Many pet owners often experience times when they’re ready to rip their hair out. Fluffy may have been upset to be alone when mom and dad went to work, so she scratched up items in the house. Champ may keep urinating inside the house and not outside despite efforts to housebreak him.
Whatever the case, some issues are ones that can be dealt with. Other, more serious issues, are sometimes too much for owners to handle.
A big reason why people give up their pets – dogs especially – is because of behavior issues.
When a pet is having attitude problems, which can range from separation anxiety to aggression, many owners do not know where to turn when their veterinarian can’t give them the solutions they are looking for. However, something often overlooked or unknown is that there are people specifically taught to help in these matters, and these people are animal behaviorists.
The United States only houses about 40 to 50 certified animal behaviorists, but the number is growing slowly as the need for the specialty continues to increase. Specifically at Michigan State University, where an animal behaviorist was hired last summer, students in the veterinary college get the opportunity to learn more about animal behavior.
Seeing a behaviorist is basically like seeing a doggie psychologist. The typical course of action is this:
- Owners fill out a form and explain the issues they are faced with.
- Owners bring their pet for a consultation.
- The behaviorist will talk to the owners and then observe the animal.
- A treatment plan is created that can include training, behavior therapy, and medication if needed.
The treatment doesn’t only apply to the animal, however; owners are able to learn more efficient ways to work with their pet. Like children, each pet is unique and they all have their unique ways of learning.
So how do you find a behaviorist? Many veterinarians will refer someone to a behaviorist if there is one nearby. If a behaviorist is not accessible in an area, the ASPCA website even offers a Virtual Pet Behaviorist service where advice is available from both expert veterinarians and behaviorists.
So next time Fluffy scratches up the door or Champ lifts his leg indoors, be sure to ask your vet about behaviorist services before shipping them off to the pound. They’re out there and they want to help.
About the Author: Alyssa Zandi is an undergraduate psychology student, avid crafter, lifetime dog lover, and contributing blogger.