A Dog Behaviourist
is a Veterinarian
with further qualifications in Animal
Behaviour. As many behavioural problems may have an underlying or concurrent
medical problem, assessment by a Veterinarian is very important.
Why would I be referred to a Veterinary Behaviourist?
Sometimes a veterinarian or a dog trainer
will suggest referral to a Veterinary
Behaviourist for a particular behaviour problem. This is usually because they
have recognized a behaviour of concern and want it investigated by someone who
is properly qualified to do this, similar to your GP sending you to an eye or
skin specialist when you have a problem.
Some problem behaviours may seem ‘not that important' but can be pre-cursors to
more serious problems, or may indicate an underlying problem that needs to be
addressed. Your trainer or veterinarian has had experience with lots of
different dogs, and can recognize behaviour that is different or unusual. Just
like people, your pet may have an excessively high level of anxiety, or may have
abnormal or inappropriate responses to other animals, people or noises.
Shouldn't a good trainer be able to fix the problem?
No! A good trainer recognises the difference between a training problem, a
problem behaviour and a behaviour problem. A good trainer also knows the limits
of their own expertise, and does not want to make the problem worse by giving
incorrect advice. These trainers will refer you if they feel that it is best for
your pet. Be wary of trainers who claim to be able to fix everything.
However, trainers and veterinary behaviourists often work together. A trainer
will help you with the behaviour modification program that the behaviourist has
What is involved?
Taking your pet to a Veterinary Behaviourist usually involves first filling out
a very detailed history form or questionnaire for your pet, and its problem.
Some behaviourists will also want audio or video footage of the dog or cat. You
should never put a dog or cat at risk just to get footage. The footage should
not include any aggressive behaviours.
The veterinary behaviourist will then sit down with you and work through the
history, asking questions so that they better understand the concerns of
everyone involved. They will want to know what has happened, how the problem has
developed, and what has been done so far to try to improve the situation. They
will then start to develop a treatment plan for you and your pet.
Behaviour consultations usually take a number of hours. Some of this time will
be spent discussing possible outcomes, devising a specific behaviour
modification program, and helping you to understand why you pet does the things
We recommend Sydney Animal Behaviour Service
(SABS). It is run by a Registered
Specialist in Animal Behaviour - Dr Kersti Seksel - together with registered
animal behaviour consultants Dr Gaille Perry and Dr Jacqui Ley. They are located
at 55 Ethel Street, Seaforth, NSW, 2092. Phone 02 9949 8511