The Bitey End of the Dog

Melanie Cerone, Ph.D.

April 12, 2021 Michael Shikashio CDBC Season 2 Episode 6
The Bitey End of the Dog
Melanie Cerone, Ph.D.
Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Melanie Cerrone is my very special guest for this episode and we get to chat about the human side of behavior consulting, as well as some of the common issues we might encounter in our work, because after all, we are working mostly with people when it comes to aggression cases.  

We discuss the “helping alliance,” which is a powerful tool to build trusting relationships with our clients and why it is so crucial for successful outcomes.
Melanie and I also chat about lack of client participation which is another hot topic for trainers, and why there are often valid reasons why this might be happening in aggression cases, and we unpack those in this episode.

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Aggression in Dogs Conference

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Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

We can have the best training plan, we can have all of our knowledge and our expertise. And if we don't have this helping Alliance, this positive relationship with our clients, the likelihood that we are going to be successful in our interventions and that our clients are going to have success, I think, is really minimized.

Michael Shikashio:

The wonderful Dr. Melanie Cerone is my very special guest for this episode. And we get to chat about the human side of training, as well as some of the common issues we might encounter in our work. Because after all, we are working mostly with people when it comes to aggression cases, we discussed the helping Alliance, which is a powerful tool to build trusting relationships with our clients, and why it's so crucial for successful outcomes. Melanie and I also chat about the lack of client participation, which is another hot topic for trainers, and why there are often some valid reasons why this might be happening in aggression cases, and we unpack those in this episode. And this episode is sponsored by aggressivedog.com, where you can find a variety of educational offerings with a focus on helping dogs with aggression, including The Aggression In Dogs Master Course, the most comprehensive course available anywhere in the world on helping dogs with aggression, and the aggression in dogs conference, a unique three day live streaming event happening from October 22-24, 2021. With 12 amazing speakers, you can find out more by going to the looseleashacademy.com Hey, everyone, I'm Mike Shikashio. Welcome back to The Bitey End of The Dog. I'm really excited this week to have an amazing guest on, Dr. Melanie Cerone, who has a background in education and science that you wouldn't believe when I start rattling off some of her certifications. He's got more letters after her name, than you can actually fit into a signature box. So she kind of has to pick and choose which letters she actually uses. And I pulled this paragraph off of our website too because it describes her really well. She's been grounded in science as a licensed psychologist and with a doctorate in psychology, and extensive training in Applied Behavior Analysis. Melanie understands the importance of scientific research and training and the ethical obligation practitioners have to hone their skills and stay on top of the latest developments. Some of her letters include having a PhD in counseling psychology, she's got a certificate in applied animal behavior, she's going to be getting her BCBA soon, she's a CPDT-KA, CSAT which is a Separation Anxiety Trainer, a CTC through the academy who dog trainers of fear free certified professional and a patent, certified trainer, there's so

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Thank you so much for having me, Mike. It's such a pleasure to be here. I love your podcast. I'm a big many letters after her name, obviously, she's dedicated to education. And we're going to be talking about the human side of fan, as you know, of you and your work. And I'm just really aggression cases today. And we're gonna jump right into pleased to be here today to talk about just the piece of this talking about the emotions and certainly some of the emotions that I feel really passionately about. And that is understanding that I see in aggression cases when I'm working with clients or things like despair, and anger and depression, frustration, the human dynamics and the human aspects of consulting on both sadness, anxiety. And so these are all things that Melanie is the side of the consultant as well as helping consultants understand the human perspectives from other clients. very, very well versed in. So I'm gonna let her bring her side

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah, so we're gonna be kind of looking of things into this show. So welcome, Melanie. at two angles today, right? Because we know that the show has a lot of trainers and behavior consultants as the audience. But I know there's also a lot of pet owners going through their own journeys with their dogs, and that may be experiencing aggression issues. So what are some of the emotions in your work that you see with commonly when you've got clients with an aggressive dog?

