Interesting Event of the Day yesterday was being interviewed by a MSc Business and Marketing student about my role as a clinical behaviourist and the wider industry. Even more interesting when the John Lewis cafe lady told me they were closing half way through it!! Nobody was about and she let me stay to finish, thank you nice John Lewis cafe lady🙏) My interviewer asked very insightful questions about the complexity of clinical cases, how I, my client and their vet work as a team to resolve behaviour problems, and issues around regulation of behaviourists.
I was very glad to have the opportunity to put my two penn’orth in, having seen many changes in the profession over nearly 20 years on the inside. The majority of my clients now find me via the APBC register, either directly or because their vet points them there, and I have five vet practices who refer their clients to me for behaviour problems. The relationship between vet and behaviourist (or between health and behaviour in other words) is so intertwined, a consultation starts with a vet referral (did you know your registered vet is legally responsible for the health and welfare of your dog or horse, whether that’s physical or mental) and the conversation never stops after that; the vet needs to know about behavioural progress to inform their decision making, and I need vet input on matters to do with any medical conditions that affect the animal’s behaviour, or medication which could relate to treatment of a condition, or medication. Health matters and behaviour are always considered in tandem in complex clinical cases, which is why your vet needs to be involved!
Companion animal behaviour is such a complex area that in my opinion it’s unethical to do a full clinical consultation without veterinary input; you are simply not seeing or treating the full picture without it, and therefore doing a disservice to the animal and to the owner who is so worried about their dog’s or horse’s (in my case) distressing or dangerous behaviour.
If you are experiencing problem behaviour and you want to ask your vet to refer you to a behaviourist, they will refer you to a Clinical Animal Behaviourist who is a full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC) or a CCAB assessed by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Clinical Animal Behaviourists have been examined at university (MSc or PG Dip), assessed and qualified by reputable bodies and rigorous process, have to meet extensive CPD standards and are insured to the hilt by gold standard professional practice insurers, until the pips squeak! Dog owners, you can claim back our fees through your insurance policy (but you absolutely must check this directly with your insurer in your own case), horse owners, sorry, behaviour cover is as rare as hen’s teeth at the moment (very interesting to consider why that might be!!) but we are working on it.
I’m always happy to discuss this further, send me a message if you’d like to do that. You really do have to be so careful if you’re seeking help for aggressive or dangerous behaviour as the wrong advice, however well meaning, can make the situation worse and put people and animals at even greater risk. Applied companion animal behaviour is no longer the wild west (at least the regulated part isn’t!) and you do have a clear route to getting great support based on research and an extensive body of evidence, just as you would want with your own health too! The organisation that regulates behaviourists in the UK is the Animal Behaviour and Training Council. Look up their website to find a practitioner who specialises in your species and is located near you (many of us work remotely too).