[00:00:00] Dr. Pachel: I think about all of those layers and when we truly strip back some of those layers and say, “Hey, let me give you what you need to the best of my ability. Let me make sure you’re as healthy as you can be to the best of my ability. And let’s give you that environment, and let’s help someone see who you are, and really acknowledge and help bring out those characteristics.
It’s amazing sometimes to me, what we actually then see underneath that and we’re like, “Huh, I thought that was there, but didn’t actually know. Cool, awesome. Wonderful to meet you.”
[00:00:39] Allie: Welcome to Enrichment for the Real World, the podcast devoted to improving the quality of life of pets and their people through enrichment. We are your hosts, Allie Bender…
[00:00:49] Emily: …and I’m Emily Strong.
[00:00:50] Allie: And we are here to challenge and expand your view of what enrichment is, what enrichment can be and what enrichment can do for you and the animals in your lives. Let’s get started.
Thank you for joining us for today’s episode of Enrichment for the Real World. And I want to thank you for rating reviewing and subscribing, wherever you listen to podcasts. The voice you heard at the beginning of today’s episode was Dr. Chris Pachel. Dr. Chris Pachel is a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, and as the owner and lead clinician at the Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland, Oregon.
Dr. Pachel lectures extensively, both domestically and internationally, teaches courses at multiple veterinary schools in the United States, and has authored numerous articles and book chapters for veterinarians and pet owners. He is a sought-after expert witness for legal cases and serves on the Editorial Advisory Board for dvm360.
He is also a Vice-president of Veterinary Behavior for Instinct Dog Behavior and Training, as well as co-owner of Instinct Portland, which opened in the fall of 2020. I do not know how he sleeps.
Today’s episode Emily and Dr. Pachel talked about meeting human needs in order to meet pet needs, meeting your pet for the first time, how much does your pet need to rest, and of course we could not have a veterinary behaviorist on the show without asking about anti-anxiety medication.
All right, here it is. Today’s episode, Moving Beyond Diagnose and Prescribe with Dr. Chris Pachel.
[00:02:24] Emily: Thank you for joining us. I’m going to have you tell us your name, pronouns and your pets.
[00:02:29] Dr. Pachel: This is so much fun. I just have to tell you this. Okay. So yes. Now, on your questions. My name is Dr. Chris Pachel, my pronouns are he him, and my current pet is Corneliuz, who is an eight-year-old Bull Terrier, mixed breed dog.
And if you’re ever writing out “Corneliuz”, you need to know that it’s spelled with a “Z” at the end. Not an S, because why not?
[00:02:51] Emily: Also, he is so photogenic. He’s one of my favorite social media stars. He’s super cute, for those of you who haven’t seen him. We might need to just get a picture of him for the show notes, because he’s like that adorable.
[00:03:03] Dr. Pachel: I can make that happen.
[00:03:05] Emily: Excellent. All right. So, tell us your story and how you got to where you are.
[00:03:10] Dr. Pachel: So, my story, you know, it all begins back in 1970, no. So, I am a veterinary behaviorist by training and by profession and what I do in the world today, I’m the owner of the Animal Behavior Clinic in Portland, Oregon, and I lecture extensively throughout, mostly in the US but getting to be a bit more internationally as well.
Um, I get the opportunity to do podcasts and other interviews and things like that around the world, which is just a ton of fun. I landed here through a couple of different chapters. I mean, I, I started out kind of down this path in veterinary school where I started to get more of an interest in behavior, but I really didn’t go into general practice with an expectation of specializing.
I was done with school. I just wanted to earn a living, and work with my clients, and sort of walk them through the lives with their animals, truly from birth to death, and I was looking forward to those sorts of long-term relationships. And then once I got into practice and really started to dive into the behavioral world, uh, number one, I realized that I love people just as much as I love animals.
And I actually shifted into behavioral work through some of the, I don’t know if I can say urging, but some of the need that was put in front of me with some of my clients, whereas a lot of our colleagues in the training and behavior world sort of got into behavior through the need in their own home or their own household.
Mine was really the cases that was in front of me, and working with clients to, to say, “Hey, we’re really struggling. We’re not sure what to do. Who are we working with? How do we figure this out?” It really sort of identified a niche for me that, I enjoyed number one and I found out I was actually pretty good at it, number two. And that kind of, sort of launched me back into residency and back into this world of saying, “Cool. What don’t I know? How do I lean into that?” And the last thing I’ll say about my story here too, is, leading up to all of that sort of stuff. I come from what I consider to be sort of a lineage of small communities.
Meaning, I, I grew up in a small town of about 1100 people in Northern Minnesota. So, I went to a K through 12 school, everybody in one building. I graduated with 50 people or so in my high school class. I went to a small liberal arts college for my undergraduate. So, entire student body, I think 2,700 people.
I don’t think I ever had a class that had more than 50 or 60 people in it for the entire duration of that. And then I went on to veterinary school where you kind of move with a cohort of about 90 people to then go on to a veterinary discipline, that’s still under a hundred board certified members.
So, for me, it’s like, it’s like one community to the next, and I get to know everybody to a really intimate degree, and I love it. So, that’s my story. That’s who I am. That’s how I landed here.
[00:05:55] Emily: I think that’s one thing that all of us have in common, is how much we love humans as much as non-humans, and so some of the joy of it is, getting to help the humans involved, not just the non-humans. Although certainly that is a wellspring of joy, obviously or we wouldn’t be here.
So, one of the things that we care a lot about on this podcast is that people understand how our topics relate to them in a way that is meaningful and applicable. So, talk to us a little bit about why people should care about our topic today and how it is relevant to them.
[00:06:30] Dr. Pachel: Yeah. So, I look at this, I mean really from my professional lens, which as I said is as a veterinary behaviorist. So, I am typically looking at behavioral problems from sort of an interventional lens where a client brings an animal to me, as, you know, “Hey, I’ve got a, I’ve got a problem,” you know, quote-unquote “problem”, whatever that happens to be, “We’ve got an issue here. We’re looking for solutions. We think you’re the guy or the team to help us out here.”
And so, for me, when I think about behavioral health and emotional health and some of the labels that we put on these things, it’s really important because for me, all of those things also relate to physical health. And as a veterinarian, first and foremost, I’m looking at all of these different lenses to say, do we have an animal that is quote unquote “normal,” whatever that means, i, I, who knows.
But as you know, is displaying species-typical behaviors, and they have resilience, and they have coping strategies, and they’re just sort of stuck in an environment that’s not meeting their needs. Or are we dealing with an animal that really struggles with big feelings or has physical issues that are impacting their ability to, to navigate or recover from stressors?
Like which element is really sort of the next hurdle that we need to try to get over in order to move closer to the owner or caregiver’s goals, or towards something that resembles a healthier lifestyle for that animal themselves. Ideally, we’re doing both, but I’m looking at it from all of those lenses.
So, from a relevance, I mean, dang, this is what we do inside and out every single day for every case that comes through the door.
[00:08:11] Emily: Right, right. For sure. I love that. So, I am going to start by giving some background for our listeners about how we’re defining our terms. When we were writing the book and we were at the stage where we were getting feedback from some of our mentors, one of the interesting things we encountered was that our mentors who came from a veterinary, ethological, or neurocognitive background were comfortable with us using the phrase “mental health” with regard to dogs. Whereas our mentors who came from a behavior analytic background made the case that we should really should be talking about it in terms of behavioral and emotional health, since we can’t really know or make the claim that non-humans experienced mental illness in the same way that humans do.
Both Allie and I thought that was a valid point, but we also know from over a decade of working with veterinary behaviorists, that there’s at least some overlap between the diagnoses given to humans and those given the dogs. So, where we landed in the book is that we talk about physical, behavioral, and emotional health when talking about the enrichment framework in general, and we reserve the phrase mental health for instances where we’re talking about diagnoses that have been given by a veterinary behaviorist.
But that’s a distinction that we made personally, as a way to incorporate the advice and information we received from across multiple academic disciplines. So, with that context in mind, we would love to hear how you talk about and define behavioral health, emotional health, and mental health when talking about non-human species.
[00:09:41] Dr. Pachel: Oh, this is such a deep dive question.
[00:09:44] Emily: We’re just jumping straight in.
[00:09:45] Dr. Pachel: I know I’m like, okay, I’m going to take some notes down here and what are all the things that come to mind? There’s so much that we could dive into. You know, for me, I think it, it’s tricky. And I think as you, I mean really eloquently, just stated, I think depending on the lens that you’re looking through, the way that we define these may actually vary versus saying these things have concrete definitions or labeled uses across all disciplines or across all lenses. So, I think that’s kind of where it gets a little bit, I don’t know, confusing or at the very least subjective, maybe about how we use different terms.