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Oh, that is such a great point. And one of the things Mike I love about what you do and your work and what you bring to the table is just the understanding that there are emotions that this isn't just about the technology and it isn't just about the techniques and our training plans for the dogs but it is really about this connection with our clients and understanding where they are in this journey with their dogs that have aggression issues, because we know it does. You mentioned a number of different emotions that are very common, fearfulness bites, even what we as trainers may consider a low level bite, some of the research that's out there, and when I did the webinar with you, a while ago, we looked at some of the research there isn't very much on the traumatic sequela of dog bites, particularly with children. And even what the research, the scant research that's out there, the shows is that even low level bites can be very traumatic for people for children, as well as for adults. So we're often dealing with family members who are frightened, they're scared of their dog, they may be, if it's something they particularly they've been struggling with it for a while, frustration, despair, you mentioned, they may have tried different, you know, had a number of trainers tried a number of different things looked on the internet kind of crowd sourced help. So they may feel frustrated, and you know, feeling like they're at their wit's end, I just had a client say to me yesterday, this is not what I signed up for. And as a consultant, you know, I felt for that person. It's not what they signed up for when they brought that dog into their homes. So understanding that our clients are experiencing perhaps a myriad of emotions, and being super sensitive to that, and listening, and when we talk to our clients, listening for that emotional underpinning, because they might not say it in words to us. But it's so important that we're empathic and that we're listening not just for the content, and not just what they're telling us about the description of their dog's behavior. But we're really connecting and understanding what's happening with them on an emotional level, because that's going to also affect I think, how well we're able to address the issue, what aspects we might need to work on with the clients. I always want clients to tell me how they're feeling, you know, are you feeling overwhelmed? Does this feel doable? Are you worried? I will ask clients, you know, are you? How are you feeling about being able to safely maintain the dog in the home, you know, have you thought about things like possibly re homing or behavioral euthanasia? And I think that from the consultants perspective, if we are able to put those things out on the table and bring them up for our clients, it can help them to feel more relaxed and more comfortable in talking to us about some of the things that they might not otherwise have talked to us about. And sometimes there's also, you know, kind of shame that maybe some of the things that they have done were embarrassment, I have clients who have, you know, sheepishly told me, oh, you're probably not going to like this. But I have used a shock collar or I have used a prong collar. I'm a crossover trainer, I've been there, I've done that. So it's all good. I want you to tell me, and you know, it's a judgment free zone. If I'm going to help you, the more information I have, the better and I'm here to support you, no matter what the issues are, or no matter what decisions you may be considering.

Michael Shikashio:

I say that one of the most important skills for a trainer working in aggression cases is empathy. And you mentioned so much of that, and what you're just saying, and you use something called called the helping alliance in your work with these clients can you tell us more about that?

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Absolutely. So Mike, what we know, and this comes out of the field of psychology. So what we know from decades and decades and decades of research, is that the biggest predictor of successful outcome in treatment in psychology and therapy, no matter what the modality of treatment is, no matter the length of the treatment, is that helping Alliance did the client feel and feel that they had a trusting relationship with their therapist where they were heard, they were understood they could, there was mutual respect. And that is so important. The cool thing is that this idea of the Alliance is really being looked at in a number of different helping professions. So for physicians and for coaches, social workers so for anybody who's in a helping profession, that Alliance, that connection with our clients where we are a source of support respect, we're paired with positive reinforcements, though in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis now, they're starting to be more emphasis in looking at that alliance of the behavior analyst with their clients and be paired with reinforcement, compassion approaching that the clients with compassion and understanding that that is so important. We can have the best training plan we can have all of our knowledge and our expertise and if we don't have this helping Alliance, that this positive relationship With our clients, the likelihood that we are going to be successful in our interventions and that our clients are going to have success, I think is really minimized, we really need to be coming from a place of partnership and collaboration and compassion with our clients in order for our interventions to be successful.

Michael Shikashio:

So, so true, you know, we can be amazing trainers with the dogs, we can enact incredible behavior change with the dogs ourselves. But if we don't have that connection with the client, that's where a lot of these issues that we're going to talk about come up. So let's segue into talking about managing realistic expectations. You know, sometimes our clients will come in and they have maybe some lofty goals. And let's use an example. For instance, a guy that's got a dog that maybe he's bitten a child or several children and they want and they say, you know, Melanie, I want my dog to totally be fine around kids forever. How do you navigate that conversation?

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Great question, Mike. And certainly, we want to start out, I'm always very clear with clients about the principles of behavior science in a way that they can understand. So how I work that we're going to be looking at the, you know, the variables, the antecedents to the behavior the triggers what the consequences are, that maintain it with the function of the behavior is, and so helping them to understand what's driving the behavior is the first thing, then in the context of our relationship, to be able to say to them, and to talk to them about the risk that you know, there are risks, and that children are at highest risk. So for example, you know, we know that just statistically, they are at highest risk of dog bite, and we have a dog that has already bitten the child or children. And we know with behavior that it's never 100%, that there's no your quote, unquote, for aggressive behavior, the behaviors functional or purposeful. And that we our goal is to lower or manage risk or mitigate risk, but we can't ever completely 100% eliminate risk or say that the dog, guarantee that the dog will be quote unquote, fine. But that I will help them to be able to create the safest environment as possible, help their dog to feel comfortable will mitigate those risks. And then it's checking in with the client to say, you know, how is that for you? Would that be okay? Safety is always first. So when we're working, that's something that's very important to me, is making sure that the clients know that that's where we're coming from, that it's always safety first, and that and just being realistic and honest with them about the principles of behavior and what we know about behavior and how behavior works. And that there are no guarantees, and that we have to really protect, you know, the most vulnerable people, children, both within the family or in the community.

