How to tell if dog needs to see behaviorist

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WASHINGTON — Does your dog need professional help?

Some pet issues can be solved with simple obedience training. Others need the tailored instruction of a behaviorist or a trainer who has experience with behavior modification. First, it's important to see a vet to make sure that none of the behavior comes from a physiological cause, such as illness or pain. Once you've ruled that out, seek a behaviorist or trainer who does behavior consultations if your pet has any of the following problems:

• Aggression toward people and/or other animals. "The first time a dog growls, you should see a behaviorist right away, no matter what the context is," says Mary Huntsberry of Helping Pets Behave in Gaithersburg, Md. "There's a lot of behaviors that lead up to the growl that are being missed."

• Biting.

• Fear, says Hilary Bolea of Old Town Dog Behavior in Virginia: "Any time a dog is becoming afraid of something, and increasingly afraid over time."

• Resource-guarding over food or toys.

• Separation anxiety.

• House-training issues beyond puppyhood.