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Frequently asked questions

What's the difference between a trainer and a Clinical Animal Behaviourist?

Whilst dog trainers work within the range of 'normal' canine behaviours, teaching dogs to perform/cease certain behaviours, behaviourists must attain a higher level of expertise and qualification in order to adequately manage serious behaviour problems. Click here to see the different industry standards for Clinical Animal Behaviourists (CABs) and training practitioners. Clinical Animal Behaviourists will usually have an undergraduate or graduate degree (or both) in a behaviour-related science, equipping them not only to teach/cease behaviours, but understand your pet's psychology behind what they're up to. Diagnosing a behaviour problem and identifying the motivation behind it gives you the best chance of managing the problem and attaining a better relationship with your pet. Your consultation comes with a full behaviour report which is also sent to your referring vet. Behaviourists are equipped to identify and manage behaviours which may present a welfare problem for your companion and will discuss your case with your veterinary surgeon to ensure no stone is left unturned if a medical concern may be influencing the behaviour. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, behaviourist accreditation ensures that CABs use only behaviour modification methods which are rooted in science, effective, and are safest for the welfare of both you and your pet. No aversive methods or shock collars over here. Both behaviourists and trainers have their place in the welfare of your pet, and you may need different professionals at different times in your pet's life. If you aren't sure whether you require a behaviour consultation or training sessions, get in touch here to find out more.

Do I need a referral from my vet for Pets Explained services?

Yes, if you are seeking a behaviour consultation for a current pet. No, if you are seeking a pre-pet online session for when you are planning a new pet.

Which acronyms or regulating bodies should I look out for in a behaviourist to ensure I'm getting top notch, legitimate advice?

The world of pet training and behaviour unfortunately is not regulated at the moment. What this means for you is that without meaning to, you may employ a pet 'professional' who is not qualified to carry out behaviour or training work. The best that could happen is that your pet is unaffected or you may see an improvement in their behaviour. There is a risk that your chosen pet professional may not be skilled in using welfare-friendly, science-based methods. Aversive (punishment-based) methods are unfortunately still common in the industry, despite a mountain of research which tells us that these put our companions at risk of poor welfare. Also, punishment-based training puts owners at risk of the animal retaliating if they are scared - you could get hurt yourself. Lastly, if we increase your pet's stress and fear using punishment-based methods, you have a good chance of further worsening the original behaviour problem, too. Not what you intended, but nonetheless you may find yourself in this position. Being aware of the risks are important, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. There are many acronyms and official-sounding organisations that a professional may be affiliated with. But how do you know which ones will protect you and your pet? See my Understanding Accreditation page for more information. Pets Explained works to the highest welfare, ethical, and science-based standards. I am currently working toward accreditation with ABTC registered Clinical Animal Behavourist (CAB) schemes - the highest standards in the industry. The practitioner organisations I work under can be seen on my Understanding Accreditation and About Me pages. They are the only behaviourist accreditations that vets are advised to seek in individuals when referring behaviour cases. See here for a Veterinary Times article advising vets on behaviour refurals for further guidance. Unfortunately you cannot claim my fees under your pet insurance until I have achieved final accreditation under ABTC guidelines. This process has been elongated after COVID-19 lockdowns though I hope to sit formal assessment in early 2022.

What happens in a behaviour consultation?

A behaviour consultation is different to a training session. First, we may have a discussion over the phone about your main concerns, and how you would like the behaviour to change. Next, you will need to be referred to Pets Explained by a veterinary surgeon to rule out underlying health problems. If you were referred to us by your veterinary surgeon, this step will already have been completed! Next I will ask you to fill out a Pre-Consultation Questionnaire with information about your pet's behaviour and routine throughout their life. Though some questions in here may seem unrelated to your concern, sometimes minor things can have a larger influence on our companions than we think. So giving as much detail as possible is key. After you've submitted the form, we will arrange the Initial Consultation. This can be up to 2-3 hours long, where we will discuss your pet's routine and the problem behaviour in further detail and go over the Pre-Consultation Questionnaire with any other questions I may have. I will then explain what emotions and motivations underly your pet's behaviour problem, and discuss or demonstrate the methods I recommend. 7-10 days after the Initial Consultation, you will receive the full Behaviour Modification Plan (BMP), laying out all that was discussed and recommended in the Initial Consultation. Specifically, the BMP will outline how the recommended training can be implemented in your specific home setup, within your routine, and your/your dog's individual preferences and motivations. This is important. Though you can get training plans for specific behaviours online, they may not be compatible with your dog or routine, so they may not be successful. Depending on the package you've chosen, you may also receive a number of Follow-Up support sessions. See the Behaviour Consultation page for further information on the consultation process.

Can you guarantee my pet's behaviour will resolve?