I really liked the, the way you define sort of the, “We are going to look at it from this angle and we’re going to reserve the mental health label for when there’s a diagnosis there.” I think about it as a veterinary behaviorist from the standpoint that yes, there are a huge number of overlaps. I mean, quite honestly, we’re often talking about fear and anxiety or the label of impulsivity, however, we operationalize that. We can do all of these things, but a lot of it is, you know, its fear, anxiety, it’s emotional responses leading to behavioral responses or, or vice versa. You know, there’s something that’s there.
I think the tricky part for me is when I look at some of the human diagnoses, so much of it, not all of it, but so much of it is defined by how the individual self-reports.
[00:11:10] Emily: Right.
[00:11:11] Dr. Pachel: And that’s the piece that for me, really creates that huge gap of knowledge where I’m able to say, “Okay, I can tell you what I see. I can describe what I think you’re doing, at least in this context or under these antecedent conditions.” So, I can do that. And I can make some speculations about how I think you’re feeling based on physiologic measurements of arousal or the body language that we assume is associated with fear versus excitement versus something else entirely.
But I don’t really know. And so, that’s the piece that I really have to say, even when I’m borrowing from the human mental health field, I always have to hit that little pause button and say, “And what might this look like for a dog?” You know, if I look at the dog species-typical behavior, how might a dog express the feeling of not being in control of their environment?
What might that look like here? Versus saying, “Oh, well, as a person, I would do this.” So therefore, I’m going to take that anthropomorphic or anthropocentric lens and just slap it onto that furry four legged canine, and, you know, assume that they’re same thing.
[00:12:25] Emily: We mentioned here, the words, anthropomorphic and anthropocentric.
So, let’s define those anthropomorphic means taking human characteristics, motivations, or beliefs, and projecting them onto non-human species. Anthropocentric is when we look at something, paying attention only to how it is relevant or important to humans and not how it actually is perceived or experienced by the species in consideration.
[00:12:54] Dr. Pachel: So, I think that for me, where some of the definitions get a little muddy. Is that I can borrow certain things, but there’s always that little bit of a caveat on the edge to say, “And I could totally be wrong.”
[00:13:08] Emily: Right, right. I love that. One of the things that I loved about how you talk about it is acknowledging that it’s not as clear cut as saying, “There is one definition.” That everything is about context. That everything is about who are we talking to? What academic discipline or disciplines are in consideration in this particular conversation? What species are in the conversation? Who is our audience, right? So, that is to me a really important component when we talk about this stuff. It is super important for us to define our terms in the context in which we’re using them, and that can be very fluid. So, I love to hear that.
As someone whose job is working with animals, who are usually not behaviorally healthy, can you talk to us about what your goals typically look like when working with an animal to help them become more behaviorally healthy? What are some of the common themes that remain true across the range of cases you work on?
[00:14:04] Dr. Pachel: Oh, again these are so good questions. I’m, I’m in awe of your ability to get right into the heart of some of this stuff. So. This is amazing. Kudos, kudos to you.
Some of the goals, I think about this from a couple of different perspectives. I mean, I’m always, well, I try to approach it and it’s my goal to approach it from the standpoint of saying, looking at the animal first and saying, you know, “If you could wave the magic wand for yourself, what would your outcome look like?”
And, and again, as best I can understand that I’m trying to get inside the head of the animal based on whatever we can perceive. Again, I don’t know that I’m always doing the best job, but I try to ask the question, at least. So, sometimes the outcomes are determined there by saying, “Hey, if you have a need that you’re not receiving, or that’s not being met for you,” then I need to advocate for that as a goal of our treatment plan to at least see, what does that do? What impact does that have on your behavior, your wellness, any of these other factors?
I’m also, because I’m usually being approached by a client or a caregiver, I also need to meet their needs or at the very least unpack them and recalibrate them perhaps in some cases to then say, “Hey, if I don’t meet your needs, guess what? I lose the opportunity, the impact, the animal that’s in front of me. So, yeah, that’s part of my job too.”
So, I’ve got to keep that front and center, and then say, “To what degree do we have overlap where maybe conflict between those needs versus the owner’s goals?” Or “Can we accomplish the goals, but in a different way than what the owner might’ve been thinking about initially?”
So, that for me is all sort of the goal piece, and then kind of trying in the process of that to say, “Now, what does that look like?” If we’re saying this is quote unquote “successful”, to who and what does that look like? Does it look like a dog who can now come home from a walk and just settle in and rest because we’ve met their needs and they’re able to take that deep breath and they were truly decompressed or did I meet the owner’s needs?
And again, ideally, I’m looking at both, but I’m trying to figure out those sort of variables. Which I think, okay, that’s all kind of my approach coming into it. And what do I see for some of those themes that are there in front of me? I remember very early in my career, especially due to some, I’m going to say a media personalities, who really were a bit more likely to put blame on the owners. “This is your fault. If you were essentially a better owner, this wouldn’t have happened.”
[00:16:36] Emily: “It’s all in how you raise them.”
[00:16:38] Dr. Pachel: “It’s all in how you raise them.” Quote, unquote, “be the pack leader, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, whatever, whatever things we want to put in here.” Right?
I remember those questions front and center from my clients, “What did I do wrong?” Or people on airplanes where they’d say like, “Okay, hey, you can tell me, you know, who’s crazier. Is it your dogs, or is it your people?” And initially I kind of laughed it off a little bit. And the honest answer for me, the more I do this is it’s almost always both, not from the crazy standpoint.
[00:17:05] Emily: Right.
[00:17:05] Dr. Pachel: I don’t really, I don’t use that word for a lot of reasons, but when clients approach me or when people approach me in that way and say, “Hey, you know, this is, this is the conversation.” Part of my job is not to diagnose anyone as quote unquote” crazy.” That’s not helpful. It’s not supportive. It doesn’t leave us any closer to a solution.
But rather to say, what are your needs and what are the animals needs and to really identify the communication or the conversation that’s happening between them. And so rather than saying, is that the owner of the dog, the answer is usually yes. Right? It’s, it’s everything, it’s the environment, it’s the animal, it’s the caregiver.
It’s all of those things to then figure out which of them might impact the overall outcome if we were to change them.
[00:17:50] Emily: Right.
[00:17:51] Dr. Pachel: If we were to put some sort of a B-Mod plan in place, or if we were to change the way in which the environment is being managed, what do we think that’s going to do? Or is it recalibrating the perspective of the owner or the caregiver?
Again, these are all possible options, but I have to go into it from the standpoint of saying, “I don’t actually, sadly enough, I don’t know where we’re going to land in all of this, but we’re going to really try our best,” which I have to say just from a quick little sidebar, is not really the way the medical model works when it comes to assessment and treatment.
And so, it’s really been a long road to get to this point where I can be like, actually, I don’t know what the prognosis is here because you’re a living, breathing creature and you didn’t read the same books that I did. And so, I don’t know what’s going to happen.
And so, I have to look at that even when I’m talking with veterinarians, where we, we, we have this sort of way of saying, “Okay, I’m going to look up the observable characteristics. I’m going to test the blood sample. I’m going to look at the radiographs. I’m going to make my diagnosis based on my cluster of patterns and symptoms. And that’s going to give me to my differential diagnosis that I can narrow down into my diagnoses, which then diagnoses get treated.”
[00:18:57] Emily: Right.
[00:18:58] Dr. Pachel: And this whole process of sort of working forward to diagnosis equals treatment.
Just isn’t really how behavior works when you really get into the nuance of how that animal and the caregiver shows up. So, woooo some of the things that I really try to do in those themes is act as a bit of a translator.
[00:19:16] Emily: Yeah.
[00:19:16] Dr. Pachel: You know, trying to translate the animal for the owner to translate the owner’s desires into something that we can apply or, or collaborate with the animal on.
And then even the translator back and forth from other behavior professionals to the veterinary professionals and trying to say, “Hey, I think based on my sort of unique qualifications and my learning history, I have the ability to take what you’re giving me and and convert that into something that’s meaningful to another individual. And so can we actually create a fluid conversation back and forth?”
The theme there is really number one, staying flexible in terms of how we’re going to approach it and acknowledge what might be, uh, adjustable or, or moveable within that particular case. And then just to do the best I can in that moment and see what happens.
[00:20:06] Emily: I think it’s funny that you brought that up. I started volunteering at shelters in vet clinics when I was 11 and I was a vet tech for 17 years, so I came from the veterinary world to the behavior world as well, well.
