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CAM Meets Michael Shikashio

Michael Shikashio, CDBC, is the past president of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), and provides private consultations working exclusively with dog aggression cases through his business Michael is fully certified through the IAABC and is a full member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). He also hosts the popular podcast show “The Bitey End of the Dog.”

He is sought after for his expert opinion by numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, New York Post, Baltimore Sun, WebMD, Women’s Health Magazine, Real Simple Magazine, SiriusXM Radio, The Chronicle of the Dog, and Steve Dale’s Pet World.

Michael is a featured speaker at conferences, universities, and seminars around the world, and offers a variety of workshops, webinars, and online courses on the topic of canine aggression, including the Aggression in Dogs Master Course.


Michael Kindly agreed to answer the following questions:

What are your feelings on how we currently manage this debilitating condition in dogs?

In my aggression cases, pain is one of the most under diagnosed conditions that can contribute to aggressive behaviours in dogs. Clients or even dog professionals may attribute the dog’s behaviour to “being dominant” or “alpha.” This can lead to an awfully vicious cycle of punishment for the dog’s behaviour when sadly, the dog is simply attempting to communicate that they are in pain or discomfort.
It is crucial for dog trainers to work as a team with veterinary professionals to ensure underlying causes for aggressive behaviour, such as arthritis, are assessed for, and treated properly. When combined with positive reinforcement-based behaviour change strategies, this partnership between professionals will afford the dog the best chance for success.

How do you see treatment options for arthritis progressing over the next ten years?

From the standpoint of a behaviour professional, I hope to see further collaborations between dog trainers and veterinarians, not only from a client case team approach, but between industries as a whole.

Veterinarians and arthritis specialists can broaden the knowledge base for trainers to understand this debilitating condition. From knowing what signs to look for, to having sources for client referral, the training and behaviour community would benefit greatly and be able to assist their clients more holistically.

Additionally, the veterinary community can continue to learn about training and behaviour change strategies that can be used in their practices to reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in their patients. After all, a “happy” patient has a much higher likelihood of returning in the future!


If you could have the opportunity to give one tip/piece of advice to an owner with a dog suffering from arthritis, what would it be?

Body language! When we learn to read our dog’s communicative signals, we can avoid aggressive responses because we are “taking the pot off the stove before it boils over!” Dogs will often display many different signals before the more overt aggressive responses to painful events. Tongue flicks, looking away, yawning, lips lengthening, ears pulling back, subtle weight shifts, furrowed brows, or even respiration rate changes can all be precursors to the growling, snarling, snapping, or biting behaviours we want to avoid.

Here are a few excellent videos available on YouTube to learn more about dog body language: