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Study 3 –The Effectiveness of Pet Professional and Treatment Methodologies for Behavior Problems

Updated: Nov 26, 2018

Data is Under Analysis


Lead - Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman, Tufts Cummings

Ian Dinwoodie

Barbara Dwyer

Donna Gleason

Vivian Zottola

Study Design: This study builds on Study 2, Demographics and Comorbidity of Behavior Problems in Dogs. This study looks at how owners addressed existing canine behavior problems. For those owners who sought help, we asked which canine professionals, the professionals’ qualifications, and methodologies, e.g., behavior modification, training, medication, were or are utilized. Then, we asked if the owners were able to implement and follow through with the recommended treatment, management, and/or training protocols. Finally, owners rated the success or failure of treatment for each type of problem.

​​From the information collected in Study 3, the Center hopes to be in a unique position to rank—in a highly specific way—improvement that can be anticipated for certain behavior problems when help is solicited from various advisory resources. For example, if aggression was the issue, is it best to start with a dog trainer or go directly to a behaviorist?

Study 3 may help owners and veterinarians determine which course of treatment works best and what type of professional to seek.

Participating Dog Owners: Study 3 participants are a subset of the 4,650 respondents in Study 2 from the USA, Canada, and the UK. The Study 3 participants were those from Study 2 who indicated that their dog had or has a behavior problem.

Study Expectations: Learning which programs and techniques work best for the various behavior problems will save dog owners from wasting time and money with unnecessary, ineffective, or counterproductive interventions. Based on factual evidence from the studies, the Center expects to be able to say, that, for example, if a certain style of leadership enhancement program works well when addressing owner-directed aggression, or whether behavior modification (with or without medication) is effective in dealing with canine compulsive behaviors. We may know with some level of confidence if, for example, systematic desensitization does or doesn’t work to treat fear aggression or storm phobia. Although desensitization works, it may be too time consuming and operator dependent for owners to follow through with implementation.

Whatever the findings, investigators expect to more accurately determine the most effective course of action for rehabilitation of dogs with behavioral issues either in their home or a shelter. It enables those working with these dogs to more effectively manage and/or correct behavior problems saving time and money that might be wasted on less successful or unsuccessful interventions.

Further, shelters and rescues may be able to identify groups of dogs that can be rehabilitated in a given period of time. For instance, if resource guarding rehabilitation programs are highly successful with only two weeks of staff work, it could increase adoptability and reduce recidivism. They could better train staff in specific, effective methodologies for consistency and enhanced learning. If customized programs are effective in a specified period, the information will give professionals recommending the technique confidence in prognosis. Proven programs encourage owner compliance and leads to better follow through. Owner compliance is commonly considered to be one of the most important factors in success or failure of treatment. Successful behavior modification and management programs will lead to better outcomes and benefit of owners and their dogs.

Status: Data analysis is near completion. Findings are in the initial stage of review.

Application for Findings: Like Study 2, lead investigator Dr. Nicholas Dodman believes understanding which treatments and professionals to utilize will be invaluable for rescues and shelters, as well as veterinarians dealing with canine behavior issues.

Like Study 2, once the findings paper is published, it will be made available to veterinarians through the Journal of Veterinary Medicine. Plans are in progress as to how to present these findings to the approximately 3,000 brick and mortar rescues and shelters, plus others involved in canine behavior work.

The knowledge gained from Study 3 will help owners with the guidance of the right professional properly manage behavior issues that arise. Our objective is that instead of giving up on their pet because of bad advice, ineffective corrective measures, or just the belief that nothing can be done, more dog owners will try, succeed and maintain improvement and further enhance the bond they have with their dog. Happy owners with happy dogs ensure that dogs remain in the same home for life. They are less likely to wind up in a shelter or pound where as many as 60% are euthanized to make room for other dogs who may have similar issues.

The Center hopes this study’s findings can make a huge difference in the annual canine holocaust that leads to the untimely death of almost 1 million dogs per year in the United States alone. It is a problem too big to ignore. We believe the Center will contribute to the solution and end unnecessary euthanasia.


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