Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get an appointment with the Behavior Service?
Our service receives patients by appointment Monday through Friday. To make an appointment contact the Small Animal Clinic (530)752-1393.

Do I need a referral from a private practice veterinarian in order to be able to make an appointment with the Behavior Service?
No. However, we highly recommend that your primary veterinarian continue to take part in all aspects of your pet's health and well-being. We will provide your veterinarian with a full case summary of your pet's visit to the Behavior Service.

How long is the appointment with the Behavior Service?
The duration of the appointment will take approximately 1 1/2 - 3 hours, depending on the complexity of the case.

What is involved in the appointment?

Prior to your appointment, we request that you provide the following:

  • Fill out a behavioral questionnaire, prior to your appointment, concerning background information on your pet and it's behavior issues.
  • We will also request veterinary records from your pet's regular veterinarian.
  • Provide video of your pet and it's environment. Ideally, show the behavior which is concerning you, but only if it is SAFE to do so.

The Day of the appointment:

As a teaching hospital, a veterinary students are intimately involved in our appointments. Once you and your pet are escorted to the service, we will confirm your expectations and goals for the appointment, review your submitted history, your family's relationship with your pet, and complete details of the behavioral issues. The clinician and the student will then discuss the behavior problem of your pet. Afterwards, the clinician and student will go over your pet's behavioral diagnoses, and outline an individualized treatment plan for your pet. You will be given detailed, individualized written instructions outlining this plan. Additionally, the Behavior Technician will be available to assist in teaching you and your pet commands which will facilitate your treatment progress. Additional items, such as medications, training equipment or behavioral enrichment items may be recommended dependant on your pet's needs. For dogs, we include a progress exam 3-4 weeks later, where we will go over real-life scenarios and further training exercises. You will also have 3 months of email and phone access with the Behaviorist starting the day of your initial appointment.

Why can't I get free advice over the telephone?
To properly assist an owner having difficulty with their pet, we have to look at medical history, environment, family influence, previous training and most importantly the pet. It is impossible to diagnose a pet appropriately from just a phone call since no behavior occurs in a vacuum and most "problem" behaviors are often a symptom of a larger underlying issue.

How do you differ from dog trainers?
Veterinary Behaviorists have advanced training in clinical animal behavior, as well as general medicine. Due to the veterinarian's medical background, we can prescribe medications for patients if they are warranted. We participate in continuing education seminars that highlight the most recent advances in animal behavior. In addition to this, we are involved in the latest clinical research on companion animal behavior and behavior problems. We are goverened by the Veterinary State Board for ethical and medical choices that we make for our patients. We have vast experience in many species of animals and typically treat difficult or aggressive animals, anxiety and phobia issues. Dog trainers come from various backgrounds, but are not required to be licensed or certified. They have no governing body. Trainers are recommended for obedience training and common household problems.

Will the clinician prescribe medication for my pet's behavior problem?
Medications are never the sole answer for an animal's behavior problems. We will prescribe them as an addition to behavior therapy if the doctor determines that it is necessary to treat your pet.

Who should be at the appointment?
All involved family members should make an attempt to be at the appointment, so that all of the involved people can give input into the history of your pet's behavior problem, as well as be present for the discussion and participation in the treatment of the problem.

If your pet's problem is fighting with another household pet, we ask that no more than two animals be present at the appointment without prior approval from the clinician on the case. If more than one patient is to be present, we require one person per pet and that the individual is capable of controlling the animal. A video of their interactions reveals a lot about their problem (see below on how to set up the video sessions).

What should I do prior to my appointment?
There are some things that you can do to help prepare for your appointment

First and foremost, exercise safety precautions if your pet is aggressive. Do not put your pet into situations which are potentially dangerous to itself, yourself, your family, other people, and/or other animals.

You should keep a journal or video recording of the following:

  • Interactions with family members and other pets.
  • Triggers of the problem behavior.
  • What your response is to the problem behavior.
  • If your pet is urine marking or eliminating inappropriately, determine the areas and count the number of times per day or per week your pet marks or eliminates there. It helps to draw a diagram of your houshold as well.
  • It may also help to write out some information for yourself so that you don't forget to tell us during the appointment.
  • If it seems appropriate to help us understand your pet's behavior, video of your pet and its problem is very valuable (see next).

Why is video important?

Video provides the Behaviorist visualization of how your pet spends it's time, so we can appreciate your individual situation. We can also see the relationship between you and your pet, the family, and other household pets if applicable. Ideally this would also allow us to see the behavior problem as it normally happens in the household.

How do I get video of my pet?

As mentioned previously, safety precautions if your pet is aggressive. Do not put your pet into situations which are potentially dangerous to itself, yourself, your family, other people, and/or other animals.

  • If you do not own a smart-phone, webcam or camera capable of video, try to borrow one from friends or family.
  • The length of the recording doesn't need to be more than a few minutes, unless you demonstrating the pet's behavior when you are leaving the house.
  • It is unnecessary to clean or tidy your house for the video.
  • Record areas that your pet frequents - such as the backyard, feeding areas, sleeping spots, crating area, etc. You can even record your pet on a walk.

If you video record your pet with potential separation anxiety or compulsive disorder:
Do not videotape your pet if you feel that your pet will harm itself. Set up a recording device to record yourself just prior to leaving and after you actually leave. Place the camera in an area where it can get the best view of the home in regards to you're pets unrestricted area. If you crate your pet, please provide one video crated when you're away, and ideally one of the pet in a restricted area outside of the crate.

If you're video record your pet that is fighting with other household pets:
Again, EXERCISE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS. There should be no chance of injury from any of your pets to the other(s). If necessary, they should be separated by leash and/or behind gates or glass doors. We can determine quite a bit by body language between the pets.

If your pet is aggressive towards people:
Do not put your pet into the situation. We just would like to visualize your pet's environment.

If you record your pet that is displaying urine marking or inappropriate elimination:
The important aspect of this is to get a layout of your house, your yard, and any vantage points that your pet may have of the outside. Display the areas where your pet has eliminated. If possible, catch your pet in the act.