Review of Dog-Dog Reactivity, Equipment/Tools, Management, Safety
Session 2: Foundational Skills
Session 3: Behavior Modification Protocol 1 Classroom and Demonstration
Session 4: Behavior Modification Protocol 2 Classroom and Demonstration

Please note this class does NOT address intra-household aggression or aggression between two or more dogs living in the same home.

For more information and to enroll, click here.


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August 3, 2018, Dog-to-Dog Aggression Seminar, Keller, Texas

Does your dog (or a dog you work with) appear overly aroused, fearful, frustrated or even aggressive to unfamiliar dogs when out on a walk, at the vet’s office, etc.? You’ve tried correcting the dog but this doesn’t seem to help. This behavior is commonly referred to as dog reactivity and is more common than most people realize. In this 4-hour classroom course, Scott Sheaffer will lead you through the following topics to provide you techniques to manage this kind of behavior and ways to improve it:

  • Overview of Dog Reactivity
  • Behavior Basics, Why is my dog doing this?
  • Tools that Help us with Treatment
  • Management and Safety
  • Necessary Skills for Dog and Handler
  • Improving the Behavior

Please note this class does NOT address intra-household aggression or aggression between two or more dogs living in the same home.

Just about everyone who has a pet dog will benefit from this material. Additionally, anyone who works with dogs such as rescue organizations, groomers, veterinarian practice employees and dog trainers will benefit as well.

For more information or to enroll, please call 214-914-3282.


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August 12, 2018, What is your dog trying to tell you? Understanding how dogs communicate with humans and dogs, Dallas, Texas

Our dogs are constantly attempting to communicate with us. Their body language and vocalizations tell us a lot about what they're thinking and make their behaviors easier to predict than most people realize. If we don't know what they are trying to tell us, we can misunderstand their intentions and that can interfere with the relationship we have with our dogs. In a multi-dog home, it's important that we also know what our dogs are saying to each other so we can keep peace and harmony. 

In this 3-hour seminar, Scott Sheaffer will provide information on:

  • How to know when your dog is conflicted about things
  • Detecting stress and anxiety in your dog
  • Behaviors that let you know your dog is trying to get away from conflict
  • Ways your dog is letting you know that he or she needs attention
  • Body language that your dog uses to let you know he or she feels friendly and playful
  • Ways that humans can let dogs know that we are no threat to them
  • Avoiding dog bites by seeing the early warning signs
  • Special precautions for young children interacting with dogs

Just about everyone who has a pet dog will benefit from this material. Additionally, anyone who works with dogs such as rescue organizations, groomers, veterinarian practice employees and dog trainers will benefit as well.

For more information and to enroll, click here.


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November 4, 2018, Separation Anxiety in Dogs - Assessment, Types and Treatment, Dallas, Texas

Does your dog (or a dog you work with) become overly anxious as you prepare to leave? You’ve noticed that the dog’s stress appears to continue the entire time you are gone and can include destructive behaviors. Owners frequently feel like they are hostages in their own homes because they’re afraid to leave the dog alone.

Separation anxiety is a common behavior issue affecting 15% of all dogs and is even more common in rescue dogs. Unfortunately, many popularized techniques used to address separation anxiety in dogs actually make things worse. But with the right approach, these dogs can be helped.

In this 4-hour classroom course, Scott Sheaffer will lead you through the following topics to provide techniques to manage and address separation anxiety:

  • What are the different types of canine separation anxiety and how are they determined?        
  • Realistic prognosis expectations and timeframes
  • Management
  • Treatment options and techniques
  • Role of medication in treating separation anxiety

Just about everyone who has a pet dog will benefit from this material. Additionally, anyone who works with dogs such as rescue organizations, groomers, veterinarian practice employees and dog trainers will benefit as well.

For more information and to enroll, click here.

Dog-to-Dog Aggression Semi-Private Behavior Sessions with Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA

© 2018 Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC

Do some of the following sound like your dog?

