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Immediate Advice To Give Clients
Veterinarians and their staff can provide valuable immediate help to pet owners who call with a concern about a pet’s behavior.
First, be empathetic.
While treatment recommendations may include changing the way the client interacts with the pet, most behavior problems are not the owner’s fault. Clients are often embarrassed to call for help so make sure they reach a receptive ear. Help IS available even you choose not to offer it directly through your clinic. Your referrals to veterinary behaviorists and reward-based trainers are important, as is your immediate advice to keep a bad situation from getting worse.
“Safety first” when aggression is a concern.
Tell clients how important it is to prevent the pet from hurting someone or even rehearsing the ‘bad’ behavior. Until they get help, they should keep the pet out of any situation where aggression is a concern. This may mean confining the pet when visitors come to the house or using baby gates and doors to completely separate the pet from a baby or from other pets. If the pet is aggressive in response to something the owner does, have the owner avoid that action until their behavior appointment. Be specific -- and document your recommendations in the pet’s medical record.
Research has shown that confrontational approaches to behavior problems is associated with a GREATER risk of aggression. Owners should prevent, NOT punish the pet for problem behaviors and wait for qualified help for an effective long-term plan.