Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorist

Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist

Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorist.

Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorists are veterinarians with a particular interest and expertise in studying animal behavior. They are responsible for diagnosing and treating behavioral problems in pets, including dogs, cats, and other companion animals. The field of veterinary behavior is relatively new and has seen significant growth and development over the past few decades. This article will explore the history and development of veterinary behaviorists, their education and training requirements, their role in treating animal behavior problems, and the benefits of working with a veterinary behaviorist.

The History of the Profession.

The field of veterinary behavior can be traced back to the early 1960s when veterinarians first began to recognize the importance of addressing behavioral problems in animals. However, it was not until the late 1970s and early 1980s that veterinary behaviorists emerged as a distinct specialty within the veterinary profession. In 1991, the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) was established, becoming the first and only organization to offer board certification in veterinary behavior. Today, there are approximately 200 board-certified veterinary behaviorists in the United States.

Veterinary Behaviorist Qualifications and Education.

To become a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, a veterinarian must complete a rigorous educational and training program. This typically begins with a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from an accredited veterinary college. After graduation, the veterinarian must complete a one-year internship in small animal medicine and surgery, followed by a three-year residency in veterinary behavior. During the residency, the veterinarian will receive advanced training in animal behavior, learning to diagnose and treat a wide range of behavioral problems. After completing the residency, the veterinarian must pass a rigorous certification examination administered by the ACVB.

What a Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorist Does.

The role of a veterinary behaviorist is to diagnose and treat behavioral problems in companion animals, including dogs, cats, and other pets. They use their expertise in animal behavior to evaluate the animal’s behavior and to develop a customized treatment plan. This may include behavior modification techniques, such as counter-conditioning and desensitization, as well as medication.

It is important to note that veterinary behaviorists do not always diagnose or treat medical conditions that may be contributing to the animal’s behavioral problems. Instead, they collaborate with other veterinarians, including internal medicine and surgery specialists, to ensure that any underlying medical conditions are appropriately diagnosed and treated.

Types of Behavior Problems and Cases Veterinary Behaviorists Work With and What They Do.

Veterinary behaviorists typically see a wide range of behavioral problems in dogs, including separation anxiety, aggression, fear, and obsessive-compulsive disorders. They may also see cases involving specific behavior problems, such as phobias, hyperactivity, and compulsive behaviors.

When working with dogs, veterinary behaviorists use a combination of behavior modification techniques and medication to help resolve the animal’s behavioral problems. They typically conduct a thorough behavioral evaluation, including observation, interviews with the owner, and laboratory tests. Based on the evaluation results, the veterinary behaviorist will develop a customized treatment plan that may include medication, behavior modification techniques, and owner education.

It is also worth noting that veterinary behaviorists use evidence-based approaches and up-to-date research to inform their treatment plans. They continue to advance the field of veterinary behavior through ongoing research, education, and professional development. In addition, veterinary behaviorists may provide educational and consulting services to other veterinarians, animal shelters, and pet owners, promoting the understanding and treating animal behavior problems.

Pet owners need to understand that animal behavioral problems can significantly impact the animal’s quality of life and well-being. Seeking the help of a veterinary behaviorist can be crucial in resolving these problems and improving the animal’s overall health and happiness.

How to Research and Find a Qualified Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorist.

Researching and finding a veterinary behaviorist can be complex, but it can be made easier with the right information. Here are some steps that pet owners can follow to find a veterinary behaviorist for their animal:

Counter-conditioning for Dogs

Ask for board-certified veterinary behaviorist referrals.

Ask your primary care veterinarian for a referral to a veterinary behaviorist. Veterinarians often have a network of trusted colleagues, and they can provide recommendations based on their experience and the services they offer.

Search online.

Several online directories, such as the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) website, can help you find a veterinary behaviorist in your area. Enter your zip code and search for a behaviorist in your area. On these websites, you can also find information on the veterinary behaviorist’s background, education, and experience.

Read the reviews of Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorists.

Look for reviews and testimonials from other pet owners on websites like Yelp or Google. This can give you a sense of the veterinary behaviorist’s reputation and the quality of care they provide.

Check with local animal shelters and rescue groups.

Local animal shelters and rescue groups may have experience working with veterinary behaviorists and can provide recommendations.

Consult with a professional dog trainer:

Pet owners can also speak with a professional dog trainer who may be able to recommend a veterinary behaviorist.

Contact a pet behavior organization.

Pet behavior organizations, such as the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), can also provide recommendations for veterinary behaviorists.

Schedule a consultation with a Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorist.

Once you have found a veterinary behaviorist that you are interested in, schedule a consultation to discuss your pet’s behavioral problems. This will allow you to meet the veterinary behaviorist and ask questions about their training, experience, and approach to treatment.

Check the credentials of Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorists.

Make sure the veterinary behaviorist you are considering is board-certified by the ACVB. Board-certified veterinary behaviorists have completed a rigorous training program and demonstrated their expertise in animal behavior.

Veterinary Behaviorists, Certified Behavior Consultants, and Certified Professional Dog Trainers as a Team.

A pet owner may benefit from working with both a certified trainer and a certified behavior consultant in addition to a veterinary behaviorist. These professionals bring different skills and expertise to treat behavioral problems in pets.

Certified trainers and certified behavior consultants typically have a background in animal behavior and training. They can help pet owners understand the underlying causes of their pet’s behavior problems and how to address them through positive reinforcement and behavior modification techniques. They can also provide support and guidance to pet owners as they implement the treatment plan developed by the veterinary behaviorist.

By working in a team approach, the certified trainer and certified behavior consultant can help to ensure that the pet owner is fully equipped to implement the behavior modification techniques and support the pet’s progress. They can also provide additional resources and support to help the pet and owner succeed.

The benefits of working with a certified trainer and certified behavior consultant along with a veterinary behaviorist include a comprehensive approach to treating the pet’s behavioral problems, improved chances of success, and increased support for the pet owner. This team approach can provide the pet and owner with a comprehensive, tailored treatment plan that addresses all aspects of the pet’s behavioral problems and provides the best possible outcome for the pet and owner.

In conclusion, working with a certified trainer, certified behavior consultant, dog behaviorist, and board-certified veterinary behaviorist can provide pet owners with a comprehensive, team approach to treating their pet’s behavioral problems. This approach can lead to better outcomes for the pet and owner and a more successful resolution of the behavioral problem.


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By Will Bangura, M.S., CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA,(Dog Behaviorist), Certified Behavior Consultant Canine.