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  1. The moment you start to walk, he or she scans the neighborhood and acts overly aroused, anxious and stressed.
  2. When your dog sees another dog, he or she immediately fixates on that dog. While your dog knows basic obedience cues fairly well (e.g., sit, down, stay, come), he or she appears out of control and virtually ignores you around other dogs.
  3. As you approach another dog, your dog increasingly starts one or all of the following behaviors: stiff or hard body, pulling toward the other dog, whining, barking, growling, lunging, etc. These behaviors get decidedly worse as you get closer to the other dog.
  4. You no longer enjoy your walks because you are afraid of what your dog is going to do when he or she sees another dog; your dog’s behaviors are embarrassing.
  5. It is a riddle to you that your dog appears to do satisfactorily in dog parks and at doggy day care but not when he or she sees other dogs while walking on leash.
  6. You’ve tried numerous tools (e.g., choke collars, prong collars, etc.) and even consulted with dog trainers but the behaviors appear to be getting worse over time.
  7. Your dog is between 6 and 30 months of age.

If the above sounds like your dog, he or she is most likely suffering from what is known as one of the following: dog reactivity, dog-dog aggression, dog fear aggression. As a certified canine behavior specialist, it’s the most common behavior issue I see in dogs.  Please note this class does NOT address intra-household aggression or aggression between two or more dogs living in the same home.

We offer semi-private group behavior sessions to address this issue.

Please note this class does NOT address intra-household aggression or aggression between two or more dogs living in the same home.

  1. A maximum of 4 attendees in each group class.
  2. There are 4 separate one-hour sessions for each class:
    a.    Sessions are typically scheduled once per week
    b.    Session 1: Review of Dog-Dog Reactivity, Equipment/Tools, Management, Safety
    c.    Session 2: Foundational Skills
    d.    Session 3: Behavior Modification Protocol 1 Classroom and Demonstration
    e.    Session 4: Behavior Modification Protocol 2 Classroom and Demonstration
  3. Cost is non-refundable for any reason unless attendance is cancelled at least 7 days in advance of the first session. Fee is for one attendee only (i.e., no additional family members, friends etc.). If necessary, someone can attend in place of a student if he or she is not able to attend a particular session.
  4. No dogs are to be brought to the first session. One dog will be selected during the first session from one student that will be used for demonstration purposes in future sessions (i.e., sessions 2 – 4). While all human attendees will attend all sessions, only this dog will attend sessions 2 – 4.
  5. Client Agreement and Release needs to be executed prior to the first session for all attendees.
  6. If more detailed behavior intervention is needed, a private class can be scheduled (at standard private session rates) outside of the group class.
  7. Please note this class does NOT address intra-household aggression or aggression between two or more dogs living in the same home.

Who shouldn’t take this class?

Owners with dogs that have any type of human fear or human aggression are NOT eligible to take this class; a private session will need to be scheduled instead (at standard private session rates). If a dog shows any signs of human fear or human aggression during class, the dog will be removed from class for safety purposes.

If your dog is presenting with intra-household aggression or aggression between two or more dogs living in your home, you need to schedule a private session (at standard private session rates) since this class does NOT address this issue.


Enrollment and Questions

For pricing information, click here.
You can contact us to enroll or with questions by clicking here.

How to Have a Successful Outing at the Dog Park

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© 2018 Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC

Some dog behaviorists, behavior consultants and behavior specialists will not take their personal dogs to dog parks – ever. I am not one of those people. If you use some common sense and follow the guidelines below, you and your dog can both have a fun and stimulating time at the dog park.

If you notice dog fights and/or screaming owners at any time while you are at the dog park, leave and come back another day.  Your dog will be a little disappointed, but this is better than exposing him or her to that kind of environment.

Abide by the rules of the dog park. These rules are normally posted by the entrance and include things such as keeping an eye on your dog the entire time and picking up after your dog.

If your dog appears to be overwhelmed by how the other dogs are playing with him or her, take your dog home. He or she is not having a good time for whatever reason on that particular day.

Take your dog off his or her leash before entering the dog park and don’t carry any food or treats with you into the dog park. Also, remove anything other than a flat collar from your dog before entering (e.g., head collar, prong collar, choke collar, etc.)