Michael Shikashio:

It's very similar to the approach I take, because it's your acknowledging that they have a goal, but, you know, you can't just come out and say, you know, that's an awful idea, or you'll never be able to do that, right. So you have to kind of explain the factors involved, which, so you sort of ease into it, but then you can kind of align yourself to be on the same page to the client, right?

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Yes. Can we? Is this something? How does this sound to you? Does this? Does it make sense? Do you you know, do you know, do you kind of get that? You know, always checking in with them. And if they don't, okay, what are your thoughts? And they may have, you know, misperceptions or misunderstandings, you know, our clients are, for the most part, dog experts, behavior experts. And so they may have some thoughts about dogs or dog behavior, or things that they've read on the internet, the myths that we have to dispel, and that's okay, that's a part of what we do, you know, with our job, but we always want to be checking in and we always want to be coming from a place where I'm not shaming the client, where I'm showing compassion, where I'm showing understanding, and where I'm helping them to maybe have goals that may be more realistic or more, you know, within alignment of what I can do. And if they do have an unrealistic goal, something that I feel like I just couldn't do. And if they persist, then, despite my you know, my best efforts and counseling and working through the issue and talking with them, they still say I want my dog to be quote unquote, fine around kids and to be able to have unfettered access to children. Then at that point, you know, I have to step back and say, Well, I understand that's your choice. That's not something that I'm able to do. I may not be the best fit or the best person. My doors always open. I'm here if you want to, you know, contact me or if I can be helpful in the future, but it's knowing you know, my boundaries as well and being realistic and letting them know what I can and can't do.

Michael Shikashio:

Absolutely. I love the direction, this shows shifting into just, again, we've got a good percentage of pet owners as well as pet professionals listening in. And it's sort of bridging, we're creating a nice bridge in this information gap that's happening that can happen between clients and professionals. So let's talk about some of those issues that can happen. You know, one of the one of the questions a lot of trainers will ask me that they would they were discussing on the Facebook group is when clients aren't maybe disclosing information fully. And one of the reasons or some of the reasons, many reasons actually, that can be behind that, though, what do you see in your work? And in regards to, you know, legitimate reasons and why people might not disclose it? And sometimes trainers might look at it, like, you know, why aren't you telling me this? Or, why are you hiding things? And so that can create this little disconnect? Right? But it's not always that, there's something else going on? So what do you see there?

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

You are so right, this is such a great area for so many reasons. And sometimes, Mike, I think it is, they may not understand the gravity of what's happening, truly, and when we think how could they not know? or How could they not understand but they truly don't. And I think we probably can all relate to the clients who will call us to say, Hey, you know, my dogs pulling me down the street, I need help with loose leash walking, and then you go in for you know, the consult or the training session, and then you find out, Oh, the dog has been biting members in the family or biting strangers coming in. And so there's just a disconnect there. And that may be something then that we can bring up and say, Well, hey, you know, yes, you want help with leash walking or basic manners. But there's this other issue, there's the safety issue. So sometimes I think it is just maybe lack of awareness. I think sometimes it's shame and embarrassment, we can have those feelings of Oh, it reflects poorly on us if I've had a dog that's bitten, maybe even bitten more than once. How could I have let this happen? So I'm afraid of being judged, or my dogs bitten me what's wrong with me, I'm really embarrassed about this behavior. I think that that can get in the way of our clients being transparent with us, particularly if they have experience from maybe other trainers where they have contacted them, other trainers, and they have felt judged. And I've heard that a lot. I just had somebody's client very recently said that a trainer said to him, you have a very weird lifestyle. And I thought, Oh, that is Yikes, that's not, that's not a way to have a good, you know, relationship with your client or to affect behavior change. I think another reason Mike, is liability. And I have a good example of this. So I had a client who I had my typical 15 minute phone conversation with just gathering some information. And this person said that their dog would kind of you know, growl and lunge was a little bit reactive on leash towards strangers, I asked, if there was the bite history. And they said, Well, one time somebody came up, and the dog sat down, and it was the neighbor. And they were talking and then the dog sort of reached out and snapped at the person's shorts. But that that was it. So okay, we set up the consultation, they sent the behavior history form back. And in the behavior history form, there were a couple of different bite incidents. And then I got a call from the clients veterinarian, who was who had referred the client to me, and the veterinarian said, I just wanted you to be aware of what's happening. And I came to find out that there were more incidents, and more significant incidents, and there were incidents in the home of aggression towards the partner. And so before the consultation, I got in touch with the individual that with the client and said, you know, would like to understand what's going on, there's been some inconsistency, a part of what I do in my work, Mike, is I like to get the bite history from a client in writing in their words. So I have that as a part of just, you know, my record and for liability reasons. It's just how I practice. And so I said, Could you please You know, let's go through this. Again, I have all of this different information. Could you please send me the account of each bite how many bites and I gave exactly what information I wanted. I got an email back stamped confidential information. And then there was you opened up the attachment and it was confidential not to be released. It turns out that the client was an attorney, and his dog had bitten not only had a number of minor bites, but then had an incident where he was walking the dog in the neighborhood and was going into the neighborhood Community Center. The dog bit another person Coming out of the community center and the person that the dog bit was an attorney. And so there was going to be this liability issue. And that was the case. And I had just come off of another case where the bite history was more significant than what was disclosed in the beginning. And I get it. You know, I understand that. But this was a case where I felt like, given everything, I made the decision at that point. I cancelled the appointment, I referred the individual to a veterinary behaviorist, I was very clear that I was not comfortable continuing with the case, because of the discrepancy. And it was something that I felt like for me was important to do up front that if I have a client, and there's that level of dishonesty, about, you know, the sort of went beyond what typically might happen, this is a pretty significant case that for me, again, it's a boundary issue, and I felt completely okay, doing that by consults or prepaid in advance. So I refunded the consultation fee. It just was not something I felt that I, the client and I would be able to work through in the relationship.

Michael Shikashio:

That's definitely a case that it's so many red flags are popping up, as you're telling me about that. And it's one that we always have to, of course, go into assuming that client is not ill willed. And so there's all of the reasons you listed and why client might sell us or might not give us all the information. And so one of the little tricks I use actually, is when i'm sitting down with a client getting the behavior history, I will actually say to them, okay, this is where you can't tell me enough, right? So I say, this is you can give me as much information, don't be afraid about giving me too much information, because this is gonna allow me to help you and your dog the most, if you give me all the information. Because sometimes there's so many, as you mentioned, there's so many incidents, they forget, you know, they're not trying to hide something. They're like, Oh, yeah, there's that one time. And you know, if the dog's bitten 25 times, it's hard to remember, recall every single incident. And most the time, you know, once you see that pattern develop, you don't need to know all the incidents, right? You got an idea of why the behavior is happening. But sometimes they just simply forget. And sometimes the seriousness of it doesn't come into account either.

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

No, absolutely. I love the behavior history forms that I get back. That they thinks to the effect of, you know, too many incidents to count. Asking about the bite history like, oh, okay, alright, yeah.

Michael Shikashio:

I certainly don't want to discount that. When a dog is biting. There's that shame or their embarrassment? I use the analogy I use. It's like, you know, nobody wants to say, Oh, yeah, my kid goes off to school, punching all the other kids and the teachers. Yeah, I think it's important that empathy and that trust building we were talking about.

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Absolutely, it is so important for these cases for us to be able to get an accurate history and accurate understanding of what's happening, yeah, that our clients can trust us.

Michael Shikashio:

So let's shift into one of the number one topics that comes up with trainers in when we're getting partial participation. So we have a client, we give them what we feel is the best training plan and management and safety plan. But things aren't falling through. And we were talking about this just before the show, you had some really great analogies. Let's talk again, being empathetic to clients because we know that it's not a perfect world. And what trainers can do, trainers and consultants can do to encourage some of this participation.

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Yes, again, another great question. And what I have learned, I think, Mike, just through the years and working with staff when I was working in residential treatment, working helping children and adolescents that had significant, challenging behavior, so aggression, self injurious behaviors, that making the plan, clear for the staff who had to implement it, or the parents who had to implement the plan with the client, with our dog, when we're consulting with aggression cases, making the plan clear, breaking it down. So it's setting that criteria. I think that's so important. We do this for dogs, when we're working with the dogs, we, you know, we set little goals, we break the criteria, we don't go on to the more advanced skills until they've learned the foundation skills. And sometimes I think that I've been there, I've done that where I will give too much of the plan. I will say here's the plan. It has every single thing I can think of for management, for safety. And then here's all the different things you can do for training. And it's overwhelming for our clients. So I've really gotten to the point and one of the things that I love that you stress in your training is keeping it simple and easy for clients not overwhelming them. I think many times we're well intentioned. We want to give the clients the benefit of our knowledge and expertise. And so we'll try to give them everything that we know They could do. And I have really come to the point with in both my work with people as well as working, helping people with their dogs, that keeping it simple, scaling it back. First things first. So safety always in mind, first, let's get the safety that in a seating arrangement, the management in place first, sometimes even things like we think of as trainers as being pretty simple. Okay, you know, we ask our clients, let's get a muzzle, let's get muzzle training on board, that can be really overwhelming. What kind of muzzle? Where do I get it? How do I fit it? How do I start this training, and we come back the next week, and our client maybe hasn't done that. And so sometimes that leads us to feel frustrated as consultants that, oh, there's one thing that we wanted them to do that's so necessary before we can do the next piece they haven't done yet. So I've really taken the approach that I will step back and I will say and I do a lot of check sheet checklists and spreadsheets for my clients. So first things first, we're gonna order the muzzle, where can we order the muzzle, here's some resources, when I was seeing people in person, I had some muzzles that they could just purchase to make it easy for them, then, you know, it may be okay, here's the first step, here's the first thing you're going to do check in with me when you get the muzzle and when you've you know, started showing your dog, the muzzle and then just eating some goodies. And then we'll go on to the next step. So making it very clear, setting clear criteria, making it easy and giving our clients lots of reinforcement. And then what's the next step? And then giving them the next step really breaking it down, making it doable and reinforcing their behavior as much as we can. Because they're doing the best they can in most cases. You know, it's not because our clients are being difficult, or they don't care.