And I’m just hearing so many parallels in our journeys because I came into behavior with that SOAP framework. You do your Subjective Objective Assessment Plan, and there’s still some value to that, but the enrichment framework, um, where we’re looking at assessing needs across multiple complex systems.
And so much of it is environmentally influenced not that medical stuff, isn’t environmentally influenced, but there’s just layers of complexity that the SOAP framework doesn’t quite work when we’re looking at behavior. The enrichment framework has a lot more complexity and movement to it. It’s more of that dialogue that you’re talking about.
I just really resonated with what you were just talking about. And I also really resonated with talking about meeting the client’s needs first. We say all the time to our clients, you have to put your own oxygen mask on before you can put it on your pet.
That is such an important component. We find, every time we’re talking to people about an Enrichment Framework or teaching people how to be in this field, we ended up devoting a lot of time to talking about meeting the human’s needs. It’s not just about, uh, meeting the animal’s needs, and in order to meet the animal’s needs, we have to meet the human needs.
And that seems to be a recurring theme. Our first guests for the whole podcast is Nathan Andrews, who works in a zoo environment, and he was saying the same thing. He was like, “I can’t be a good advocate for the animals in our care unless I’m taking care of my team and making sure that their needs are being met.”
That’s really where it starts. It starts with meeting the human needs to empower them to meet the non-human needs. It’s just amazing. I love how all of us are coming to this with the same mindset. Right?
[00:22:06] Dr. Pachel: Yes. I love it.
[00:22:07] Emily: Yeah. So, Hal Markowitz, who’s kind of known as the godfather of enrichment, he was the first person for our listeners who don’t know, who took some of the more academic research on enrichment and started really making it applicable. He defined enrichment as “More like nature,” which is a great way to think about what enrichment is, but it isn’t a particularly functional definition in terms of helping people learn what to do in order to provide enrichment.
The functional definition that Allie and I came up with is, “Meeting all of an animal’s needs so that they can be physically, behaviorally and emotionally healthy enough to perform species-typical behaviors in safe, healthy, and appropriate ways.” That’s a really long definition, but it includes all of the factors that are actually considered when we’re creating an enrichment plan. In our work with clients over the years, we’ve seen a number of cases where addressing an animal’s behavioral health resulted in an increase in behavioral diversity, and particularly in the healthy expression of species-typical behaviors without having to do any further environmental arrangement.
Behavioral diversity is a measure of the number of behaviors that a species exhibits, as well as the frequency of those behaviors.
Clients who thought that their pets just didn’t like to play or just weren’t very active or conversely, they just thought their pets were really high energy are surprised and delighted to see their pet really blossom.
We’ve even had clients tell us things like, they were meeting their pet for the first time. Like, “Oh my gosh. I never really knew her before now. Now, I feel like I’m getting to know the real Sadie” or whatever. Right?
So, can you share with us a little bit about what’s going on there? We’d love to hear you talk about how behavioral health translate into a more diverse and balanced expression of species-typical behaviors.
[00:24:00] Dr. Pachel: I love this conversation. Thinking about that as you’re describing all of that and that sort of meeting the animal for the first time, I’ve certainly heard that from clients as well. And in some cases, I feel like we got there because we address let’s say anxiety issues, that apprehensive anticipation of threats, where the animal was worried about stuff that was happening and when they were able to stop or at least worry less, maybe they’re sort of free to express the stuff that had probably been there the whole time, but just hadn’t bubbled up to the surface because, well, if you’re worried about everything or lots of things that are happening around you play is kind of a luxury, even though it’s a necessity.
So, you know, sometimes we get there through addressing that emotional response. And in other cases, I think we get there because we open up the owner or the caregiver’s eyes to seeing, not the sort of creating a story around what they thought they were seeing, or you grew up with a Border Collies, so therefore you painted that picture onto this animal.
So, sometimes I think we get there because we are allowing the animal to truly make that introduction for the first time. And part of this too, I think about it from the animal’s perspective.
The timing of this is actually kind of fun. I had read snippets of Glennon Doyle’s “Untamed” in the past, but I hadn’t actually read it cover to cover. And so, I’m in the process of doing that now, and so ironically, when you were sort of saying some of the things, that popped into my head.
Some of the idea of, the way in which she approaches that sort of unlearning of the taming process, had me thinking about the animals that we work with, that they are subjected to some of those same learning moments. Where if they, because of their cultural fog or their environment of learning, were not free to make mistakes. That they weren’t free to really explore outcomes.
“Huh? I wonder what happens if I do this?”
Or it may be maybe they were argued too free to do that. You know, when we talk about some of those dogs who are a bit frantic, because they’ve been given all the freedom and none of the structure, so we can see all of that, but based on their own learning history, we’ve got an animal who doesn’t really know how to be truly within themselves to really kind of go, “What do I need here?”
And, and it, I’m not asking the animal to sit down and express their needs, like we’re doing, you know, some sort of, I don’t even know what we’re, what that would look like. Some cognitive behavioral therapy, but, but even just saying, are you able to be yourself comfortably and express those urges or those needs as they come to you?
Or are they inhibited either by anxiety or based on past consequences? And so, I think about all of those layers and when we truly kind of strip back some of those layers and say, “Hey, let me give you what you need to the best of my ability. Let me make sure you’re as healthy as you can be to the best of my ability. And let’s give you that environment and let’s help someone see who you are and really acknowledge and, and to help bring out those characteristics.” It’s amazing sometimes to me, what we actually then see underneath that, and we’re like, “Whoa, I thought that was there, but didn’t actually know. Cool. Awesome. Wonderful to meet you.” I love it.
[00:27:11] Emily: Yeah. I think it’s really interesting hearing you talk about that because I come from a multi-species background, and so I’ve spent most of my life living with birds as well. And in the avian community, there’s this real fear of parrot hormones. And I want to be clear.
There are times when a really dangerous maladaptive behaviors can arise as a result of hormonal issues, right? So, I’m, I’m not in any way trivializing those experiences, but it has, it just becomes such a paranoia within the avian community that people were floored to hear that I gave my Eclectus hen a nest box.
Now, let me explain for people who don’t know anything about Eclectus parrots. Eclectus hens in the wild, don’t make their own nests, they steal, or like utilize nest, that had already been created. And then they guard those with their lives. They won’t let anybody into the nest, including other members of their own flock.
And so, in captivity that can look like, if you give a hen a nest, then she will become really resource guardy. She will be aggressive towards humans. She’ll be aggressive towards the other birds. And that is the big fear. I had the luxury, however, of raising my bird from when she was a baby. And so, she doesn’t have any past traumas.
And so, I gave her a nest and I let her play out the hormonal cycle. That is, is natural for her, where she lays two eggs twice a year in her nest and people were floored to learn that I don’t interfere with that process at all. But because of the relationship we’ve built in the environment that I’ve arranged for her.
She willingly comes out of the nest box to interact with me. She lets me reach into her nest box to put food down for her, or even, add more bedding to her area. And what’s interesting is after a certain amount of time, she’s realized that the eggs aren’t fertile and she just eats them. She re-ingests them.
So, all of these fears of resource guarding aggression, and also the fear of calcium deficiency from laying to many eggs are resolved by me, just allowing her to perform species’ typical behaviors in a healthy environment. And I’ve had so many people from the bird world just be like, I have to pick their jaw off the floor because these things that we believe about these birds when we just let them be who they are, all of that stuff takes care of itself.
What you’re saying, I just have to give a shout out to other species because it doesn’t just apply to dogs. Right?
[00:29:45] Dr. Pachel: Absolutely.
[00:29:46] Emily: I have, I have like proof of that with my own birds and my own house.
[00:29:50] Dr. Pachel: I wanted to touch base on one thing you said there too, Emily, which, which really grabbed my ear, which, and I, I love and I think it’s an important thing here, is then we look at that you’ve created that environment and that relationship and that well, all of those things from the beginning, which allows you to say she doesn’t have trauma history.
[00:30:08] Emily: Right, right.
[00:30:09] Dr. Pachel: That’s often a very different inroad from when we’re working with an animal who has come through, I’m not even going to begin to list all of the different experiences that many of our companion animals or avian animal species come to us with. To say that when we’re, when we’re then saying as an intervention point, we have pathological or problematic behaviors, we don’t necessarily get the luxury of being able to just, just quote unquote, you know, “Oh, I’m just going to do these things that all of the things that are going to fix themselves”, eh, trauma history changes a lot…
[00:30:41] Emily: yes!
