* What happens during an appointment?
First, you will be asked questions about what your pet does in various situations; you are welcome to bring videos to supplement your verbal history. Your pet's behavior will also be observed during this time. Then an assessment of your pet's behavior will be provided: why he behaves the way that he does, how his behavior can be expected to progress in the future, and how his problems may affect his quality of life. Some clients prefer to undergo assessment only, and return at a later date if indicated to discuss a treatment plan. Many others elect to review the treatment plan during the initial appointment.
* Is veterinary behavioral medicine different than dog training?
Yes, and no. Behavior modification or training, in the form of operant and classical conditioning, comprises at least part of almost every patient's treatment plan. However, many patients whose problem behaviors originate in pathologic levels of fear and/or stress also benefit from intervention with prescription medication, anxiolytic supplements, and/or pheromonotherapy.
*What if you already have a trainer with whom you are working?
That's great! Trainers are an integral part of many patients' treatment plans. A veterinary behaviorist will give you a "script" for behavior modification intended to address your pet's behavior problem. A trainer who can help you implement that script at home can be an invaluable tool; they can also serve as the behaviorist's eyes and ears during follow-up. Ideally, behaviorist and trainer work together to provide the most appropriate and effective treatment plan for an individual pet.
* Do veterinary behaviorists only see pets who have behavior problems?
No. In fact, as with any field of medicine, sometimes the best investment is preventive or wellness care. A veterinary behaviorist can aid you with a plan for selecting a new pet, introducing a new pet to your current pets, preparing for a baby, or preventing the development of behavior problems in your puppy or recently adopted dog.
* Is seeing a veterinary behaviorist appropriate for your performance or working dog?
Performance and working dogs are asked to perform highly complicated tasks in stressful environments. Although a mild to moderate degree of stress can facilitate learning and the performance of operant behaviors, excessive stress and fear can actually interfere with learning and the efficient, reliable performance of trained behaviors. For performance or working dogs who are struggling to learn or perform tasks, consultation with a veterinary behaviorist may identify a cause for such difficulty. The dog's suitability for its current function and quality of life can be evaluated, and a treatment plan developed to maximize both parameters.