Michael Shikashio:

One of the things that as you're talking about, it reminds me that, even I'm so guilty of this sometimes, something so simple to me, is going to be so complex to the client. It's like, you know, like if like a personal trainer says, Okay, yeah, you're gonna get this heart rate monitor, right? And then Okay, as you go, it's gonna go across your chest, and you've got to get a certain BPM. And they start throwing all this lingo at you, and you're like, Wait a second, what does that all mean? And it's so simple to them. But for us, we need the hand holding stuff.

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Absolutely. Even buying that heart rate monitor. Whoa, my gosh, there's so many on the market. I remember you, when I attended your defensive handling workshop with Trish McMcmillon, the leash lock technique. I don't know how many times I, you know, I was like, Okay, let me watch you do that, again. things that seem probably to you that is those simple, you've done it 1000s and 1000s of times, but if you're not fluent in it, something so simple can seem really, really challenging. So helping our clients through that, and letting them know that it's okay. If they're struggling, that they don't have to do it perfectly, they can come back and ask us questions that we're not going to judge, I think is really helpful.

Michael Shikashio:

Yeah. And you had this great analogy we were talking right, right before the show about, you know, other professions, and how in a perfect world, if everybody just followed through on all the things.

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

This is something, Mike, that I'm doing my fieldwork, you mentioned in the intro that I'll be sitting for the BCBA exam, which I hope to be doing next month. And so I've been doing some field work experience and organizational behavior management, which is ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis. In business. One of the leaders in performance management is Dr. Aubrey Daniels. And so he helps business owners and managers and supervisors to maximize performance of their employees. And so one of the things that he talks about is that words don't work, we don't do what we're told to do. If we did, everybody would be exercising their 150 minutes a week and eating a healthy diet and having their teeth clean twice a year. Just doing everything that we are told to do, nobody would text and drive, nobody would smoke, all of these things. The antecedents are important. So you know, giving people information, sharing with them information about bought dog body language, and you know why our dogs are doing what they're doing, even hiring us as consultants. That's an antecedent strategy that comes you know, that's sort of sets the stage and we know that the antecedents can set the stage for behaviors to occur. But it's the consequences that drive the behavior and keep it recurring. And one of the things that Dr. Daniels will say is that in business, and it's very true, I think in what we do consultants with our clients is that if an employee doesn't do what the manager tells them to do the first time they come back and they tell them again, and they start to tell them louder and longer and meaner. And that's a chapter in his great book, bringing out the best in people and he says, you know, will start to send memos and then we underline the memos. And then we put things in bold in caps. And I think about what we do as consultants. So we tell our clients, and then they didn't do it. So we tell them again, and we tell them louder, and then we're getting irritated. And then we might give them a handout. And then we put pictures on the handout, give them a graphic, or I see so many times making Facebook groups. Somebody, do you have a blog or a research paper that shows that so I can give it to my clients, so I can impress upon them why they need to do this. I sort of sometimes, you know, laugh to myself, or I think, Oh, no, no, we're just we're telling them louder, longer meaner, we know that doesn't work. And that's where we need to scale it back. And look at the consequence aspect, what is it? And I have really started to look at myself. So what is it about how I'm either presenting the information? What is it about my plan? Is it clear to my clients? Have I broken down the criteria enough? Have I set them up for success? You know, is there a checklist I can give them that will help them along the way so that they can, that makes it easier to do this? Have I reinforced them enough, I have started really checking in with clients more frequently, either via a spreadsheet or email to give some reinforcement on what they're doing on their training plans, and then really breaking things down, you know, much more finely for them, so that I can get back and reinforce them and keep them going.

Michael Shikashio:

One of the questions I use a lot to get them to that point is or to see what would help them is I asked them that question, Is there something I can do to help you with following through on this or, or participating in this particular aspect, because that sometimes is good, again, unravel some information that could be very important and vital, and they might have legitimate reasons, they may they don't understand the process, or they have something going on in their life, that is a legitimate reason.