[00:30:42] Dr. Pachel: …and you know that, right? But I just wanted to call that out too, for people who are saying, “Oh, cool. So, I, I, again, I just need to give my animal what they need and it will fix itself.”
Uh, no, noooooo.
[00:30:51] Emily: Noooo.
Yes. Also, let’s see what that does. And depending on the trauma history, depending on the learning history, we can get some really amazing, amazing outcomes without necessarily have to having to get in and fix it all. Right?
Right, yeah, yeah.
[00:31:12] Dr. Pachel: Nature’s an amazing.
[00:31:14] Emily: I really appreciate you catching that qualifier that I put in there and really expanding on it because that’s exactly why I put the qualifier in there.
In the back of my head, I’m always thinking, “I don’t want other people to feel guilt or shame that they’re not able to do with their animals, what I’m able to do with mine,” because I had that luxury and that’s not true for my, uh, my other Eclectus parrot who did come from an incredibly traumatic background and had multiple maladaptive behaviors when I met him.
And I’ve still been able to create an environment that gives him a lot of freedom and agency and choice. And he now can express many species-typical behaviors in healthy ways. But there are still limitations to that because of his history. I’m glad that you grabbed that and expanded upon it because that is such an important point and it, and it brings, compassion both to the animal and compassion for their limitations and to the human who is having to. make room for those limitations. I’m grateful to you for bringing that up. I’ll say that.
[00:32:26] Dr. Pachel: I love it. Yeah. And you’ve got some great examples, like truly tangible, like because of X then Y like we can, we can look at those and see the relationship that exists there, which is just so much fun.
[00:32:39] Emily: I briefly mentioned a couple of questions ago that sometimes behavioral unwellness, for lack of a better term, looks like too much activity. And people can mistakenly believe that their pet is just really high energy or just needs a lot of exercise. And they end up having to constantly entertain their pet and they believe that this just to the pet is as an individual. While it’s certainly true that some species breeds, and individuals are more active than others and activity budgets can vary among individual. Can you talk about the importance of rest and how we sometimes need to teach relaxation, emotional self-regulation and completing the stress response cycle as a set of skills?
[00:33:21] Dr. Pachel: Yeah. It’s something that I see over, and over, and over again. Um, you know, in, in so many different variations and you’re absolutely right that for many of our clients, there’s this sort of story around it. Oh, you know, “He’s an adolescent Vizsla so therefore we need to fill in the blank or we need to do eight hours of activity, and I couldn’t possibly hike for more than, or less than five hours a day.”
Otherwise, you know, there, there’s all of these sorts of stories that we sometimes build around these animals and, and some of them are true when we really dive into the data behind it. But oftentimes the answer is no. And you know what I really appreciate for, for dogs, that’s where, that’s where I do most of my work, not all of it, but that’s where I do most of my work.
And, and so really sort of lasering in there for a second. When we look at the natural living free living, colony dog, whether we’re on a beach somewhere and, you know, in, in central America or whether we’re, you know, on the streets of Athens or wherever we’re talking about these sort of dogs who don’t have caregivers in the traditional sense, and they’re basically allowed to be themselves without a lot of influence, they really do exhibit more of that crepuscular, daily schedule. Right? So, we have sort of the morning activity, let’s check out what are we doing? Cool. I’m going to now, I’m going to kind of take some time out now, mid-day, and I’m going to go relax for a bit. And then I’m going to ramp back up again later in the day.
Now, how that actually looks obviously is going to be influenced by age and environment and perhaps by some of the breed influences as well, but that’s kind of a dog thing. That’s kind of a normal dog behavior pattern. And so, anytime I hear, outside of really true sort of working environments where it’s quote unquote “necessary” for the animal to sustain that heightened activity throughout a period of time, I really kind of just start to go, “Hmm, I wonder if there’s more to the story here.”
And even for those dogs, who we say, “No, you know, you’re a herding breed, you’re on a working cattle ranch,” or whatever the case may be, when I’ve had the opportunity and has it hasn’t happened a lot in my career, but on the rare cases where I’ve been able to talk with their handlers, they also recognize that they can’t do that seven days a week.
There has to be that, that balance that exists within that. And so even for those animals who do have the capacity to work for long periods of time, it’s not exactly that. And when I think about the way that so many of my clients describe what those dogs look like, the adolescent Vizsla who has to hike five hours a day. They don’t look like a working animal who has the ability to sort of dial up, dial back and kind of start and stop those activities as the environment demands it of them.
They’re often at a sustained heightened level of arousal the entire time, which is not physiologically or behaviorally appropriate.
[00:36:11] Emily: Right.
[00:36:12] Dr. Pachel: When I’m thinking about asking my clients, like how do we tease out what that animal actually needs? Those are some of the things that I’m looking for.
Do we have an animal who has the ability to ramp up to really, you know, sprinter type activities and then pause, shake it off and go back to something lower arousal or not?
[00:36:33] Emily: Right.
[00:36:34] Dr. Pachel: And that allows me to get a better sense of, are we meeting that animal’s needs, is that level of activity or exercise, is that therapeutic or even meeting their needs or is it creating additional problems accidentally?
So, all of those things start to come to mind when I think about sort of what does the dog need, and what’s the story around that? It’s all in there.
[00:37:00] Emily: Yeah. I think this is such an important conversation to have, because especially people who work with some of the breeds who legitimately do have more energy, they kind of chain themselves to this schedule that can be really brutal and disruptive for the humans.
And, you know, I saw a TikTok video where this incredible woman has like so much devotion to her Malinois and she’s describing the schedule, and she’s like, “This is everything that we did to get day and look at how much energy he still has.” And my heart was broken for her because like, talk about somebody who is committed to their dog, and having it disrupt her entire life because nobody had taught her to recognize that chronic stress in her dog and that she didn’t need to give him more stuff to do.
She needed to teach him how to rest. And we’ve also seen, you know, people saying, “You should never adopt a Husky unless you’re willing to run that dog for four hours a day.” And I was just like, “Ah, that’s a bad thing to say for Huskies everywhere. Because talk about dissuading people from adopting these dogs”.
Yes. They do need to run. They are high energy dogs, but I have a friend and a student, who for a living, is working with an actual working sledding dogs in Alaska. And I was talking to them about it and they were like, “The only time our dogs run four hours a day is during competition season, and we have to work up to that, and we worked down, and the rest of the year, it’s like an hour a day because we teach our dogs how to rest.” And I was like that, that is what people need to hear about Huskies. That’s what they need to hear about Malinois. Right? Like you so beautifully stated, when dogs have been trained and conditioned to work, I’m talking about physical conditioning. When they have been trained to do a job, of course, they can perform for hours, and hours, and hours a day, and that’s not harmful. But the belief that they have to do that, every dog of that breed has to do that, is harmful. And the other beautiful thing that you pointed out is that those working dogs are also taught how to complete that stress response cycle and come down from that state of arousal.
And that is such a key component. Beautiful, beautiful, points you brought up there. Along that vein, what would you consider to be an appropriate range of resting periods for dogs each day with the understanding that different dogs have different energy budgets or activity budget?
[00:39:24] Dr. Pachel: Yeah. You know, I love this question and also it makes me a little bit squirmy, and that’s cool. Like, I love that. Cause I’m like, it, really requires me to think, do I have an answer for it? And the answer is yes, sort of. Typically, where I start is, you know, based on the animal that we have in front of us, whether that’s an animal that’s coming into me with an extensive history with a caregiver, whether it’s a newly adopted animal, whether it’s an animal that I’m assessing, that’s in a, a foster or shelter environment, I typically start with what have we observed so far?
Even if that’s literally 24 hours of data, what, you know, what does this animal’s daily budget look like in terms of activity versus rest? And then does that seem subjectively like it’s meeting their needs? And then we say, well, within this particular environment within our limitations, what can we try?
Is this an animal who is comfortably crate trained and so creating a two to four hour rest period mid-day to, to sort of mimic that sort of crepuscular sort of rhythm or cycle. Does that help? Or does it create an additional problem? And so, it’s basically looking at the data. Let’s get a little curious about some of the possible interventions and then let’s try and then ask the question.
Is that better? Is it worse? Or does it look exactly the same? If it’s exactly the same and it took a lot of work to facilitate and get rid of it. If it’s worse, cool, then yeah, let’s move in the other direction. But if it’s better, is that sustainable? And so, what I find is, rather than looking at it from saying, “okay, you know, animal needs X number of hours or minutes of, of physical activity, or they need this number of hours of, you know, quiet time and dark/light and, you know, very prescriptive.
