TVBS’s goal is to assist you in understanding your pets and developing a more compassionate, harmonious relationship with them. Even normal animal behavior can pose a serious strain on the quality of your relationship with your pet.
TVBS will see any behavior problem in any species. While Dr. Haug sees primarily dogs and cats, she also can assist with behavior issues for horses, birds and other species. Common problems include aggression, separation anxiety, storm/noise phobia, compulsive disorders, and unruliness. Some animals may also be afflicted with true neurophysiologic or neurodevelopmental problems such as hyperkinesis or impulse control disorders. A growing body of research proves the close tie between behavior problems and physical disorders (pain, inflammation, gastrointestinal disease, etc.) in both animals and humans.
A large portion of our caseload consists of dogs with aggression disorders. While aggression is a serious problem, no patient should be considered hopeless. While some dogs pose great risks for rehabilitation, every patient merits an evaluation by a qualified professional before heartbreaking and potentially inappropriate decisions are made.
WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT DURING MY APPOINTMENT?
What to Bring
Please dress comfortably for your appointment. Bring any training equipment that you use with your pet on a regular basis. We also highly encourage you to bring a short (less than 10 minutes) video clip of your pet’s problem behavior if this can be obtained safely. We will be giving your pet food rewards for good behavior while he/she is here. If your pet requires a special diet, please bring along some treats that your pet especially likes.
What We Will Do
During your appointment, the history questionnaire will be reviewed in detail. A physical examination will be performed if it can be done safely and without overly distressing your pet. Additionally, recommendations may be made for medical diagnostic tests for problems that may be related to your pet’s behavioral issues. On occasion, some direct behavioral assessment tests may be performed; however, these are not intended to aggravate your pet, but only to provide some clarification of your pet’s behavioral responses if such is needed. You may elect to decline such evaluations at any time if you feel uncomfortable with the process.
What Will Help
Resolution or control of behavior problems may include components of any of the following:
- Diet, nutrition and exercise
- Changes in the home environment
- Safety management steps to prevent injury to other people and animals
- Basic training exercises
- Behavior modification and relaxation exercises
- Pharmacological support
How Long Is The Consult
Your consultation will include discussions of all of the above as deemed appropriate for your pet’s situation. Due to time limitations and the volume of information to cover, discussion of some of these topics may be postponed until your recheck appointment. Demonstration of some techniques will be done if your pet is comfortable enough to participate in them in the clinic environment. The initial consultation will take approximately 1 hour for cats and 1.5 to 2.5 hours for dogs. (Recheck visits typically last 30 to 60 minutes.)
In some cases, medication may be recommended as an adjunct to your pet’s behavior modification plan. Medication is not used in a cavalier manner, and the pros and cons will be discussed with you during the consultation. Medication alone will not resolve your pet’s behavior problem. Some pets may show initial response to medication alone, but in the absence of concurrent environmental change and behavior modification, the vast majority of these patients relapse in the future.
Most behavior problems typically have complex causes, and therefore, no simple quick solutions. Although some animals show improvement very rapidly, long-term alterations in your pet’s behavior will take time. For this reason, rechecks are strongly encouraged to ensure that you and your pet continue showing satisfactory progress. The degree of improvement in your pet’s behavior will depend in part on your individual pet, the duration of the problem, and most importantly, your commitment and ability to implement the suggested treatment plan. Specific outcomes cannot be guaranteed.
Behavior Assessment Tests
We do behavior assessment tests for animals that are being considered for foster/adoption or dangerous dog designations. We also provide assessment and information on the suitability of an animal for certain job performances (service animals, competitive sports, etc.)
TVBS offers externships and preceptorships for veterinary students and veterinary technology students respectively. Please contact us for more information.
Dr. Haug is available for consultation regarding animal behavior in legal matters such as dog bite lawsuits.
Dr. Haug is frequently contacted by magazines, television and radio shows for interviews on various aspects of animal behavior.
What is a veterinary behavior specialist?
A veterinary behavior specialist is a veterinarian that has been “certified” by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB). The veterinarian then is referred to as a “diplomate” of ACVB. There currently are only 52 ACVB diplomates in North America.
