How many sessions does it take to modify behavior?
How proficiently can you learn a new skill, say playing the piano or ice skating after just one or two lessons? It depends on the skill. Some skills are simple and can be learned in one session. Other skills take hours and weeks to practice and master. Could you learn to love spiders in just one session? Could you learn to overcome a fear or phobia in just one session?
The private consultation consists of the client filling out a Canine Behavior Questionnaire prior to the initial meeting. Then at the initial in person consultation an assessment of the dog’s behavior and the behavior change program required is reviewed. Client and Canine Behavior Consultant mutually agree on a behavior change plan (an action plan) and the client receives a write up of the behavior change program to follow in as much detail as possible while keeping it simple using a step-wise progression. Sessions are scheduled depending on the situation and the clients comfort level in working on their own. The Canine Behavior Consultant is available for phone support or by email. Usually by the 3rd or 4th visit, the client has enough face time and skills to be on their own. 3-5 sessions are usually enough to get them the education and some skills to be able to work independently. However, it is important for clients to understand that the actual change in the dog’s behavior can take months or in some cases even years of patient training, and behavior change may progress slowly but they should observe small changes that lets them know they are on the right track.
Progress is assessed as necessary – is the client feeling comfortable with the progress.
Behavior change depends on several factors:
- Commitment of owner
- Consistency of owner
- Dog’s learning ability
This overall approach is designed to minimize financial burden on those who don’t have the finances while guiding them to help their dog to the benefit of the entire household.
Many clients who are not committed don’t see any progress because they put in minimal effort, get frustrated, and try a more aversive approach, believing it to be a quicker fix. There are side effects to aversive and punishment based methods that are achieved through the use of aversive training equipment such as choke chains, prong collars and shock collars. Aversive methods also require a commitment to follow a certain training protocol for success; however, the side effects generally outweigh the benefits. If punishment based techniques are done incorrectly they can cause more harm than good. If positive reinforcement techniques are done incorrectly, no harm has been done. It generally takes longer to modify behavior acquired with the use of aversive methods.
If the commitment to improving the dog’s well being is not a priority to the owner, then all methods of training will fail because the commitment and priority is not in the right place.