I tend to say, well, what are we, what have we given them? What do they have? And what does that look like on them? And then let’s see where that takes us.
[00:41:17] Emily: So, what I’m hearing from you, Dr. Pachel, is that we need to take a descriptive approach to enrichment rather than a prescriptive approach to enrichment.
[00:41:25] Dr. Pachel: Yes. Yes, yes, yes. I love that. Yes.
[00:41:30] Emily: Huh. Strange! Funny you should mention that.
[00:41:31] Dr. Pachel: All things, yes. I wonder if anybody else has thought of that, is that, is that familiar to anyone?
[00:41:41] Emily: I love that. Of course. Allie and I are back here giggling the whole time you’re talking because we’re like, “ha ha that’s that’s funny. Funny you should mention that.”
[00:41:48] Dr. Pachel: What about that?
[00:41:49] Emily: So, what is your approach to teaching relaxation? And what do you think are some of the most important components of an ethical, effective, and enriching relaxation protocol?
[00:41:59] Dr. Pachel: I do a lot of work with relaxation in the practice, like a lot. I would say between relaxation and modified versions of nose work, I think they’re probably the two things that I lean on most often.
[00:42:11] Emily: Same!
[00:42:12] Dr. Pachel: Like, you know, look, do some stuff, right? I mean, it’s, let’s do some stuff that, that stimulates your brain and then let’s actually practice taking breaths. So, literally let’s get the yoga mat and let’s, let’s, let’s practice. Let’s do this. So, for me, it looks a little bit different depending on the starting point of the animal.
In some cases we’re able to, you know, if an animal sort of has that skill set already, but it just hasn’t been strengthened or rehearsed, I might take more of a capturing approach, almost a SMARTx50, if you will, of just saying, “Hey, notice it when it happens, call it out with a low arousal reinforcer, and let’s see if we can just sort of, you know, massage that into occurring maybe a little bit more frequently or for longer durations.” So let you know, let’s go there. If it already exists.
For most of my patients, it doesn’t really exist in much of a fluent way when we’re getting started. So I’ll typically start out by teaching the physical posture of relaxation or at least a physical posture of relaxation. So, moving that animal without pushing, or prodding, or physical manipulation, often using a lure reward method. Lure them into a sit, then into a down, and then teaching them how to curl around, so the hips are in a lateral position out from underneath the body, trying to get that sternum in contact with the floor.
I typically have the animal up on their elbows versus truly down in a full lateral position because most of the time, not always, but most of the time we’re going to be using this relaxation as part of a bigger picture. And in most cases, I actually want that animal in a position to be able to observe and attend to their surroundings.
I’m not asking them to tune out and quote unquote, “place,” regardless of what’s happening around them. I’m actually asking them to observe and be able to maintain a level of composure and attentiveness. And so, I kind of need them in the game versus checked out. So, I typically start with that elbows posture, but, uh, so sternal in the front lateral in the rear. Um, and we work there and then we build in duration now for the animal who gets into that posture and then is able to take that breath. Cool. Maybe that’s all we need to do. And now we can just build some duration and add some distractions.
For some of my patients, we also need to then add a little bit more of a finer layer of shaping and wait for them to take that breath or soften through the shoulders or give us something that just a little bit less tense or a little bit less physically or physiologically aroused. And then we can reinforce that to build that fluency around that particular skillset.
So, it’s, it’s kind of a combination of those techniques, depending on where we’re headed and where we’re starting from.
[00:44:58] Emily: While you were talking, you specified that you typically want them up on their elbows. And as I was thinking about it, I was like, you know, when I watched dogs rest, when they’re awake, they usually aren’t fully lateral, right? They’re usually up on their elbows.
So, I just had to peek back because both of my dogs are resting behind me and both of them are curled up on their forearms, like, hips out, like back legs splayed out, up on their forearms. I had to point that out cause I was like, “Oh yeah, that is typically how they’re resting when they’re awake.”
Being asleep is a different matter, but when we’re training them a relaxation protocol, obviously they’re not going to be asleep. That’s interesting. So, what you’re looking for with relaxation protocols is a focus on setting the dog up. There’s a lot of different paths up the mountain, but in one way or the other, what I’m hearing from you is you’re looking on setting them up, so that we’re just starting from a place where it’s easier for them to relax.
[00:45:52] Dr. Pachel: Yes.
[00:45:53] Emily: And then, and then shaping that behavior from there, whatever that might look like. Like there’s lots of different ways to do that.
[00:45:58] Dr. Pachel: Yeah. And the reason for that, for me, especially when we get into kind of the nuance of this, I think it’s, especially for folks who come at relaxation from more of a, an obedience or I’m going to say a traditional sort of training approach it can very much look like a down stay. You know, “You are going to stay in this position until I’ve released you.”
When I’m truly working relaxation, the dog is actually free to get up whenever they want. If whatever we’re doing is too much for them or their interest is elsewhere. That’s fine. We’ll come back to it later. This is not about coercion. It’s not about taking away options. It’s actually about saying you can do a lot of things, and I’d love to work on this. If that’s something that appeals to you right now, which sometimes some of my clients are kinda like, “Uh, we’re going to do what?”
[00:46:45] Emily: Right.
[00:46:46] Dr. Pachel: But it really is that idea of saying, no, no, we’re going to, we’re going to work in this, if they get up, that’s fine, we’ll reset, we’ll try again as we go forward. But what I love about that is that when the animal has the freedom to choose other options, I actually lose a lot of the body tension that would otherwise be there, if they were cut off from choosing certain options because of the worry of correction, or the learning history that has got them to a point where they are, um, uh, I don’t know if willing is the right word, where what they do is remain very motionless. I don’t love the way that that looks on their bodies and what I’m ultimately trying to do for most of my patients, especially when we’re using this as an inroad for fear or emotional arousal issues or anxiety issues, is that I’m actually using that relaxation technique to try to, from an external inroad, to try to bring down that physiologic arousal of the limbic system and all of that, that endocrine, hormonal internal cascade, so that I get access back to their prefrontal cortex, where they’re capable of learning more effectively again.
And so, for me, it’s not like relaxation fixes things, but it allows me to get more reliable access to the parts of the brain that I need to fix things. And then we can touch on the stressors without going completely into a limbic override situation where they’re now in more of a fight, flight, you know, got to complete the stress cycle cause we’re over, we’re over threshold, like get through the tunnel of what are we going to do? How do we do this? Whoa, like, can, can I actually teach them part of that process that allows us to do it?
[00:48:27] Emily: Yeah. Yeah. We, so we ended up adapting an existing relaxation protocol and then developing it to the point now where it’s quite different than the original, but we weren’t like, “You know what we should do, we should create yet another relaxation protocol, because there’s not enough of them out there.”
It was like necessity was the mother of invention, because what we were running across is we were struggling to get animals to actually stay still. The population that we were working in, and the specific environmental challenges made it really difficult to ask an animal, to stay still and not be in that hyper aroused focus of like, “I’m down staying so good. I’m like, I am a champion at down stay.” Right? Which is like the antithesis of relaxation. And so, we started incorporating movement into our relaxation. We pay you to move. We are just asking you to move in this, simple pattern on repeat, and that simple pattern on repeat, does seem to induce a more kind of relaxed state.
What we ended up with is this is our goal for you. You, you come hang out in this space, but we pay you to move, we pay you to leave, and then we pay you to also come back. And then when you, choose to lay down on your own, then we pay you to stay, and just keep staying. And that was a difficult sell for clients at first, cause they were like, “I thought we were working on relaxation. Why are we asking these dogs to move?”
And I was like, “No, no, no. We’re allowing them to move because they’re telling us that they want to move. We’re just asking them to move in a way that’s actually going to move towards more of a relaxed state.”
And that was that the moment you’re talking about where clients are like, “Wait, what? Wait. I, I’m not, I’m not making them stay to relax. I’m allowing them to move?” It’s like, we love watching the mind-splosion that happens.
[00:50:17] Dr. Pachel: I love that, and what you captured too, and as I was hearing you describe that method too is, you know, I’ll often do almost more of a loop training, where we’re doing exactly or our version of that as well, where especially when I’m looking at a patient, a patient of any animals, the dogs as sort of natural expression of behaviors. Um, I kind of in, in very broad-brush strokes, we’ll often look at them as either sort of active or passive responders and for the animal who tends to kind of stress down, oh, they can rock the relaxation protocol or at least on the surface so hard.
And so, I actually need to teach them that it’s okay to move in some of those cases to really going to get them comfortable expressing themselves. And just as you described it on the other side, when I’ve got my active responders, they actually, in my experience often need a bit more help with learning how to be still in quiet.
