If your dog has a disruptive emotional or behavioral problem, you may want to seek help from an animal behavior therapist. Most animal behavior therapists are well-trained professionals who perform a legitimate and valuable service. The phobias and psychological problems of pets are just as real as those of humans. These range from fear of strangers, or of ringing door bells and telephones, to depression, anorexia, and self-mutilation.
To find a qualified animal behavior therapist, it is important to first consult with your veterinarian for a referral. Your vet will need to examine your pet before recommending a therapist, to rule out the possibility that the animal's seemingly psychological problem has an underlying physical cause. For example, a dog who becomes a fear biter when petted may not have an emotional, anti-social problem, but an infected ear that hurts when touched. Some dogs act lame on one leg in order to get attention and there's nothing physically wrong with the leg.
The animal behavior therapist may ask for an interview with the entire family. Friction between spouses, the arrival of a new baby, or the presence of a hyperactive child can have adverse effects on a family dog. Some therapists make house calls. Others have the family and the pet come to the office. Follow-up visits are often necessary to modify the treatment. If you give your full cooperation and follow the therapist's recommendations carefully, behavior therapy is usually not long-term, and it's a good investment, since it allows you to enjoy your dog's presence more.