The term dog whisperer first became a household word through the Dog Whisperer television show. In this show dog trainer and animal behavior consultant Cesar Millan uses a variety of methods to help owners correct and deal with aggressive and destructive dogs or with dogs that are demonstrating some type of problem behavior. Although not all dog trainers and animal behavior consultants agree or even approve of all the methods used by Mr. Millan the show has become widely popular with the general viewing audience.
One of the reasons that Mr. Millan's show has drawn criticism is that he does advocate the use of some aggressive and potentially problematic types of corrective training methods. For example he uses a technique called flooding with timid or fearful dogs that literally forces the dog into the frightening situation until the dog simply shuts down and doesn't respond. In other words the dog learns not to respond with fear in a particular situation because if he or she does the fear will only increase. In addition the use of choke collars and physical punishment is also used on the program with aggressive dogs, something which many dog trainers and dog behavior consultants simply don't use. In most cases the term dog whisperer refers to using non-violent, non-punishment based methods of positive reinforcement that teach a dog to do the right thing because he or she then gets a reward, mostly attention and praise, rather than avoiding a particular activity because they may be punished or negatively affected.
In reality there have been professionals and trainers that have focused their training on connecting training methods with the instinctual behaviors of canines foe many, many years. One of the most respected of these dog behavior consultants is Ian Dunbar, originator of the Sirius Dog Training Method that uses bonding and rewards and praise in training. Often these training programs are highly effective in working with dogs with behaviors that simply didn't seem to make sense to their owners. These include dogs with separation type anxieties, dogs that were incredibly timid or fearful or dogs that show intense levels of territoriality and protectiveness that create a potential danger for children, other pets or adults in the house.
Dog whisperers, more often simply called dog behavior consultants work with owners to understand why and how dog's behave in particular ways. Once the consultant is able to help the owner understand why a dog is doing what they are doing, the consultant and the owner can then modify the environment or the interaction so that the dog can respond in a more appropriate and safe fashion. They can also help the owner in teaching alternative responses to the problem that are more positive and appropriate for the given situation.
Perhaps one of the most problematic and stressful issues that both dogs and their owners have to deal with are cases of separation anxiety. This can occur in almost any breed or type of dog but it is most common in companion dogs and the small dog breeds. Separation anxiety is more than just boredom and it doesn't go away by just walking your dog before you leave and giving the pet a few more toys to play with.
Separation anxiety is characterized by a moderate to severe reaction to being left alone, even for short periods of time. This can include excessive panting and drooling, barking, howling and whining, urination and messing in the house, chewing and digging at doors and windows even to the point of self-injury for the dog, and trying to escape from the area to somehow get to the owner. For some dogs with extreme separation anxiety this behavior will begin to occur the minute the owner is out of sight, even if other family members are present.
Positive Training Methods
A professional dog trainer or behavior consultant that works with positive training methods can help owners determine how they can help their pet deal with times of being alone. The trainer or dog whisperer will spend time asking questions about the dog and then will observe the dog's behavior when you leave. Typically the trainer will help the owner set up a customized desensitization process where the owner and dog practice being apart for very short periods of time, gradually increasing this as the dog becomes more accepting of being alone. The dog behavior consultant can also help the owner in changing his or her routines when leaving to not signal to the dog they are going to be left alone. The dog may also have health issues or even learned behavior that the dog whisperer can identify and help the owner work through with the dog.
Not all dog whisperers or dog behavior consultants are trained the same or use the same types of techniques. It is important to research the person you are considering and make sure that they use a training program that you are comfortable with and will be willing to use. It simply doesn't make sense to hire someone that you don't think you can work with or that you don't agree with their training methods. This can sometimes lead to greater problems for your dog as they are constantly receiving mixed messages from the trainer and the family. Ask for references and don't be afraid to also ask for the dog behavior consultants professional resume and educational and experience background. A professional will be more than happy to provide this information to help the client make an informed choice about the service.
Other issues that are commonly seen by a dog whisperer or behavior consultant are more than just common training issues. Some issues that a dog whisperer may work with a particular dog and family on including socialization with other pets or dogs, fears that a dog may have, issues with aggression or possessiveness, problem barking or even problems between dogs and children or other family members. Working with a dog behavior consultant is very individualized which means that each program is also developed specifically for the dog and his or her environment.