But it’s like asking someone, you know, a person who has been active and going and working at 80-hour workweek to all of a sudden, just shut off and meditate for eight minutes.
[00:51:16] Emily: Right. Yeah.
[00:51:17] Dr. Pachel: That’s just not an accessible skill set, now they might actually benefit from it a lot, but we’re going to have to create some fluency around that. If we’re going to actually see the therapeutic benefit of it. So, I look at my dogs the same way, where are you starting from? What do you need? What does allowing going bring to the table there? So much fun.
[00:51:38] Emily: Right. Yeah. Yes. The concept of allowing them to have a say in how they learn these skills is both really important and also new to a lot of people.
Right? A lot of our clients are kind of mind blown by that. I want to ask too, what’s the distinction for you between an animal is simply being high energy or moving a lot because they’re boisterous and have a lot of energy, as opposed to what we’d consider stereotypic movement?
And by the way, sidebar, my whole time in the veterinary world, I, everybody I ever worked around pronounced it stereotypy, and then behavior analysts were laughing at my pronunciation. They were like, it’s stereotypy. So, do you pronounce it? The stereotypy, or stereotypy?
[00:52:28] Dr. Pachel: I usually wait for someone else in my audience to pronounce it first.
[00:52:33] Emily: Yes!
[00:52:33] Dr. Pachel: I will call them repetitive movement patterns until someone gives me the language, where are we at? Yeah, I remember in, in veterinary school too, we were talking something about venous blood flow and our instructor was British. And so rather than there being capillaries, they were “capillaries,” and we were all like, “That’s so adorable.”
And to this day, I can’t hear the word capillary without thinking “capillary” and how much better it sounds to my ears. So, so yes, I typically call them stereotypies. as my default.
Right, right. But yeah, stereotypies I was like, “What? What, what are we even talking about here?”
[00:53:14] Emily: It seriously, it was one of those like moments where I was like, “Wait, what? This is how it’s been pronounced my entire life. I’ve heard stereotypies since I was 11, and you’re telling me it’s stereotypy, so, okay, cool.”
So, we call it stereotypies. For you, how would you distinguish between, a high energy dog who moves a lot versus an actual stereotypy or a stereotypy.
When we talk about stereotypic behavior, what we’re referring to is behaviors that are performed repetitively to the point of being detrimental.
[00:53:46] Dr. Pachel: As you’re describing this, I’m thinking about it and, I, I’m going to go down this stereotypy or stereotypy route first. For me, that really implies a ritualized patterned movement. And at the level of stereotypy, before we get to let’s say compulsive disorder, where it’s truly disrupting expression of normal species-typical behaviors. Repetitive patterns can be functional, in my opinion, can be functional or not. If I’m looking at an animal that shows a wide degree of behavioral diversity in what they do and what they show, we might narrow their behavioral expression and see more ritualized, repetitive, stereotypical patterns.
And if those get to a point, either acutely or chronically, that interfere with the expression of normal species-typical behaviors, then I’m going to start changing my label and talking more about compulsive disorders. So, when I’m in that sort of middle lane of having a ritualized repetitive pattern, I’m looking at it from a couple of different angles.
I’m looking at body language, to try to get a sense of, do I have a frantic, tight quote, unquote “stress response,” where the animal is performing that behavior, but doesn’t appear to have any level of enjoyment or um, enthusiasm, looseness seeking, you know, anything along those lines. Do we see that? Versus do we have an animal who appears to be almost somewhat checked out from the process, where they’re engaging in the motor pattern, but I can’t really see any enjoyment or if I were to put the label of joy in their body language, and I’m not seeing any significant diversity in the way that it shows up, it’s really the same thing over, and over again. In a case where I’m seeing it, even if I’m saying, “Ooh, this is your functional way of navigating an environment. That’s not meeting your needs. For example, it’s functional for you, but still not healthy because we’ve lost all of the behavioral diversity, that should be there.”
Even if there was a stereotypical, or a repetitive pattern that makes sense, like, let’s look at some of the hunting sequences, for example. If it’s happening over, and over, and over, without that behavioral diversity, that’s not actually the way that that motor pattern looks in a natural environment.
So, when people just seem to describe some of those patterns, they’re like, “Oh no, he’s just digging. And it looks like hunting.” I’m like, “Yeah, for 47 minutes straight, that’s not a hunting sequence anymore.” No. So, so I’m looking at some of those, those variations, looking at body language, looking at diversity, looking at the functional nature and looking at the antecedents and their relationship to consequences as well.
[00:56:21] Emily: Beautifully articulated. Thank you for differentiating that. I think that’s a really important thing for people to be aware of so that when they’re looking at their own animal’s behavior, they can kind of determine, is this something that is okay for my dog to do? Or is this something that I need to be aware that there may be some unmet needs that we need to address?
So., I appreciate you spelling that out for us. Can you talk about the role of medication and addressing behavioral and emotional health? What are your criteria for including medication as a part of a behavior change plan?
[00:56:53] Dr. Pachel: Yeah. You know, this is a, it’s a really good question from a couple of different angles, and this is also one where I kind of think, “Okay, what’s my audience? Who am I talking to about this?” Because if I’m talking with a room full of vets, it’s like the question, no matter what I’m talking about, the question is, “What’s your favorite situational med for separation anxiety?” Like, there’s, there’s an inroad to that question regardless of the topic. So, like, I know that so many veterinarians are so trained to diagnose and prescribe that it’s really easy in the veterinary industry to really get into this, “Oh, meds are used for this, this, this, this, and this.”
I don’t necessarily fully subscribe to that. I may be able to look at the literature and say, “Oh, we know that medication has been proven or shown to be an effective component of treatment for let’s say separation anxiety or certain expressions of compulsive patterns, or urine marketing in cats,” or, you know, we know that meds can have a demonstrated effect on those cases that doesn’t automatically mean that the animal who’s displaying that pattern needs medication.
And this is an important way for me that, you know, in, in the more recent years, I’ve really taken to thinking about my approach to treatment almost regardless of what the animal presents with whatever label or diagnosis or descriptive pattern I put on top of that, I’m thinking about my three-pronged treatment plan really from the standpoint of “always, until, and if needed.”
And what I mean by that is, if my goal with my client, with my caregiver is to change the expression of behavior or the emotional basis of that behavior. If that’s our goal, then we got to do B-Mod We’ve got to do something that helps that animal feel or do differently, and that brings in all of those other things that we were talking about before. And until we’ve been able to do that, whatever that happens to be, we’re going to lean on management.
And now, I will say as a quick little sidebar, I used to talk about management first. Actually, don’t do that anymore. I talk about B-Mod. What would your animal need? If, if we’re actually applying a treatment, something that helps your animal get better, what would that look like? We talked B-Mod first and I find it really lays the foundation then for my client to understand, “Oh, we’re going to let’s say teach relaxation. Well, my dog can’t do that yet.”
Cool. So, we’re going to lean a little bit on management. Until your dog has the skill set for that, we’re going to manage their exposure to those situations that are just more than what they can handle. And I find for the way in which that, that lands for my clients, when I let out with management, so many of them had been managing for months, years, and like the deflated look on their faces. Like, “You’ve gotta be effing kidding me. I waited three months to hear about baby gates and opaque window cling. Uh, uh. Not on my watch.” Which doesn’t mean it’s not important or that we shouldn’t do it, but by flip-flopping, it allowed my clients to see a potential light at the end of the tunnel. We’re actually, we’re here to make something better.
[01:00:12] Emily: We’re going to do something.
[01:00:13] Dr. Pachel: That’s the goal. So, so again, not to go too far off tangent there, but I’m talking about always B-Mod, if the goal is behavior change, if the goal is not behavior change, we skip that and we go right onto management. You know, and that’s okay. That’s totally okay.
But I’m thinking about always B-Mod if the goal is behavior change, management, until B-Mod has been quote, unquote, “successful,” whatever that looks like, and if needed. Then we can lean on medication to reduce emotional arousal, to facilitate the onboarding of behavior skills or changing that emotional response until the animal has the strategies, the coping skills, to be able to navigate those, those stressors or those circumstances on their own.
Some get there some don’t, but it allows me to then always think about medication as the adjuncts versus separation anxiety is treated with this med, and if you want them to get better than we could add some B-Mod in there.
[01:01:12] Emily: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[01:01:13] Dr. Pachel: Not on my watch.
Love that, love that. So, what are some observable goals and actionable items that people can take away from this conversation?