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

That is huge. That's everything. When we're setting goals for our clients, and I will express this to my client. And again, even the goal setting process is collaborative. And my goal is to help them in the most efficient, effective way possible. So if it's an Allstate, you know, you can, if it's a behavior that we can just manage, or that they can just get, you know, do the antecedent arrangement for that, that's okay, if they want to, you know, not have their dog come into contact with strangers who come into their home. But if all they want to do is to have their dog in a crate and a separate room, while the visitors are there, that's fine. If they want to go ahead and train that, that's going to take more time. And we can certainly get there and I'm going to work with them, it's going to be First things first with safety, but meeting them where they are because clients do have finite time, resources, you know, financial resources, emotional bandwidth, sometimes to work on these issues. And that varies from client to client. So I always want to be respectful of the barriers that are getting in the way or that might make it challenging for the clients to follow through with the training plan.

Michael Shikashio:

I've got to take advantage of you being on the show. And obviously you having the background and this next question is that is when you have a divided family, meaning you have to members of the family, or more, maybe arguing or not agreeing on particular aspects of the case or potential major parts of the case, potential outcomes for the dog with your expertise. How do you approach that?

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Again, such a great question, and one that comes up often and that I certainly have experienced. And so sometimes it's where is the disagreement around, and I like to give everybody a chance to talk so frequently, you know, when it comes down to it, it's typically you know, if there are, you know, it's the adults in the household making the decisions typically about the dogs, although I love to hear kids will give you information that their parents might not. So I love if they participate to kind of hear I like to give everybody a choice a you know, a voice in the in the conversation and I will ask kids, you know, from their perspective, you know, how are things going how they feel about the dog? Are they scared about the dog, I love to hear kids talk about if they had been bitten, the incident from their perspective, that's always usually informative to me, I also think helps with that idea of the Alliance. And we'll point out you know, we'll talk about it if there's the difference in you know, how they see it. And one of the things that I will state it to people is it's very common dogs, you know, just like, just like kids, they sometimes you know, have different behaviors with different, you know, will behave differently with mom with dad with the kids. That's typical, the reinforcement histories with everybody in the family are going to affect their behavior, and so i'll validate that, yeah, you probably are seeing some different things and then you know, how are you feeling about it, And I know that it probably is distressing, if you know I often have clients, well the dog doesn't like me, you know, it's biting me, but it's not biting the other person's that the other person wants to keep the dog. In the end, it's, you know, I think I want to validate, I want to hear from everybody and then say, Okay, what, where are we? What goals can we work on? Where can we come together? Some things, if it's things that we can kind of let go, or that aren't so important? Maybe Oh, well, I don't like that the dogs on the furniture, one person does, one person doesn't Oh, simply say, Okay, well, you guys can, you know, work that out and, you know, and I let that for them to figure out when it's safety, though. I will say, you know, I will always just be very upfront, but it's really important. You know, this is something that, you know, can we all get on the same page, if we're not all on the same page here, we are not, you know, setting the dog up for success. But this is something that we have to have some level of agreement on. And again, talk about it, what are the barriers, and for the client, who might be the one who's more feel like resistant for lack of a better word, or sees things so differently, or is opposing, talking with them about their perspective and how they are seeing it and hearing them out and trying to give them a voice. And then talking to see what can we do to get everybody together and on the same page. So it's hard because there's not a specific words or a specific script, that's always going to work. But letting them know when when it is a situation where we really do need to have everyone on board, that that's the case, again, addressing what the barriers might be, and then seeing what we can do to get everybody on the same page. It's challenging for sure.

Michael Shikashio:

Yes, definitely. And it's so so important. You know, I love that you had mentioned, allowing everybody to be heard, especially the children, right? Because people sometimes are actually afraid of the dog, or they're afraid to say something to their, to their other family members about their being afraid they don't want to upset that person. So you know, I have to throw this question at you. What do you do, if you have a couple, like straight up arguing in front of you, they just go south, and they start yelling?

