I am very proud to be able to tell you that as of the 25th August this year I have been officially recognised by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) as an Advanced Practitioner in Companion Animal Behaviour.
Inclusion on the list of Advanced Practitioners demonstrates that I hold an appropriate qualification and have stayed up to date in the area of Companion Animal Behaviour. Pet owners looking for a vet with behavioural qualifications can search the RCVS database as can Veterinary Surgeons looking to refer a behaviour case.
In this largely unregulated field it is important that you ensure that the behaviourist that you are working with has the knowledge and experience to formulate a plan for you and your pets. As a qualified Veterinary Surgeon I am also able to prescribe medication if this is appropriate for your pet.
I wanted to introduce you all to the latest member of our family. This is Storm an English Springer Spaniel. Storm has been with us since February when he was just 4 months old. He was rehomed to us from a family member.
Storm was purchased as a pup and initially much loved and wanted but it became clear as he got older that he was not suited to an urban home with owners who both worked full time. At this point we agreed to take him on.
We have been very carefully introducing Storm to our existing dogs and so far he seems to be settling in well. Storm had been introduced to lots of people and is confident with people of all ages, he is good with traffic, copes with being left for short periods and travels well. However he had virtually no experience of other dogs and minimal training.
We have been making lots of gradual introductions with friendly gentle adult dogs and his confidence is growing but I suspect that this lack of early experience will always be evident in his initial anxiety towards new dogs.
I have my fingers crossed as I say this but I think he has cracked house training at last and his recall is improving (as long as there are not any birds around!). He is a bright little chap and has quickly learnt to respond to a range of cues.
Storms story is all too familiar. Many young dogs end up being rehomed or in rescue when their owners realise how much work is involved in owning a young dog. Cute puppies will need to be taught where to toilet and yes there will be accidents, they will nip (and their teeth are sharp), they will chew things (Despite an array of appropriate toys and chews Storm has damaged the woodwork in our utility room and pulled up a section of flooring!) and they rapidly become adolescents with a whole new set of challenges.
If you are thinking of getting a new puppy consider is there someone at home to housetrain the puppy? Initially they will need to be taken outside at least every hour. What breed / size of dog is appropriate for your house and lifestyle. Springer Spaniels are a very active breed (At 8 months Storm requires both physical and mental exercise in order for him to be able to settle and relax). Can you afford all the costs that go along with dog ownership? Food, toys, vet fees, insurance, training costs, bowls, beds, id discs, collars and lots more soon add up. If you work full time then dog ownership is probably not for you unless you are planning to employ a dog walker, use doggy daycare or have friends / family who are happy to care for the dog when you are at work. We are very lucky as my husband works from home and so our dogs are only ever left for short periods.
Do you have other pets and if so how would they cope with a new puppy? Finally but no less importantly are you able to provide a home for a dog for the next 15 years?
If you would like advice on choosing a puppy or rescue dog give me a call at the practice – 01566 772211. If you would like help integrating a new pet into your household why not book a new pet behaviour consultation.
Fireworks season is fast approaching. Unfortunately this can be a very stressful time for our pets (and for us as owners). An estimated 45% of the UK dog population are thought to show signs of fear when they hear fireworks. One of my own rescue dogs suffered from severe sound phobias so I am very aware of the distress that this can cause but also the huge difference that treatment made to her life. Sound phobias can be treated and a combination of good preparation, behaviour modification and appropriate medication can be very effective. Don’t let fears and phobias make your pets life miserable.
Throughout the run up to fireworks night I will be offering pre-fireworks consultations (charged at our standard first consultation fee) to discuss your pets fears and the most effective treatment to help them cope with the fireworks season. In addition everyone attending a pre-fireworks consultation will get a voucher for 10% off the price of a full behaviour consultation allowing me to fully assess your pet and formulate a long term plan to address their fears and any other behavioural issues.
The following link gives some tips on preparing for fireworks night.
All too often cats can find their Veterinary visits a bit stressful. We love to see cats that come out of their carrier purring and stroll around as if they own the place. If your cat is not quite so keen you may find that the following tips can help to improve your cats experience.
- Make sure that you have a suitable cat carrier. Top opening boxes allow for much easier access to your cat and make getting them in and out much less stressful. Even better are the carriers which also come apart in the middle which often mean we can examine your cat whilst they remain in the lower half of their box. A simple wire cat box can be made much more cat friendly simply by covering it with a big towel so that your cat feels more secure.
- Preparation is key. Don’t just produce the dreaded carrier on the day of the vet visit, instead leave it out with the door open and some comfy blankets inside. Let you cat get used to it, put a few treats in there every so often, let them use it as a bed. Make the cat carrier a really great place to be!
- When you book your visit request a cat only clinic so that your cat can be assured of not having to deal with dogs whilst in the practice. Let reception know that your cat can be anxious so they can book you a longer appointment and fit you into a less busy time.
- On the day of the visit make sure the cat flap is locked (and visually covered so that your cat doesn’t try to get out through the locked flap and become stressed!) in plenty of time. A last minute panic that the cat has escaped doesn’t help anyone’s stress levels! Spraying the inside of the carrier with Feliway (an analogue of a feline facial hormone which can help cats to feel more relaxed) 20 mins prior to loading the cat can be helpful.
- Next make sure the carrier is securely fixed in your car and cover it with a big towel (even better if this towel has been in your cats favourite sleeping place for a few days so that it smells reassuringly of them and home).
- If your cat is motivated by food consider bringing some of their favourite treats with you to further enhance their experience.
- When you arrive at the practice take a seat in the cat waiting area. This further ensures that your cat does not come into contact with dogs. Place your carrier on one of our benches so it is off the floor and turn it so that your cat is not looking at any other animals in the waiting area.
- Finally let the vet know that your cat can be anxious.
We look forward to seeing you and your chilled out cats soon!
Emma Brown, our behaviourist, has gained her Post Graduate Diploma in Applied Animal Behaviour & Welfare with a distinction.