Unaltered dogs (i.e., unspayed and unneutered) should not be taken to a dog park. The other dogs in the park find unaltered dogs extremely interesting because of the smells they emit. This frequently results in scuffles and other problems. Unaltered females in heat can really get things interesting and dangerous.

Don’t take very young puppies to a dog park. Take them to puppy group training classes instead.

Don’t take infants or young children to a dog park. I once saw someone with an infant in a baby carriage at a dog park. What?!

If your dog is dog or human aggressive, please don’t take him or her to a dog park. Dog parks are absolutely not the place to “socialize” aggressive or fearful dogs. Taking these dogs to a dog park is like taking someone who is afraid of water and throwing him or her in the deep end of an Olympic pool. It can make things worse. See a dog behavior consultant instead.

When dog fights erupt, do not stick your hand in the middle of things in an attempt to break up the fight. Your chances of getting bitten are extremely high and it will almost always be a very bad bite especially if you’re on the “big dog” side of the park.

Know when to take your dog to the dog park. I highly recommend not introducing your dog (or you) to dog parks at peak times. Take your dog the first few times during normal work hours or when the weather is not the greatest so the traffic levels at the dog park will be low.

Not every dog loves dog parks. Just like some people don’t love big parties, some behaviorally healthy dogs don’t love dog parks. You can tell if your dog doesn’t love dog parks by observing that he or she avoids other dogs by staying almost exclusively by the fence or with the owners.

Leave your smartphone in your car. Focus on your dog instead of Facebook and text messages! The latest electronic crazes will come and go, but you're creating lifetime memories with your dog.

Myths About Dog Behavior That Just Won’t Go Away

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© 2018 Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC

I’ve witnessed too many dogs unnecessarily suffer because of misunderstandings about dog behavior. These misunderstandings are seen everyday in dog owners and even some dog trainers. It’s just a lack of knowledge about dogs for the most part; the following might shed some light on some of the most common misconceptions.

Myth 1 – Made for TV Dog Training is Real

Cesar Millan plays the role of “The Dog Whisperer” on TV; he is not certified or recognized by any organization as an animal or dog behaviorist. Simply stated, his shows are for entertainment only.  Applying his “advice” in the real world of canines would cause more problems than it would remedy. For another perspective, please see Cesar Millan’s Animal Cruelty Investigation Is a Wake Up Call for Dog Trainers.

Myth 2 – Dogs Show Guilt

I’ve worked with literally thousands of dogs and I can say with certainty that none of them show guilt. This “guilt” is actually fear of the owner’s reaction when the owner spots an accident in the den or damage to furniture caused by the dog in the owner’s absence. For more information, see Is your dog intentionally bad?

Myth 3 –Veterinarians Know Everything About Dog Behavior

Veterinarians are medical experts in relation to our dogs and we, of course, defer to them in that area. However, they receive limited training regarding dog behavior in vet school; it’s unfair to expect them to be a one-stop-shop for all issues associated with dogs. Veterinarians can frequently help you identify behavior issues that need to be addressed and can steer you to the best resources. They also can play an important role in your dog’s overall behavior treatment plan. For more information, see 10 Ways Veterinarians Can Contribute to Your Dog’s Overall Behavior Treatment Plan.

Myth 4 – Exercise Will Remedy All Behavior Issues

While exercise is critically important for dogs and is frequently part of a behavior treatment plan, it is not a single solution panacea for all behavioral issues. For more information, see I Let My Dog Run Around the Back Lawn – Is That Enough Exercise?

Myth 5 – Dogs Think Like Humans

Dogs don’t think like humans or think they are humans for that matter. They have no ability to understand human spoken language in the way that humans do.

Myth 6 – Don’t Expose Puppies to Other Dogs Whatsoever Before they are 16 Weeks Old

The old-school thinking was that puppy owners should keep their pups away from other dogs before they were fully vaccinated at 16 weeks to prevent disease. The problem with this practice is that research has shown it actually causes more of these pups to die later from lack of socialization (i.e., aggression issues leading to euthanasia) than from any potential diseases the vaccinations prevented. For current thinking on this, please be sure to consult with your veterinarian.