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Oh, I have had that. And it really depends on where we are in the relationships. Sometimes I will, if I can, if it's a, you know, a client that I've seen, and I know, well, I, you know, I may make a joke, I may use levity, or, you know, say, oh, okay, well, you know, you sound like you know, me and my husband here and you know, making a joke, to bring it to the attention, you know, to their attention. If I have that relationship with them. Sometimes it may be I will try to redirect, if it's a minor thing I will, you know, I'll just redirect the conversation. So you know, we'll go sort of from the least intrusive to the intervention, and then work my way up. And then sometimes, if things are really heated, I have had an occasion where I've had to say, you know, I think that, you know, this is something that probably is best for us to you know, let's stop here today. This is an issue that the two of you aren't agreeing on. I think that, from my perspective, here's the safety issue that's at hand. And often this comes down to whether or not they you know, sometimes it's over, do we keep the dog or relinquish the dog or opt for maybe behavioral euthanasia? Here are all of our options, we've talked about it, this is something that you two will have to work on. And this isn't a good time, or it's too heated. So we're just going to cool down, end the session, and then I will touch base with you tomorrow, or in you know, a day or two, where you can touch base with me and day or two. So there have been a very few occasions where I've actually had to stop. And it's just it's becoming comfortable with that it's knowing your boundaries and what you're not okay with clients that are getting overtly angry or hostile, I think with with you as the consultant, that it's okay to, you know, to say, this isn't, you know, this isn't Okay, I know, this is a stressful situation. And that's the other thing I will say, you know, this is having a dog with aggression issues is stressful, and it does bring out sometimes the the challenges in the family. And I'll say, you're not alone, you know, I know that this can be a source of contention. Many clients are in your position where they disagree or one client, you know, feels one way and the other feels the other way. But again, it's it's being clear about our role, you know, we're not there to mediate disagreements, but to give the information and then ultimately, the decision on what they do is between them and we can't force that sometimes I feel like consultants feel like we have to get this couple on board. We have to get the client on board at all costs. And I'm there in a consultant role, I bring my, you know, my expertise to the table, I, you know, put my recommendations out there. But I realized my limit, you know, I know where my boundary is, and that I can't force people and I can't force people to agree. That's the key word, their boundaries. And that kind of shifts right into the next topic, which is the passionate fatigue, with trainers and consultants and the emotions involved. But before I get to that, I kind of also want this the few last thing I want to talk about before we end the show is is also how to talk about cognitive biases and dissonance. So a personal example is I'm sort of a gym rat, my whole life in and out of gyms, nothing professional, but I've got my mind set on certain things. And I started to get some injuries as I'm getting older. And so I sought out the help of a good friend who's actually a very, very good personal trainer, and I'm going in there with my biases. So I'm like, Wait a second, I know about that. And he's showing me these new things. And I'm like eh I dont know. And so I can totally see how that that would odd, you know, somebody that's been, you know, owning dogs their whole life, and they've got their beliefs about something. And that's something we have to be sensitive to, because from for the pet owners listening in, you know, you're gonna have your set of beliefs. But we also have the professional trying to instill what they have. So what? What do you do for those conversations? Again, such a great question and one I can so relate to, and sometimes it's putting out there for clients. And I want to know, so I have clients who will come very entrenched with using, you know, aversive, so I have had a client with a Rottweiler who trained their Rottweiler with a shock collar and a prong collar, In the time the dog was a puppy. And when I got called on the the case that when the dog was about 15 months old, I was the third trainer, and the person was pretty entrenched in the idea of, you know, dominance. And this was a breed that you needed a really heavy hand. And so a piece of it was me asking him, you know, so you know, you've been let his dog had these aggression issues. And he said to me, so I said, Well, tell me what you know, what's working for you? What do you like and about using the, you know, prong collar, the shock collar, and it was the clients that I love the shock collar, I can get the dog to stop doing whatever it is, I want them to not want them to do in that moment. So if the dogs, you know, stepping on the kids toys, or getting too close to my toddler or doing this or doing that, so I love it. And instead of judging, I was just very empathic that I get it. Yeah, it's, we love, you know, we want instant, you know, gratification that having that behavior stop in a minute, I can understand why you like it. Absolutely. And he had come to me, because he had said, but every veterinarian and every trainer that has seen my dog has said that he's anxious. And so I said to him, okay, so it's working for you, you like it For this reason, and you're also hearing your dog is also aggressive, and you're hearing that the dog is anxious, can I tell you what I see from, you know, from my perspective, or just what we know. And it was kind of inviting, you know, a piece of it is inviting, you know, can I tell you, would you want to hear, can I share with you what I've learned, and then it was I get it, it stops the behavior. And that's why you know, clients or people love it. And that's why, you know, some trainers will use these devices, because you can stop a behavior in a second. However, the downside is that, you know, like you're mentioning with your dog, there's the anxiety, there's this, you know, the aggression issues. And that can be a side effect and a risk, would you consider trying something else, not, you know, stopping using the shock collar, and it was an invitation, it was an ultimatum, it wasn't saying you have done this to your dog. We know that this is something that could happen. It could be related, would you be willing to try it and I think sometimes being open to hearing that perspective, not challenging those things head first that I started with throwing position statements and research articles that that client, it would have been a I think a more of a head butting kind of situation. And I probably would have encountered a lot of resistance. This person was a you know, again, I think because of how it was approached it was very open. Stopped using the shock collar we got some interventions in place. They were very amenable if they started to see success. I don't think that I would have been able to do that had I've been outright just confronting or challenging those biases head on?

Michael Shikashio:

That's an excellent, excellent approach non judgmental.

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Non judgmental, yep.