So, I am a huge proponent of, as we’ve sort of touched on kind of briefly throughout this conversation, I’m a huge fan of learning how to actually watch, observe and describe behaviors. So, I’m a huge fan of my clients, especially, who maybe have never done this, is just set a timer on your phone. You know, sometime when you’re normally there with your dog, timer goes off, what’s your dog doing?
And initially those descriptions are really sort of like doggie is sleeping, like, “Okay, that’s a great broad-brush stroke. What posture is your dog in?”
“Oh, he was curled up.”
“Oh, cool. Where was he?”
“Oh, he was on the couch.”
“Oh, okay.” So now we’re starting to, delayer sort of a deeper, deeper picture, which allows the client to often get more of a sense of, versus just putting up, “He was sleeping” label on it or “He was barking.” Was he barking once? 37 times? Was it that short staccato high-pitched bark or was it that deep guttural chesty, you know, with pilo-erection, what did it look like? What did it sound like? So, I love starting out with observation skills because until you actually see your animal, it’s really hard to tell whether what we’re doing is making any bit of difference whatsoever.
So, that’s number one. And it’s such an important part of so many of my conversations with owners. By explaining it that way, that’s where we’re actually defining and observing whether or not we were successful, so it’s a huge part. I’m not saying that just by looking at your dog, we’re going to fix them. No, no, no. But we got to get that skillset onboarded in some way, shape or form as well. So that’s one thing.
[01:03:08] Emily: But in order to help them, you have to become a good observer. You can’t know what, your progress looks like, or how far you’ve come, or how far you need to go until you learn how to observe that behavior.
[01:03:19] Dr. Pachel: Being able to do that to and, and, especially if there’s something very specific that we’re looking for, so let’s say we’re working with an animal where we think some form of relaxation is going to be helpful. Then in those timeframes, let’s say the owner gives me a journal and they’ve got seven days at 4 45 and the dogs, I might just pick out the one where the dog was sleeping and ask them to describe that.
I’m really trying to train that brain to recognize stillness, quiet, calm, relaxation. And can we then start to find those moments, so that might be the inroad to other low arousal reinforcement as part of that conversation that they’re having with their animal. So, for me, it’s, it’s, it’s an inroad, it’s not an end point. It’s, it’s a way to onboard that skillset. So, number one, I love that. It’s one of my favorite techniques to use.
The second thing that comes to mind for me is really one that we’ve spent some time on already, and that is teaching relaxation. I think it’s therapeutic for almost, I would argue probably every animal to have some degree of that.
Again, do they need to be able to hold a quote unquote “down stay” relaxation for 20 minutes on a elevated bed? No, no, I’m not talking about that. Do they know how to take a breath? Is there some sort of cue that I can give, whether that’s a physical prompt of putting down a relaxation station mat for them, whether that is giving them a verbal cue or a hand signal, can I invite them to a relaxation moment?
Is that possible? Is that something that’s within their repertoire within their fluency? Even for brief moments, that’s a huge inroad for me as well. And it’s so, I almost said it’s easily done. It’s not necessarily always easily done, but we can usually make it simple enough that everybody is able to be successful in doing it.
I have yet to have a patient or a client patient team that couldn’t do it at all. So, I love that one as number two.
[01:05:23] Emily: Awesome. I am super excited to have those as our implementation items for this week. So, thank you for those. So, we allow our Pro Campus and Mentorship Program members to submit questions for our guests.
Would you be open to answering one of those questions now?
[01:05:41] Dr. Pachel: Absolutely.
[01:05:42] Emily: Okay. So, the most popular question was kind of a two partner, it’s, it’s long. I apologize, but the question was asked in a few different ways. So, I kind of had to weave it in together, make a little mesh of the questions. For dogs who are already on both background medication and situational medication, and we can talk about what that means for our listeners and a little bit, what are your thoughts about increasing the dose of situ- situational medication for periods of extreme stress, where the dog struggles, even with the meds and training onboard. By the way, the person who asked this question describe specific situations where the dog has, what she calls “breakthrough reactivity,” despite meds and training being effective in most other contexts.
And then the second part of this question is, are there any negative impacts for the temporary increase in dosage and what are the pros and cons?
[01:06:40] Dr. Pachel: Good question. So, the first part of that to come back around to the different types of medication that we’re using, uh, and there there’s a bunch of different ways that we can describe them.
We’re often looking at maintenance or daily medications. That’s often something along the antidepressant range. That’s your Prozacs, your Paxels, your, your, your Zoloft type medications. and there are pros and cons of, of each of these different options. I’m not saying one is inherently better or worse than the other depends on your dog’s specific needs, but those are meds that are onboard. They often take multiple weeks to really take effect, but then for the most part, we get a reasonably steady state effect over the 24-hour day, if we’ve dosed appropriately.
That’s different from our situational or event meds, which are typically given again, depends on which drug we’re talking about, but one to two hours prior to the stressor, ideally, and then that med is onboard for a specific period of time, when we know that we’re going to encounter their particular stressor, whether that be a period of separation or isolation, whether that be a thunder storm, or some other noise events, or whether it’s an animal who’s used it where we’re using a situational med for specific training protocols, like a reactivity, if we’re talking about a specific, uh, reactivity trigger.
So, we can use these in a variety of different ways. And as this, uh, the person who asked the question is already doing is using them in combination. It’s usually possible to do that with safety in mind, there are some things that we want to be aware of, but which I’m not going to get into today, but assuming that it’s safe to use those in two combinations, do we find that it’s sometimes helpful to vary the dosage of the situational med based on the intensity of the exposure that we’re anticipating. I think the easy answer there for me is sure, sure. You know, if the dog is, is, has demonstrated a positive response to that medication and assuming we’re not seeing anything that we don’t like, and what I mean by that is that for some of our situational meds, we can see dose dependent effects or side effects that may not be exactly what we’re looking for. So, in those particular cases, you know, if we’re changing the dose from one type of exposure to the next, yeah. We may decide to monitor a little bit differently just to make sure that it’s doing the thing that we want it to do, not causing excessive sedation or, or other potential side effects.
So, from my standpoint, yes, if the animal has demonstrated based on their pattern, that the meds we’re normally using are not as fully effective in certain situations. Then I’m going to ask a couple of questions of my clients. Number one is, “Is it necessary for the animal to be in that circumstance yet?”
You know, is the solution more meds or is it a different approach to our environmental management plan? And do we need to do more or different B-Mod in a way that allows the animals to start navigating those situations? Now, if it’s truly a situation where the animal needs to be in that circumstance and the medication allows us to do that without risking regression in the rest of our behavior modification program, then absolutely. I’m not going to stand in the way of using medication intentionally, but I always try to put those caveats in there because I never want to assume that we’re essentially chasing our treatment response with quote unquote “more meds.”
[01:10:07] Emily: Yeah. Yeah.
[01:10:08] Dr. Pachel: Yeah. That’s an important distinction for me because it happens and it’s, and I get it, it’s this, I’m not throwing any shade towards anyone, who’s just like, “I don’t know what to do, throw more meds at it and see what happens.” I get it. I’ve been there. I understand. And if we’re really trying to do the best job we possibly can then are there, are there some more nuances that we can pull into the conversation?
[01:10:31] Emily: Yeah, that’s a beautiful point. I, I appreciate you bringing that up. So, we have a few kind of final, hopefully quick questions that we ask everybody at the end of the interview. Uh, so we’ll kind of launch into those right now. First step, what is one thing you wish people knew about either this topic, your profession, or enrichment?
[01:10:54] Dr. Pachel: Ooh, so I would say. I mean, you’ve got the enrichment piece covered, so I’m like a number one I’m going to defer to the experts on that one, I’m not, I’m like, I’m not going to dive into that rabbit hole, but
[01:11:05] Emily: far from experts.
[01:11:08] Dr. Pachel: I, what I would say is for people who, are understanding perhaps for the first time, what a veterinary behaviorist is or what they do, when it’s done well, we are so much more than prescribers.
[01:11:22] Emily: Yes. Yes. You’re not just Pez dispensers for medication.
[01:11:26] Dr. Pachel: Nope. Nope, we’re not. Um, and I do know that that has evolved over the years, right? I mean, when the discipline first sort of came into being, that was a huge opportunity that we had to be prescribers and to do that piece, and we also have an opportunity to really incorporate that into all of these other spectrums. So, we are more than prescribers. If that’s some of the way that someone is approaching, sort of my discipline, we can do so much more.
[01:11:55] Emily: Yay. Thank you for bringing that up. Okay, next question. What is one thing you’d love to see improved in your field?
