Dog Behavior Services
Just like people, dogs can struggle with fear and anxiety. When this fear goes unchecked, it can develop into behavioral issues that interfere with everyday life with your pet.
In addition to manners and skills training, Petropolis offers dog behavior training and adjustment programs aimed at helping dogs and owners overcome unique behavioral issues. Some common concerns we hear from pet parents are:
- Aggression toward other people and dogs
- Trembling in new places or with new people
- Growling or lunging at the end of the leash
- Barking at children, skateboards, or bicycles
- Fussing at the window when strangers pass by
- Unruly behavior in the home
- Scaring away house guests
- Anxiety during vet visits
Dr. Jesse McClure, Neuroscience & Behavior
PhD, Neuroscience & Behavior
Fear Free™ Certified Professional
Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA)
Dr. Jesse McClure has over 15 years of professional experience with dog behavior. He began his career in the US Marine Corps as a working dog handler. He and his dog Rebel spent three years deployed to combat environments providing force protection and explosive detection followed by explosive detection work state-side.
Jesse then returned to college and earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science and animal behavior followed by a PhD in neuroscience and behavior. Throughout his education, Dr. McClure continued training dogs as a pet training instructor and behavior consultant.
Dr. McClure later conducted post-doctoral research in canine behavior genomics at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. He spent a year as an assistant professor teaching canine science and behavior at Carroll College where he mentored student-trainers as they fostered and trained shelter dogs for scent detection, service tasks, and therapy work.
Dr. McClure is now working with Petropolis to create a behavior department helping dogs with aggression, anxiety, and other related issues.
Sources of Dog Behavior Problems
Most behavior problems stem from fear or anxiety. Fear can drive a dog - or a human! - into a fight or flight response. When flight is not an option, dogs sometimes lash out in aggressive, loud, scary ways.
Our goal is to replace this feeling of helplessness with one of empowerment. Our resident behavior expert, Dr. Jesse McClure, is an advocate for using empowerment to help pets overcome fear and begin to trust again.
If you'd like to pursue help with a dog behavior expert, please complete our no-cost, no-commitment intake form to start the process.
Dr. Jesse McClure will reach out to schedule an initial evaluation where he can get to know you and your dog and lay the foundation of an individualized intervention strategy.
Frequently Asked Questions
"What's the difference between training and behavior services?"
Trainers generally focus on teaching new skills to healthy, well-socialized dogs. While trainers can help with many common issues pet parents face - like jumping, excessive barking, and leash pulling - most are not equipped to address behavior problems like aggression and fear.
Our behavior services focus on these behavior issues. We start with a thorough evaluation to assess the source of the issues you and your pup are facing. Then, we design an intervention program that works for you both. This will includes medical follow-ups to discuss with your veterinarian, management strategies to minimize risks and setbacks, and behavior modification to help with your dog's recovery and growth.
"Do I need to come to you, or do you do in-home sessions?"
We have a facility in Chesterfield and are currently building another in St Charles. For some dogs, however, going to an unfamiliar place with other dogs around might do more harm than good. In these cases, Dr. McClure also offers in-home consultations if that is what is best for you and your dog.
"How much will it cost?"
The full cost of your program will depend on the type of intervention your dog needs. You should be prepared to invest in supporting your pup - both financially and with your time. Your cooperation and devotion to your dog’s behavior program is a key factor in their progress.
The initial consult and intervention plan can be expected to cost $350-$450. Sessions to implement the plan will be billed at an hourly rate that depends on whether they can be done with our trainers or if you will work directly with Dr. McClure.
"What is my veterinarian's role in the behavior process?"
Dr. McClure is more than happy to work with your veterinarian. He will send them a case report after your first session. All decisions regarding medication will be entirely at your veterinarian's discretion. Should they request his input, Dr. McClure will be available to recommend the medications he's found to be effective in the past.
"What are your views for medicating dogs for behavior concerns?"
A wide range of behavior problems are the result of learned associations. These problems can usually be addressed with behavior treatment alone. We want to teach them that whatever they fear - be it separation from you, loud noises, or strange people - is not something to be afraid of.
At times, however, a problematic behavior may be either severe enough or so entrenched that we recommend medication to help the process along. In these cases, we will work with your vet to find a medication and dosage that will help the behavioral intervention run smoothly. Once we start seeing progress, we may then consider weaning your dog off the medication under your veterinarian's direction.
"How soon can I expect to hear from you?"
We want you to get back to enjoying life with your pup as soon as possible, so behavior cases deserve timely attention. It is always our goal to reach out to every new client within two business days of receiving their intake form.
How We Help Your Dog
When a dog feels scared or threatened, they naturally want to escape the situation. Unfortunately, calmly moving away is not always an option. There are physical constraints like fences and leashes, but there are also social constraints; they may feel a need to stay close to their family or stay in a certain location.
These constraints create a conflict or frustration which dogs might express as fear or aggression. Unfortunately, this often results in a self-reinforcing cycle, increasing both the conflict and the fearful or aggressive response.
In our work, we’ll focus less on the consequences of behavior and and instead on changing your dog’s motivation or how they feel about different situations. With classical counter conditioning, we can help dogs learn that the people or situations they fear are actually safe or that things that make them too excited can instead be calming.
Many of the fearful or aggressive dogs we work with also see improvement with techniques that help them realize they have choices. With behavioral adjustment training, we can help your dog refine their natural communication skills and learn to feel safe when they formerly would have barked, growled, or lunged.
Our goal is not just to help your dog, but also to teach you the rehabilitation strategies that will be best for them. When we take the right steps, we can see rapid progress, but you must also learn how to maintain the lifelong process of recovery with your dog.