Myth 7 – Using Treats to Train Dogs is Bad/Wrong

This one has always been a bit of a head-scratcher for me. Using positive rewards when training creates more durable training results in dogs, doesn’t crush the relationship with the owner and is more mentally stimulating for the dog. Punishing dogs to train them seems to be in our cultural DNA and hangs around even though animal science has made it exceedingly clear this is not a best practice. For more information, see “I shouldn’t have to reward my dog with treats.”

Myth 8 – Dogs Need to Be Dominated by a Pack Leader

Quite frankly, this one wears me out – we’ve learned a few things since the 1970s. Please see the following for more information, Dominance and Dog Training.

Myth 9 - All Dogs Need a Job

I have yet to see a dog bring home a paycheck. Seriously, what does this myth even mean when it comes to pet dogs? Putting backpacks on pet dogs and loading them with bricks is absolutely not a job for a dog – it’s an annoyance. (Yes, people actually have been told to do this – see Myth 1 above for the source of this advice). Dogs have no concept of a “job” as seen from a human perspective. However, pet dogs do understand structured mental and physical exercise (e.g., leash walking, fetch, agility, etc.) and that is how this should be approached.

Myth 10 – Dogs Protect Their Owners

Dogs don’t protect their owners. They protect themselves in the presence of their owners which looks as if they are protecting their owners.  Sometimes they might resource guard their owners; this is similar to how dogs resource guard food which they certainly aren’t trying to protect from danger since they’re about to eat it! For more information, see Do Dogs Instinctively Protect Their Owners? (Lassie lovers, please don't read this).

Myth 11 – My Dog Just Really Wants to Meet Other Dogs and People, He’s Not Aggressive

Dogs that appear to be aggressive when approaching people or dogs are most likely fearful, overly aroused and frustrated in the presence of these triggers. Adult dogs should normally walk by these triggers and show only mild interest. In short, yes, these dogs are probably showing signs of aggression.

 Myth 12 – Shock Collars and Prong Collars are Okay Training Tools

My shorthand expression for these “tools” is, “short-term gain, long-term pain.” These devices cause so many long-term problems for dogs and dog owners that I wrote an article earlier just to cover them. To read this article, see Why I Don't Use Prong, Choke or Shock Collars.

Myth 13 – Dog Training is Permanent

I used to be able to do algebraic equations when I was in school. I haven’t done them in years and I’m not sure I would even know where to start. Dogs are no different. Once they learn something, it must be constantly reinforced. Dogs used by the military, DEA, TSA and law enforcement are normally trained/refreshed at least once a week in the tasks they perform for the entire time they are in service.

4 Wishes Veterinarians Have for Their Dog Owning Clients

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© 2018 Scott Sheaffer, CDBC, CPDT-KA, USA Dog Behavior, LLC

Below is a list of 4 items presented in order of least important to most important of things that can greatly improve your veterinarian’s relationship and effectiveness with your dog.

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Starting at number 4) Ensure you are calm and relaxed before and during your visit at the veterinarian’s office in order to make your dog less nervous or anxious. Your dog is looking to you for cues just like children do with their parents in scary situations. For example, how you handle the leash at the veterinarian’s office may communicate to your dog in ways that tell him or her that bad things are about to happen.

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Coming in at number 3) Before you get a new dog from a breeder or rescue organization, whether puppy or adult, check with your veterinarian about the special physical needs of the breed you are considering in order to get the best breed fit for you and your family. Likewise, it is beneficial to do the same for a breed’s behavioral propensities by seeking the advice of an independently certified dog behavior consultant, specialist or behaviorist.

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At number 2) When you first notice your dog may be developing a serious physical issue, don’t wait. See your veterinarian before the issue becomes worse and addressing it becomes more difficult and costly. Likewise, it is beneficial to seek the advice of an independently certified dog behavior consultant, specialist or behaviorist if you begin to notice serious behavior issues developing such as aggression, fear or separation anxiety.

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And the number one thing your veterinarian wants you to do is 1) Get your dog acclimated to being handled by others. This includes ears, mouth, paws, the rump and all of the other places veterinarians commonly touch.  You want your dog to be quite comfortable being touched prior to going to see the veterinarian. For more information on how to do this, see Does your dog dislike being touched? Here’s what you can do.