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Table 1 Theme and contents of 12 peer reviewed vignettes depicting advice from a veterinary professional regarding dog behaviour and/or training. Vignettes were designed to illustrate common scenarios that are either likely or unlikely to support best outcome for the dog. The best outcome was defined as one which provides a resolution to the behavioural problem while not compromising the animal’s welfare

From: Exploring the understanding of best practice approaches to common dog behaviour problems by veterinary professionals in Ireland

Vignette Theme Vignette Evidence-base for likelihood to achieve best outcome
1. Use of physical correction to treat unruly behaviour Sarah has brought in her 1-year-old Labrador cross Toby to the vet for his annual check-up. She asks how to stop Toby from jumping up and mouthing, “He’s knocked the kids over several times!
The vet tells Sarah, “Try pushing Toby down and saying ‘STOP’ when he jumps up and mouths, to discourage the behaviour”.
Unlikely [14]
2. Use of positive reinforcement in toilet training Paul has brought in his 8-week-old puppy for its vaccinations. He asks Sinead, the vet nurse, how to toilet train his new puppy. Sinead advises, “Take the puppy outside at regular intervals and praise him whenever he toilets outside and don’t punish him if he has an accident inside – but make sure to clean it up properly!” She gives Paul a leaflet on the “do’s and don’ts” of toilet training a new puppy. Likely
3. Use of citronella spray collar to treat barking The neighbours have complained about Louise’s two dogs that bark excessively while she is at work. While buying food at the vets, she asks Lauri, the vet nurse, for advice. Lauri suggests using anti-bark spray collars, “They give the dog a warning beep before spraying citronella, they don’t harm the dog at all”. Unlikely
[34, 26]
4. Use of physical restraint to treat fear during nail clipping Jack’s dog Monty is terrified of getting his nails clipped. He asks Val, a vet nurse, for advice to reduce Monty’s fear. Val advises, “No dog likes getting their nails done, you’ve just got to restrain them and push through or else they will learn to get away with it”. Unlikely
5. Recommendation of reward-based accredited trainer for dog reactivity Stephen’s 4-year-old Husky lunges, growls and barks at other dogs in the vet clinic waiting room. Suzy, a vet nurse, notices the difficulty Stephen is having with controlling his dog and offers Stephen a business card, “Several clients have had help from one of our registered APDT Ireland[1] trainers”.
[1] APDT Ireland = Association of Pet Dog Trainers Ireland
6. Positively reinforcing fear behaviour Lucy has brought her 5-month-old puppy in to the vets for a quick weigh-in. Lucy asks the vet nurse, Chris, if he has any recommendations to help with her puppy’s fear during fireworks, “She hides behind the couch all night when they’re going”
Chris offers her advice “Give her lots of cuddles and praise when she’s feeling scared to help her feel more comfortable”.
7. Recommendation of obedience classes and positive reinforcement for recall training George has brought in his Jack Russell Terrier, Skip, for a check-up following surgery after a road traffic accident. Shannon, the vet, gives Skip the all clear, but George is worried about letting him off lead again because Skip normally runs off and ignores his calls.
Shannon suggests a local obedience class, “Give these classes a try and keep Skip on a long lead during walks until you’re comfortable he’ll come back to you. If you regularly call him during your walks and reward him for coming back he’ll start to get the idea”.
8. Use of invisible radio fence to prevent wandering John’s German Shepherd, Max, is repeatedly escaping from the garden. There have been recent cases of sheep worrying in the area and he’s looking for advice from the local practice. The vet suggests, “It depends on how much time and money you are willing to invest – the quickest way is to install an invisible radio fence”. Unlikely
[22, 28, 31]
9. Recommendation of trainer advocating dominance/pack theory During a routine clinical examination, Greta’s Border Collie cross Lulu snaps at the vet. Greta admits that Lulu can be aggressive, especially towards strangers whilst on walks. The vet recommends a local trainer and tells her, “This guy knows his stuff and will set her straight, she needs to learn you’re in charge otherwise she will keep trying to protect you and hurt other people”. Unlikely
10. Use of check chain to treat pulling on the lead On arrival at the vet clinic, Julie almost falls over as Ben, her Saint Bernard, pulls her through the door. The vet nurse at the desk sees that Julie is having problems controlling Ben and says, “Have you considered using a check chain as a training aid? It’s the best way to control a big dog like Ben”. Unlikely
[14, 11]
11. Use of desensitisation to treat fear behaviour Tom has brought his new puppy, Penny, to the vets for her first vaccinations, “She’s terrified of the kids at home and just cowers in the corner” The vet replies, “Get as many kids in from the neighbourhood as possible to handle her, that should get her well socialised” Unlikely
12. Recommendation of acquiring another dog to treat separation anxiety Emily has brought her lurcher, Finn, to the vet to get treatment for an injured paw after he attempted to escape from his crate “I feel awful, but I have to confine him in there when I’m at work otherwise he destroys the house, he gets so distressed when I leave”
Fran, the vet, has seen this problem many times and suggests, “Have you considered getting another dog to keep Finn company?”
([20, 12])