Vet behaviorist helps dogs and their owners

Vet behaviorist helps dogs and their owners


by Pat Dooris

Bio | Email | Follow: @PatDoorisKGW

Posted on April 27, 2012 at 4:05 PM

Updated Friday, Apr 27 at 4:26 PM

PORTLAND - Dr. Chris Pachel is making a house call.

“Good morning!" He says to Gail, the woman inside the home.

Although it’s actually quite hard to hear. Charlie the dog is barking at every other word.

Here’s what it sounds like.

“Bark! Good morning, bark! How are you this morning? Bark! Ha, ha, ha, bark! Good to see you Gail, bark!”

The problem here speaks for itself, nonstop.

“So I try to keep him on that side, bark! bark! of the gate okay, Woof! Or up in the bedroom, bark, bark!" Gail and Charlie say together.

She’s explaining her dog to Pachel, who is a vet and an animal behaviorist. He’s here to help them both.

“This will go, woof! on every time there's someone going by, woof! runners especially and in this neighborhood, woof! woof! that’s every 15 or 20 minutes. Woof there's a runner," they say, continuing their chorus.

Charlie is a three-year-old labradoodle. His owner, Gail loves him, but not his behavior.

“I find myself running after him like a totally crazy person trying to contain his behavior,” she said.

Gail has spent $4,000 on five different trainers. Nothing worked. The doctor is here with a new plan.

First, he wants to understand Charlie’s patterns.

“Is he better or worse at particular times of day? Morning versus mid day versus evening or does it more depend on what's happening? Stimulus activated?"

Pachel is a licensed vet who spent an extra three-and-a-half years learning animal behavior before becoming board certified. He says he’s the only active, board-certified veterinarian behaviorist in the Portland area.

He asks Gail about Charlie's moods, possible medical issues and situations when he overreacts.

“Does it matter whether the person on the bike or the jogger is coming towards him or sort of sneaking up from behind?" he asks.

Then he moves on to psychology and begins to teach Gail how to train Charlie to focus and relax.

“As we bring home work stress or family stress or moving or whatever those changes are in our environment and our animals need to accommodate that as well. And so that has the potential to impact the relationship as well as their behavior," said Dr. Pachel.

He starts with an exercise to block out triggers to bad behavior. He teaches Gail how to get Charlie's full attention and look her in the eye.

It’s all about positive reward. He takes a small dog treat and holding it in front of him waist high tells Charlie to sit. The dog can smell the treat and follows the command. Next he raises his hand to the middle of his forehead and says, “watch me.”

Charlie’s eyes are locked onto Dr. Pachel’s. The behaviorist pauses a moment, praises Charlie then lowers his hand and gives him the treat.

A moment later, it's Gail's turn.

“So let’s try it one more time to make sure we don’t end on the wrong behavior,” said Dr. Pachel.

“Sit,” said Gail.

“Excellent,” said Dr. Pachel.

“Watch me,” said Gail.

“Very nice, bring that food treat right down into him beautiful, see? He's getting rewarded while he's doing the behavior that we want him to do,” said Dr. Pachel.

Charlie's trainers have used punishment in the past. The doctor focuses on positive techniques.

“That's one of the key things of impulse control,” said Dr. Pachel. “He actually needs to learn to control those impulses," Dr. Pachel said.

The training is just beginning but already Gail is seeing a difference.

“I'm very happy I found Dr. Chris and I can help Charlie start adapting to his environment,” she said.

Dr. Pachel charges $220 an hour. To learn more about him, check out