Once you contact a veterinary behaviorist there is a questionnaire to fill up, in which questions are carefully planned to get an overall idea of what is going on with the animal, including a medical history. The veterinary behaviorist looks it over and prepares other questions if he/she believes they are needed. After that there is the consultation in person, usually about 1 hour and half, and the dog is observed. The problem behavior is never elicited.
It serves no purpose to elicit problem behaviors when the dog is brought in (they might not even being displayed due to a different environment) Especially when it is behavior that is potentially dangerous and does not need to be practiced or reinforced, not even once.
f you are well versed in functional assessment and analysis on a dog, making use of observable and quantifiable behavior, maybe you can start a thread about a case or dog (need owner permission if applicable) that we could discuss. That would be lovely to have, for once.
Well, I very much disagreed with that approach, as did others I know who work with problem dogs. It's almost like taking your sick dog to your vet and having him treat the dog based only on your description. Just think of how many times your vet saw things that you never noticed. In behavior forums many people in that field have posted on how unreliable and incomplete the dog owner's description is.
On aggression, there are several types, and this should be quantified as to the evoking stimulus, the type and intensity of aggressive behavior, and the recovery characteristics. You simply cannot find these out unless you invoke the aggressive behavior. But, without knowing them you may not be able to safely work with the dog, much less make any changes.
A few weeks ago I got a call from NM DDB about a young husky who had bitten the rescuer while being given treats. You could not approach his food bowl while he was eating. He would defend toys and bite on any approach. I brought him home for my dog and I to work on.
Most such cases of resource guarding take a bit of time, as the dog often lacks confidence and fear aggression is part of the equation. With this guy that might have been the case some time ago, but he had gone pass that, and the behavior appeared solely habitual. A little over a week later all the aggressive behavior was nearly gone.
As I described above, I started with measuring the evoking stimulus. With a treat/toy in front of him, he'd snap at it. But, from four feet away he'd respond to a "stop hand" and wait. The wait command was taught further in non-guarding situations, then transferred to all guarding situations. Half his food was then hand fed, with him waiting for each handful and not snapping. While being hand fed, his food bowl was slowly moved around with the other hand. Not an issue as he was eating from my hand at the time, but that got him used to my hand around his food bowl and the bowl coming and leaving. Of course, this was all started in a safe manner. Initially a small bowl attached to a stick, and another stick to move his food bowl. By the 2nd day the sticks were no longer needed.
He would have to wait for a toy or treat, eventually with the object nearly touching him. After taking a toy, he would have to release it on command to receive a treat, which took several days to accomplish, as he was used to running away with it. As each command resulting in treats was learned, the treats were then delayed in both time and frequency (see Lindsay below: extinction resistance).
He had no idea how to play fetch, but wanted the ball for himself. Throwing the ball, my dog caught it, and the husky then tried to take it away from him. That happened only twice, as my dog is a much faster teacher than am I. I stood on the side holding a water hose, but his corrections worked just fine. The third time my dog threw him one of the balls and the two shared all toys fine after that.
A lot more bits and pieces went into this, but nothing more technical or complicated that what I've given here. Changing any behavior is often a two-step process. One of eliciting that behavior together with a negation or control, and the other of evoking a conflicting replacement behavior, which is often first learned away from this context. I could put all this in more technical terminology, but it wouldn't say any more than this. All of this can be found in the "Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training, Vol. 2: Etiology and Assessment of Behavior Problems" by Steven Lindsay.
But, from the rescuer's description many of the pieces were missing. If I had never elicited the problem behavior, it would have been been much harder and longer to change it, and I could have never really known that it was actually changed.
Other types of aggression and confidence issues need somewhat different approaches and often take much longer than this case. Even on assessment, I have had some other dogs require as much as three 20 minute sessions before things became clear, as their behavior changed from their testing and trying different responses to my actions.
Sorry this one wasn't a pit, but it still applies and I take them as they come in...