[01:12:01] Dr. Pachel: yeah, so this is actually, it’s sort of tangentially related. When I have conversations with some of my colleagues in the veterinary field, and I’m saying this kind of broadly across, especially when I’m doing lectures at veterinary conferences, it’s really common because of the medical model to again, say, “I’ve made the diagnosis, I’ve confirmed separation anxiety. What’s the med that I treat, you know, or what’s the med that I’m reaching for to treat that particular pattern?” And my question is always, I don’t quite know yet. So, what I would want for my, my colleagues to really start to embrace, even though it’s a little bit uncomfortable at first, is we’ve got to dig a little bit deeper. We’ve got to understand what exactly are we trying to accomplish. So, for that dog, with separation anxiety, as the example? Do we have a single departure once a week, that’s two hours or less? Cool. That may lead me down a very specific pathway versus a dog who needs to be left home six to eight hours at a time three to five days per week.
Very different medication plan, same diagnosis. So, I, I want for my colleagues to really, uh, to continue to embrace the fact that not only sort of those sort of tangible details, but even the level of emotional arousal that, that the animal brings to the table. It affects the way that we prescribe when we’re really making responsible prescribing decisions.
So, if we are in the role of the prescriber, working with amazing behavior consultants, and trainers, and behavior analysts, then let’s use all of that information that’s available to us from those incredibly talented, incredibly gifted individuals. Let’s pull that in and use that to our advantage to really nail it on what that animal needs from a medication support.
[01:13:47] Emily: Yeah. And from the other side of that coin, I will say that one of the things that we really love and appreciate about the veterinary behaviorists that we work with and collaborate with, including you and your team, is that bigger picture approach that everybody in the team is looking at the whole picture, not just getting tunnel vision and that’s, that’s why we love working with y’all. Right? So, from the other end, I super appreciate that perspective.
What do you love about what you do?
[01:14:17] Dr. Pachel: Oh, my gosh. I love, I love light bulb moments. I just, there’s something about being able to, and, you know, I, I identify as a helper, you know, that’s sort of like kind of what, what really lights me up is, is helping to facilitate sometimes to my own detriment, uh, in terms of helping all the things around me, but not always turning that lens inward.
Okay. That’s a conversation for another day, but I love, and I feed off of those moments where a client goes, “Oh, I never thought about it that way.” Or when we’re working with our animal learners where they try something and then it works and you can just see that little kind of glint in the eye, like, “Oh, isn’t, isn’t that interesting,” like, “Yeah, run with that. Let’s do this.” So, I love being able to facilitate light bulb moments.
[01:15:04] Emily: Awesome. I wanted to quickly touch on something you said and pull that out. We might have to have you back on as a guest to just talk about self-care, because one of the many things that I love about and have learned from you is how amazing you are at setting compassionate boundaries. Right? So, I went from a place of, having no boundaries and letting the world just really suck me dry, and like just running into the ground, to setting boundaries in a really maybe like harsh way.
And, one of my professional and personal journeys has been learning how to set boundaries in a compassionate way. And you are one of my most influential teachers on how to do that. So, we might have to have you on again, to talk about self-care and compassionate boundaries.
[01:15:49] Dr. Pachel: I would be honored. It’s something I, and it’s something it’s still an active work in progress for me too. Right? It’s, it’s an ongoing, and I would, I would absolutely opt in for that conversation for sure.
[01:16:01] Emily: Excellent. I look forward to that. Okay. What are you currently working on? If people want to work more with or learn from you? How can they do that?
[01:16:09] Dr. Pachel: Great question. So, I’m in the process of getting my website, re updated, to include my, my teaching and lecture schedule. I’ve, it’s woefully out of date in that section. I just haven’t been able to keep up, I’ll just blame it on COVID, whatever. that’s going to get updated soon, so if you’re looking to hear from me at specific events that will be updated in the future. In the meantime, the website Drpachel.com does include all of the podcast recordings like this one, when it’s launched. Those will all get uploaded there within the media pages, so if people are looking to learn more, they can find all of the things that I’ve participated in, and articles and videos and all sorts of things there. So, that’s a, a great resource as far as things that I’m working on right now, I would say that there’s sort of three things that are at the kind of the top of the list for me.
Uh, one of them is my ongoing relationship with Instinct Dog Behavior and Training That company that now has seven locations around the US, including one in Portland, that I’m a co-owner of, we are on the hopefully tail end of negotiations to get our, our facility lease signed, to be able to move into a facility, that’s going to allow us to expand what we’re already offering in terms of lessons and training, but also delving into the board and train world the way other locations within the Instinct franchise are able to do with their physical spaces.
So, so that’s something really exciting for us, including some newer opportunities within Instinct, where we’ve really sort of, gosh, within this last 12 to 18 months started to really pull in a lot of the momentum that’s happening within the industry, including a recent sort of, not rebranding by any stretch of the imagination, but a new sort of renewed emphasis on what we’re referring to as nature driven nurture. So,
[01:17:56] Emily: LOVE IT!!
[01:17:56] Dr. Pachel: What is the care that we need to give them based on the nature stuff? So, it’s not an either-or nature or it’s like, what is nature driven nurture look like?
[01:18:07] Emily: Yeah, yeah.
[01:18:09] Dr. Pachel: So, that’s all coming down the pipeline for sure, as one of the things
[01:18:13] Emily: That’s fundamental to enrichment, right? I mean, enrichment is all about the healthy expression of species-typical behaviors. So, definitely in your corner for that.
[01:18:21] Dr. Pachel: I, I love that. I love that. So, then they, yeah, the next thing I’m working on, some of the listeners may be familiar, I’ve been a part of a project for gosh, a little over a year now that we were affectionately referred to as the LIMA Beings. Uh, Lima.
[01:18:36] Emily: Yeah!
[01:18:37] Dr. Pachel: Oh, it’s amazing. Oh, my gosh.
[01:18:39] Emily: Kathy and Marissa. I can’t remember who else is involved.
[01:18:42] Dr. Pachel: Yeah. So, Kathy Sdao, Marissa Martino, Barry Finger, and Lynn Ungar, and myself, have been doing this and sort of a play on the LIMA, least intrusive, minimally aversive.
And what can we learn about exploring what we already know about how to apply those principles with our animal learners, to how we interact and show up with ourselves, and with our colleagues, and with the random person going down the streets. Uh, so it’s not a therapy group by any stretch of the imagination, but we go deep on some topics about what does this look like to really embrace some of these topics and learn how to be better people?
[01:19:19] Emily: Another recurring theme that we’ve had so far with our guests is the unexpected number of skills, we have to learn in this profession when it comes to human interaction and how challenging that can be, particularly because it’s not something that you necessarily anticipate when you enter this field, but navigating, all kinds of complex human interactions with clients, and colleagues, and the public, it can be really overwhelming and exhausting. I love seeing more resources being created, focusing on those skillsets, so I appreciate you creating that resource.
[01:19:55] Dr. Pachel: Yeah. That one’s a fun one. And people can find information there that you even just going to limabeings.com. That’ll redirect you to the Thinkific platform where that’s all hosted. So, if that’s of curious nature to you then by all means we’d, we’d love to invite additional members and it’s amazing.
[01:20:09] Emily: Well, I want to thank you so much for joining us today. It has been such a pleasure as always to speak with you, Dr. Pachel. I’m sure we’re going to have you back on again but thank you for being here with us today.
[01:20:20] Dr. Pachel: Thank for the invite. Thanks for being such an incredibly interactive participant and guider of this conversation. We’ve got some really, really amazing conversation points today, and I can’t wait to hear how this lands for, for anybody who takes a listen.
[01:20:34] Emily: Awesome. Thank you. Have a good day.
[01:20:36] Dr. Pachel: Thank you. You, too.
[01:20:37] Allie: Okay. How good was that episode? One of the things that I love about Dr. Pachel is that he is the epitome of passion talking. It is infectious. In addition to just being a kind and compassionate human being and having such a positive impact on the industry. It’s always a joy to get, to hear him speak next week.
We’ll be talking about creating a restful environment for our animals. Obviously, one of the things that Dr. Pachel is passionate about is rest and relaxation, and how important that is for our pets. So, we thought that was the perfect topic to talk about for next week’s implementation session.
Thank you for listening. You can find us at petharmonytraining.com and @petharmonytraining on Facebook and Instagram, and also @petharmonypro on Instagram, for those of you who are behavior professionals. As always links to everything we discussed in this episode are in the show notes and a reminder to please rate, review and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. A special thank you to Ellen Yoakum for editing this episode, our intro music is from Penguin Music on Pixabay.
Thank you for listening and happy training.
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