No, we cannot. As behaviour problems are so multifaceted, depending on circumstance it may not be possible to completely eliminate the problem. For example, a certain behaviour may be intrinsically linked to an innate trait (genetics), and/or an environmental element (living next to a loud, noisy train station). If these factors cannot be mitigated, it will be challenging to resolve the behaviour in entirety. As in human psychology, it is impossible to guarantee certain behaviour change or resolution with any given therapy. That being said, in my experience it is only rare circumstances in which behaviours cannot be improved at all. In most cases there is lots of room for progression and strengthening of the owner-pet bond.

What training or behaviour modification methods do you use?

There are many opinions and methods out there describing which way is considered best to manage pet behaviour. It is challenging to know which ones are right, or may be most successful. As a scientist, I work purely based on evidence. Research clearly demonstrates that aversive training methods risk harm to both owner and pet, especially the quality of their relationship. I therefore do not use these methods. My Behaviour Modification Plans are designed creatively - thinking outside of the box to get your pet engaging with training and changing how they express themselves, instead of forcing them to do so. As with humans undergoing behaviour-change therapy, engagement of the individual is key to truly change behaviour in a lasting way.

Will you still hold consultations if my pet is aggressive?

Yes, as long as it is safe to do so. For example, for pets aggressive to strangers, and I would be visiting for a consultation, I may ask for them to be kept in a separate room if appropriate. I have a keen interest in aggression cases, having worked with myriad dogs and cats in rescue who are often relinquished for these behaviours. Thus I am keen to support owners with what can be an incredibly stressful and challenging behaviour to manage in their companions.

How long will it take for my pet's behaviour to be normal?

How long is a piece of string? Similarly, 'how long will it take for my animal to be normal' is a question that there is no real answer for; mainly because of its' subjective nature. Firstly, there is no 'normal'. Just as with people, pets are individuals and every one is different. A better question to ask would be how long it may take before your pet's behaviour matches up to your expectations. And of course, that depends on your expectations! Another component is how long the pet has been displaying the behaviour, and it's severity. For example, more severe and ongoing behaviours, or those with genetic elements will take longer to reshape, though this is achievable for many cases it will take longer than recent-onset issues. Finally, an important element of behaviour change is how much time and consistency the household can devote to changing the behaviour. For example, I may instruct a training plan that would take 3 weeks to teach a dog a new trick - if practiced three times a day. However, the family may not have time to do this every day, or they may be going on holiday in the midst of the 3 weeks, or different owners may be practicing the training slightly differently. In these instances, though 'perfect' training may resolve the behaviour in 3 weeks, in reality this would be considerably longer due to small variations in practice. In short, I cannot predict how long your pet's behaviour will take to fully resolve, or whether it will fully resolve at all. To do so would require a crystal ball, so it is wise to avoid any pet professional who offers you such guarantees. I can, however, give you realistic expectations for the outcome of your pet's behaviour plan, and let you know exactly what is required for your best chance of success.

If I have more than 1 pet in my household, do consultations cost more?

Not necessarily. If you require two separate Behaviour Modification Plans for two or more animals resident in the home, then this will increase the price of the consultation package. If the second (or third, or fourth!) pet does not require a full behaviour plan but still requires in-depth behaviour consideration to manage the original behaviour problem, there may be an additional fee. See Terms & Conditions for further guidance. If you happen to have another pet in the home but they are unrelated to the behaviour problem at hand, there will be no additional fee. If you are unsure, contact us to discuss the matter.

How is COVID affecting Pets Explained business practices?

As you will certainly be aware by now, COVID regulations are continuously fluctuating and presenting difficulties with having face-to-face consultations. Pets Explained offers both Zoom and Practical (in-person) sessions, both for Initial Consultations and Follow-Up sessions. I am fully vaccinated and bring a face mask to all Practical sessions. I shall wear a facemask unless you indicate that you are comfortable for me not to do so (where this is within the law). If you would like for me to self-test using Lateral Flow prior to your practical session or have any other adjustments, please get in touch before the consultation.

Are Pets Explained covered by my pet insurance?

This will depend on your pet insurance. Some plans do not cover treatment for behaviour problems, so I recommend looking through your policy wording to ensure behaviour treatment is covered. Insurers often require a professional to be accreditted by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (practitioners are called Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourists or CCABs), a full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), or a professional otherwise acreddited by a different practitioner organisation by the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC). See my page Understanding Accreditation for a guide on these terms and what they mean. I am currently a provisional member of the APBC, meaning I have completed all academic requirements to practice as a behaviourist, and have been practicing through Pets Explained for a while now. This academic experience includes my BSc in Animal Behaviour & Welfare, and MSc in Clinical Animal Behaviour. I am currently undergoing the assessment process to become a Clinical Animal Behaviourist under the ABTC, and will learn the outcome of this assessment in Spring 2022. What does this mean for your insurance? It is possible your insurer may cover you for my services now, as this has been true in some cases in the past. However, until I formally attain accreditation this is not guaranteed. You may be able to claim on your insurance for my fees retrospectively - some insurers ask for claims to be submitted up to 6 months after treatment has been provided. Therefore, it is possible you may undertake behaviour consultation with Pets Explained and claim once I am accreditted, if within six months. However, this is not guaranteed.

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