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Veterinary Behavior Consultations
Ellen M. Lindell, VMD, DACVB
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of our frequently asked questions, but please contact us if you would like any additional information!
What is a veterinary behaviorist?
A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian who has completed a specialized training program in veterinary behavior and achieved board certification.
What does this training involve?
After earning a veterinary degree and completing an internship, a veterinarian may apply for a residency or training program in veterinary behavior. During this 3 - 4 year training program, behavior of all species of mammals and birds is studied.
These are the general requirements of the training program:
1. Manage 200 cases under supervision of a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB).
2. Submit three case reports for review by a Committee of ACVB Diplomates.
3. Publish an original research paper in a peer-reviewed journal.
4. Pass a 2-day comprehensive examination.
What does it mean to be a "board-certified" behaviorist?
After completing the specialty training program and passing the examination, a veterinarian can be considered board-certified. Board-certified specialists are known as Diplomates. Diplomates must stay current, attending and presenting at professional continuing education meetings.
How is a veterinary behaviorist different from a dog trainer?
There are many amazing dog trainers. Veterinary behaviorists and dog trainers complement each other. Dog trainers can help you teach your dog basic skills as well as advanced tasks. Most trainers offer foundation lessons in socialization and manners to help young dogs develop to their fullest potential. Some trainers have pursued higher level training of their own and are able to help with mild cases of fear or distress related to being left alone. Dogs with complex behavioral problems including aggressive behaviors generally need an assessment that is beyond the scope of most dog trainers. Underlying medical conditions can contribute to the development of serious behavior problems. Once the behavior has been evaluated, a dog trainer can be part of the team that helps you implement your behavior modification plan.
What then is a certified dog trainer?
The term "certified" is not always very revealing. For that matter, the term "behaviorist" can be confusing as well. You may find some people with no specific credentials still use these terms. It is up to you to learn about a "certified trainer" or "behaviorist's" education and knowledge base. There are many wonderful training opportunities for trainers and trainers and veterinary behaviorists often work side by side. If you have questions about a specific trainer's credentials, you may discuss that with Dr. Lindell or with your primary care doctor.
What is a CAAB?
A Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist, or CAAB, is an individual who has received certification from an organization called the Animal Behavior Society. The ABS is a group of highly educated scientists that study behavior in all animals. CAABs are members of this organization that have a special interest in the practical application of behavior. To earn the title CAAB, the candidate must meet rigorous standards, not unlike those required to be board-certified veterinarians. CAABs are experts in researching behavior in animals, evaluating behavioral problems, and applying behavior modification. However, CAABs usually do not have a medical education and are not licensed to prescribe medication or evaluate underlying medical conditions that affect behavior.
Do I need a veterinary behaviorist or should I call a trainer?
Veterinary behaviorists are trained to treat conditions that are purely behavioral as well as those that may have an underlying medical basis.
Trainers can teach you how to effectively reinforce behaviors but may not have the knowledge base needed to determine the basis of a complex behavioral concern. Aggression, anxiety, and phobias are complex and can be challenging to assess. If you have already worked with a trainer and the problem is not responding as expected, then an evaluation by a veterinary behaviorist is recommended.
My trainer would like to help me. Do you work with trainers?
Of course! It will be important that we work as a team and agree on methodology. Otherwise your dog may become frustrated or confused.
Will I need to work with a trainer after my appointment with Dr. Lindell?
Only if you want to. We are available to help you with behavior modification sessions. If you would like to work with your own personal trainer, let us know as we may suggest that your trainer attend your consultation.
Just how much time per day will I need to spend training my dog after the consultation?
Typically, not that much time at all. Most behavior modification exercises require only a few minutes of practice each day.
What method does Dr. Lindell use?
As a veterinarian, Dr. Lindell will treat your pet humanely. She will always explain the rationale for her treatment recommendations to be sure that you are comfortable and have no questions or concerns. Behavior modification strategies focus on non-confrontational techniques.
What is Dr. Lindell's success rate?
It is difficult to calculate a meaningful numerical success rate. The outcome or prognosis for an individual pet is affected by many factors. Underlying medical conditions, the number and severity of behavioral concerns, and even the personalities of household people all affect the success of treatment.
How many visits will I need?
Some behavioral concerns can be resolved in one visit. Complex behavioral concerns may need to be addressed in stages. Once Dr. Lindell has evaluated your pet, she will be able to determine an ideal follow up schedule for you. Progress appointments are usually spaced about 4 - 6 weeks apart.
How will Dr. Lindell get my pet to exhibit the behavior?
It is not usually necessary for Dr. Lindell to see your pet engaging in a problematic behavior, particularly if that behavior poses a risk to a person or another animal. Many behavior problems are rooted in anxiety or aggression in which case it can actually be detrimental to attempt to elicit the behavior. In fact, treatment is most likely to be successful if your pet is never again motivated to perform the problem behavior.
It is particularly helpful for Dr. Lindell to see acceptable behaviors which can positively affect the treatment program. She will notice the subtle changes in posture that reflect signs of anxiety or aggression and will point these out to you during the visit. When you return home to begin workin g with the behavioral treatment plan, you will be able to recognize these postures so that you can more effectively modify your pet's behavior.
If it is safe, you are welcome to provide a videorecording of behaviors that you would like Dr. Lindell to observe and evaluate. It is essential that you do not put any person or pet at risk for the purpose of obtaining a videorecording.
What if I don't want my pet to take medication?
Dr. Lindell does not prescribe medication for every patient. During your consultation, Dr. Lindell will assess your specific situation. A recommendation to medicate will be based on several factors. First, the behavioral diagnosis will be considered. Some conditions have been shown to improve more rapidly when psychoactive medications are used. In addition, your pet's overall health and your own preferences will be considered before any medication is prescribed. Dr. Lindell will never require that you medicate your pet. She will explain her recommendations and encourage you to consult with your own primary care veterinarian if you have any special concerns.
Do you have a cancellation policy?
When you schedule an initial consultation at any of our offices, we will ask for a credit card to reserve the appointment. The $150 reservation fee is non-refundable and will be applied to the cost of your pet's appointment.
If you reschedule more than 72 hours in advance of your original appointment date, we will apply the reservation fee a single time to your new appointment. If an appointment is cancelled or is rescheduled less than 72 hours in advance of the scheduled appointment, the $150 reservation fee will be forfeited and no refund will be given.
What if I have an emergency and need to cancel my appointment?
We understand that unexpected events can occur. We certainly don't want you to come to a visit if you or your pet are not feeling well. The cancellation charge will be applied a single time to another appointment that is scheduled and completed within one month of the original date.
Why do you charge a reservation fee?
From the time you schedule your appointment, we begin our preparation for your consultation. Arrangements are made at the appropriate facilities and team member schedules are coordinated. During the days before your visit, we carefully review medical records, videorecordings, and behavioral history forms so that we can be as efficient as possible during the actual consultation. We are committed to doing our best to help you, and we appreciate that paying a reservation fee represents a commitment on your part as well.
With so many other sources of information, how can I be sure that my pet really needs to see a veterinary behaviorist?
Indeed the term "information overload" is a valid one. It can be difficult to separate facts from fiction. Dr. Lindell will always explain the rationale behind her treatment recommendations. If there has been a study about a treatment that might help your pet, she will share the evidence with you.
Perhaps you have already tried several techniques without success, and you are not ready to invest more time unless there is hope of improvement. We offer assessment-only appointments. These shorter consultations are a perfect opportunity for you to discuss prior treatments and to learn whether more effective interventions are available before committing to additional treatment.