If you’ve got a fearful or anxious dog, a magic coat won’t fix it
Mike Wright is a dog behaviourist. He writes a regular column here on all aspects of looking after your canine companions. Visit The Canine Behaviourist for more from him and to see if he can help you with your doggy dilemmas…
During my ramblings through the woods with my rescued hound Ziggy, I often meet owners with tales of fearful or reactive dogs and the help they have been offered by ‘professionals’. Here’s the latest one:
Dogs can become fearful for many reasons, including noises, strangers and unusual environments.
I met a lady today who told me about her own dog, who was at home. She was unable to walk him because he would pull her over in his determination to get to other dogs. She believed he was fearful and was responding with an aggressive drive to get to the strange dog, which meant he was kept on the lead.
She had sought the advice of a local behaviourist, who had not really helped. He had suggested using a pressure coat similar to the Thunder Jacket. I believe in trying to help a fearful dog with behaviour modification based on a strong research platform. Products such as the pressure vest make bold claims but they are rarely supported by any meaningful clinical research.
Relying upon something like the Thunder Jacket is a lazy and questionable approach. A ‘proper’ qualified canine behaviourist will thoroughly evaluate your dog and advise appropriate behaviour modification programs. Fearful and reactive dogs can benefit from counter-conditioning and desensitisation programs designed to help them become accustomed to and accepting of strangers and situations. Strapping on a vest is unlikely to be the panacea it is claimed to be.
Of course, you will find people that swear blind that the ‘vest’ has helped their dog. This may be the case, but there are many reasons why a dog’s behaviour may change. Without proper research and structured evaluation it is very difficult to recommend products such as the Thunder Jacket. This post by a veterinary surgeon is worth reading.
Certainly, in the case of the lady and her dog , she has seen no difference in behaviour and is left in the situation were she cannot walk him. Her dog could benefit from a structured behaviour modification if she is willing to trust another ‘professional’ to do things properly.
The take home message here: Be wary of ‘professionals’ who seem to offer shortcuts and products that will fix things quickly for you and your dog.
Image credit: Flicker