Michael Shikashio:

There's enough emotions involved in these cases, and why bring in more emotions, you know, and, and this and any kind of disconnect. So let's end the show on this topic of emotions and why it's so important for both pet owners and the trainer's listening in I know, it's a big topic, we could talk about compassion fatigue, we can talk about, you know, the owners and going through the process, all the stages really of aggression, working or owning an aggressive dog, I kind of want to make sure we're providing resources as well what to do well how to recognize both as pet owners and as trainers when we might need to seek additional help. So can you talk more about that?

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Certainly. So I think anytime that this is something where on both the end of the consultant, as well as for the owner, if there are signs that you're you know, what you're experiencing is starting to impact in just kind of your daily life. So for guardians, if you have an aggressive dog, and you are feeling like, you know, you're spending a lot of time you're worried you're fearful, you feel like the quality of life is impacted, you're not able to do the things that you enjoy. And I bet your family enjoys, that that's really a time when you might want to, you know, sort of take a step back. And, you know, maybe seek out some additional help. If you contact a trainer, and you're working with the trainer, and it still feels like this is you know, this is overwhelming. It's creating a lot of dissension in the family and a lot of disagreement. Sometimes it can help to get a neutral third party in there, to just sort of help sort through some of these issues. That can be hugely helpful. And for consultants, if you are feeling that you're tired, you're depressed, it's harder to go to work, you aren't really keeping up with things you're not really doing the things that you enjoy doing, that your work is impacting your, you know, your family life, all of those things can be signs that maybe I need to seek out some additional support. And it could be a matter of, do I need to look at what's going on and how I'm, you know, how I'm working? And do I need to put some boundaries around the times that I'm working, how much I'm working the type of cases I'm doing. And that's okay to look at that and to take a break and to say, Okay, well, you know, maybe I need to take some other types of cases for a little while. Sometimes it may be, you know, may need even additional support beyond that. And certainly, if you're having trouble where you're feeling like, I am really depressed, or I am really anxious, I don't want to get out of bed, I don't want to work, I'm really not feeling like I'm functioning, those are really signs that you know, it's something more serious. So I would encourage you to reach out to your family physician, that can be a good source of, you know, referrals, look at your insurance companies, sometimes they will let you know who's in network as far as counselors or support services for you. The American Psychological Association has a website phycologist locator if that can be hugely helpful. The National Association of Social Workers also has a locator for professionals in your area that can help if you feel like oh, I need some additional support. So just knowing that there are resources out there and and that it's okay, it is really can be hugely helpful and make yourself what I would admire about you and with your group is that you recognize the toll that this can take on consultants, as well as owners that have aggressive dogs that this work is really challenging, and that you had put together and you looked in your groups to have a list of resources or consultants who were struggling with some issues and needed some support. I think one of the things we don't talk about is, you know, kind of our own experiences, consultants experiences, if you've been, you know, bitten in the line of work, or if you have your own dog that has the aggression issues. We can feel like, Oh, you know, we don't have our own acts together. How can we help clients that have dogs with aggression issues of we don't have our own, you know, our own dogs stuff together. And we've all struggled with that. And I think that client, I think that trainers often have dogs that are more difficult just by nature of you know who they are, they may take the dogs that are more difficult from shelters or rescues, or they may have gotten into consulting because they have a dog that they struggled with. And it's something I don't think we talk enough about, getting support around those issues, those really important emotional issues.

Michael Shikashio:

Such an important topic toconsider when working, getting into this line of work and understanding when you might need help whether a pet owner or a pet professional, where can people find you? What are you up to next?

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Oh, what am I up to next? Great, thanks, Mike, I am going to be presenting at the lemonade conference sponsored by IAABC that is in May, the beginning of May. So I will be presenting there and my topic is from Roblox to Rainbows, and that's enhancing client consulting skills that specifically for consultants and trainers to help them with those skills, those interpersonal skills that we were talking about. And then I'm very pleased to say I will be presenting at the Aggression in Dogs Conference in October. So I really appreciate having that opportunity, Mike, and I'm really looking forward to that I'm hoping to do I'll be able to provide some tools for people, again, with it for consultants and helping them in you know, develop their consulting skills. That's in October, and I'm really looking forward to that as well.

Michael Shikashio:

Wonderful if people want to reach out to it's at your website?

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

Yes. melanieceronephd.com.

Michael Shikashio:

And you have social media too, you've got a couple of things going on there as well.

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

I do. I have a Facebook page and an Instagram page and Mike and I belief same thing, Melanie Cerone PhD.

Michael Shikashio:

I will put those in the show notes. So everybody wants to find you. Melanie, thank you so much. It was just wonderful talking to you. And I cannot wait to see you in at The Aggression in Dogs Conference in October.

Melanie Cerone Ph.D.:

I can't wait. Thank you so much for having me, Mike. I really, really appreciate it and the work that you do. Thank you.