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Treating Aggression: Are You Exceeding Your Boundaries of Competence?

Meet Michael Shikashio

By Mary Burch, AKC CGC Director

Note: On a recent survey of CGC Evaluators, evaluators ranked aggression toward other dogs as the most difficult behavior for dog owners to treat or manage, and aggression toward people as the second most difficult behavior to treat.

In addition to being certified as an animal behaviorist, I am also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). That’s the human end of the leash and this certification requires among other things, graduate courses, sitting for a several hours long exam, and proof of supervision by a qualified mentor.

There is a Code of Ethics for BCBA’s and parts of this code have been used for various dog trainer codes of ethics. One ethical standard in the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts says that you should only provide services within your boundaries of competence, and in a new area, only provide services after first undertaking appropriate study, training, supervision, or consultation from persons competent in those areas.

Examples of areas requiring special training when working with children with autism or developmental disabilities would be the treatment of aggression, feeding problems, elopement (which means running away), pica (eating inedible objects), self-injury, and others. These behaviors can result in injury, or even death, if inappropriately handled.

I believe that the treatment of aggression in dogs also falls into this category, and that reading a short article or attending a one-hour talk on aggression won’t give you the training you need to handle a serious aggression problem.

If you would like to learn more about the treatment of canine aggression, you should know about the work of Michael Shikashio.  Michael is the president of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and the owner of Complete Canines, LLC.

He conducts training sessions on the treatment of aggression that include an eight-week mentorship with weekly online meetings where trainers present their own cases.

Michael also has an online course that is a five-week online class with weekly online meetings that is an overview of working aggression cases from start to finish. This class is for all levels of trainers and runs every few months. This is the best course for you if you don’t have a background in aggression or a case to share. 

There are some workshops this year on Safety, Defensive handling, and Applied Behavior Modification.
Los Angeles – April 8-9
Wisconsin – May 20-21
Colorado – June 3-4