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The Cost of Rehabilitation

Updated: Mar 29

Why is Rehabilitation so Expensive?


Rehabilitating a dog in the condition Buddy came to me in is extremely expensive. Between the various vets (due to the multiple specialties involved in the rehabilitation), the medications, supplements, special foods, equipment, etc., the bills add up quickly. At the writing of this update (3/29/24) the cost has been $20,000, and it will continue to rise.


Consulting with a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist is essential to ensure the correct methods are used, and while these specialists are not cheap, they are worth their weight in gold.



What is involved in Rehabilitation?


Rehabilitating a dog is not simple "obedience" training. Rehabilitation uses psychological exercises in order to re-program the dogs mind to desensitize them to the triggers which cause them to react aggressively; we are changing their perception of the things they fear so they will no longer fear them anymore. It also teaches them how to cope non-aggressively with fears they have not yet overcome.


Please note:


Once a dog has bitten, you can never fully trust they will not bite again.

The goal is to lessen their tendency to bite by raising their trigger threshold and teaching them to have better coping strategies if they do become fearful. However, since these dogs have bitten, they have learned that biting does get them the results they want (whoever they bite usually backs off) and therefore the risk they will resort to this method again is always there. It is actually more involved than that, please read "The Experience Bank" to learn more. It is not a matter of IF they will bite again, but instead a matter of WHEN they will bite again, and what will trigger a bite.


Much of managing an aggressive dog is in managing their environment to prevent them from being put in the situation where their trigger threshold will be reached.


Exercises


The rehabilitation exercises are extremely time consuming and must be done consistently, and very gradually, at the dogs pace. Moving too fast can cause the dog to become even more aggressive. Using the wrong methods will actually teach the dog to react aggressively and cause the problem to escalate, which is what happened to Buddy with his 4 previous owners. This is why ensuring you are consulting with the proper professionals, not just any trainer, but either a board certified veterinary behaviorist or a trainer specifically trained and certified in behavior by a qualified organization, is crucial to success and to safety.


I said above that the exercises are time consuming. This is an understatement. To give you an idea of the time required, I spend a MINIMUM of 2 solid hours EVERY DAY just on exercises, it is usually more like 3-4 solid hours (it is extremely rare for me to spend only 2 hours working with Buddy in a day, but that is the minimum). This does not include incidental things I do with Buddy throughout the day when we are not doing formal exercises. It is pretty much a full time job if you are going to get results and turn things around for the dog. You have to be fully dedicated to the process. It is not fun and games, this is serious work. But I can tell you that all the work and dedication does pay off in many cases (although, I do have to say, there may be some dogs who might be past the point of being able to be helped - I'll discuss that more in a later post). So if you are in the situation where you are dealing with rehabilitating an aggressive dog, I hope this is helpful for you to know.



Health Matters


Rehabilitation also involves assessing the condition of the dogs medical state and correcting any issues contributing to the aggression. There are 3 Veterinarians involved in Buddy’s case. I discuss the medical issues found with Buddy, which we believe have been contributing to his aggression, in my later blog post "Rehab 5 - Medical issues contributing to Buddy's aggression". In this post I also explain what we are doing to treat these medical issues. The cost of assessing and treating these medical issues has been the majority of the cost of Buddy's rehabilitation.



Why is Buddy so Mean?


This is a question I am asked often. I will answer it in an upcoming blog post.

You can feel good knowing that every cent of your purchase goes directly to pay Buddy's rehabilitation expenses.


If you don't want to make a purchase but still would like to help, you can make a donation here. Any amount helps!





Note and disclaimer: All information in the blog posts on this site is my opinion based on my own experience rehabilitating an aggressive dog. I am not a professional behaviorist or otherwise involved in the Veterinary profession. If you are dealing with an aggressive dog, I recommend you seek the advice of a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist.

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