The training and qualifications of a veterinary behaviorist are similar to those of a human psychiatrist. To obtain diplomate status, a veterinarian must complete a 2-3 year demanding residency training program under the supervision of other qualified specialists. This program involves classroom education in subjects such as ethology (the study of normal animal behavior), pharmacology, neurology, internal medicine, neuroscience, and psychology. During this training program, the veterinarian is also responsible for evaluating and treating behavior problems in all domestic species and various exotic species as well. Upon completion of the residency program, the veterinarian must pass a rigorous 16-hour examination.
Why should I take my pet to a veterinary behaviorist?
Veterinarians are in a unique position to evaluate your animal’s behavior. An animal’s health and behavior are intricately linked to each other. Psychological stress can harm your pet’s health just as it can harm yours. Similarly, health problems can trigger behavior problems such as depression and anxiety. Veterinarians are trained to understand the physiology behind various disease processes and how medications affect them. Likewise, veterinary behaviorists are specifically trained to understand how your animal’s health and behavior impact each other and how various treatment interventions will affect each.
Veterinarians are also trained to observe when lifestyles and training practices may pose a danger to your pet’s well-being. The end does not always justify the means. Some self-proclaimed “behaviorists” employ techniques that are not only psychologically abusive but may also jeopardize your pet’s immediate and/or long term health.
What types of problems does a veterinary behaviorist treat?
Vet behaviorists are trained to deal with all types of problems including: aggression, fearfulness, phobias, unruliness, tail chasing, self-mutilation, house training problems, litter box problems, etc.
Why not take my animal to a trainer instead?
There are no uniform standards for evaluating even minimal competency in animal trainers. Experience alone does not ensure proficiency. Similarly, there are no state or federal restrictions on the use of the term “behaviorist.” This means that persons with even little or no qualification can label themselves as behaviorists and attempt to treat your pet.
Many animal trainers will label themselves as behaviorists. While some of these trainers are well educated and highly competent, many are not. Having the skill to train an animal to perform obedience behaviors does not automatically equate with understanding the underlying issues when diagnosing and treating problems such as aggression, anxiety and compulsive behaviors. Obedience training will not cure these problems, just as a high school education will not prevent or cure a person of schizophrenia or depression. Only persons trained in true applied behavior analysis should treat such conditions.
How do I know if my animal has a behavior problem?
Typically, if you are concerned enough to ask about your pet’s problem, it is worth talking to a professional for input as to whether you should seek further help. While sometimes an animal’s behavior is perfectly normal, it can still pose a problem for you and your family. A professional can help you find a solution that improves the situation but does not jeopardize your animal’s well-being.
When should I seek help for my animal’s problem?
Although there are exceptions, the longer your animal engages in an undesirable behavior, the longer it will take to resolve it. Just like people, pet’s can have bad days when their behavior is more objectionable. Additionally, their behavior may deteriorate if they feel unwell or are in pain. If your pet persists in a behavior for longer than 2-4 weeks, you should seek assistance rather than wait until the problem becomes more severe. This is particularly true for fearful or phobic reactions (e.g. storm phobia, separation anxiety). Additionally, any behavior problem that is increasing in intensity or frequency should be addressed promptly.
Will seeking help guarantee that my pet will improve?
Unfortunately no guarantees can be given regarding the outcome of your pet’s behavior program. It is misleading and disreputable for a business to give you specific guarantees regarding behavior problems, particularly such problems as aggression. No animal is 100% predictable 100% of the time. There are many factors that affect the success of any behavior program including the environment in which the animal lives, the animal’s underlying genetic make-up, and your ability to implement the recommended treatment steps. In order for the pet’s behavior to change, you must be able to make changes in the environment and your own behavior. Your pet’s behavior will not improve spontaneously.
Please remember that most behavior problems require time to correct. The information you receive during your first visit is a starting point in your pet’s road to rehabilitation. Follow up calls and visits will be necessary to ensure that your pet’s progress continues in a satisfactory fashion. the more closely you work with whatever professional you contact, the more effectively your pet’s problem will improve.