A day in the life of… doggy psychiatrists

Pedadoggy Profiles...

Vet Behaviour teamDr Amanda Cole and Dr Heather Chee are Behaviour Veterinarians who diagnose and manage behavioural diseases such as anxiety or compulsive disorders, fears and phobias – just like a human psychiatrist.

Mental illness is increasingly being recognised in humans as well as animals. This team of specialized vets help dog owners recognise and understand their pets’ emotions, and then take the right course of action so their animals feel happy, confident and relaxed.

They don’t focus on training dogs, but work on the premise that the more anxious a dog is the less likely it will be able to learn anything new – just like a bullied child at school often suffers from poor grades. Let’s find out more about what they do and how they do it.

What are the three most common reasons your clients engage you for your services?

  1. Dogs who are aggressive or very reactive such as barking and lunging towards other dogs
  2. Dogs who are aggressive towards people
  3. Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety expressed as through barking, howling, escaping, or destroying things when their owners aren’t home.

What are your top tips for getting the most out of your relationship with your dog?

Empathy is the most important part of forming a relationship with your dog. Emotionally and intellectually your dog is the same as a 2-3 year old human child, so their behaviour is never vindictive, malicious, manipulative or even guilty. Most behaviours that we do not like simply stem from fear or anxiety, so we need to move away from the old fashioned belief that you need to ‘dominate’ your dog and move towards being good, kind and consistent parents.

What’s the most common mistakes you see dog owners making?

Dog owners often blame themselves for their dog’s behaviour and think that they have not been strict enough with training. This is often not the case. A lot of behaviours and mental illnesses have very strong genetic components which are not the fault of either the owner or the dog.

This leads many owners to think they can’t comfort or try to calm their pets during scary situations such as storms or meeting people they are afraid of – especially if they present their fear as aggression. They think they have to ignore them or punish them or they worry they are rewarding their pet’s fear. You cannot reward fear. Doing anything that makes your pet feel better such as bringing them inside, petting them, giving them treats or playing with them during a situation where your pet is scared is the right thing to do. Making your dog feel comfortable will actually make it less likely to be aggressive!

What do you love most about your job?

We love opening people’s eyes to animal behaviour and rebuilding human-animal bonds which have been fractured by frustrating, aggressive or destructive behaviours. Seeing dogs go from being anxious to the point of having panic attacks, constantly barking, howling, self harming or being fearfully aggressive to feeling happy, relaxed and comfortable is so rewarding! We love seeing the relief on our client’s faces when we tell them that they can be kind to their dogs and not have to punish or intimate them anymore.

What are some good online resources you recommend for people to learn more about dog behaviour?

http://www.dogwelfarecampaign.org/

This is a fantastic website for understanding dog behaviour and why training techniques that rely on inducing pain and fear in dogs, are not only unsuccessful but also break down the relationship between an owner and their dog. Punishment based training often originates from the belief that dogs try to assert ‘dominance’ or achieve ‘status’. This a concept that is no longer regarded as a useful way of understanding dogs, and is also potentially harmful.

http://avsabonline.org/resources/position-statements

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) is a group of veterinarians and research scientists dedicated to improving the lives of animals and people through an understanding of animal behavior. Their website has many position statements which are updated to reflect the ever changing science that is animal behaviour.

Find out more:

Vet Behaviour Team

http://www.vetbehaviourteam.com

vetbehaviourteam@gmail.com

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s