What is a veterinary behaviorist?
A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian that has advanced training in the normal and abnormal behaviors of animals, the underlying disease states that may contribute to behavioral changes, general psychology of learning and in therapeutic medicines. Dr. Moffat participated in a rigorous residency program in order to become certified and considered a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists as of 2004. (This is an additional degree to the Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine) As of 2016, she is one of 74 boarded veterinary behaviorists in the United States.
A veterinary behaviorist can evaluate a pet's behavioral problems, can diagnose medical problems that may be contributing to these problems and are licensed to prescribe drugs that may benefit these animals.
What is Dr. Moffat's "success rate" and does she guarantee results?
A pet owner should be cautious of any person who states that they "guarantee" fixing your pets behavior problems. Animal behavior is complex and results from a combination of genetics, prior experiences and learning, and the current environmental situation that the animal is placed in. There are many behaviors that we can modify and improve, some that we can learn how to work with and/or prevent and some that we can fully resolve. The results we see can vary depending on the safety of the particular animal/behavioral problem, the owner's ability to dedicate the time and effort into behavioral modifications and the motivational state of the pet. So, in short, success is not guaranteed, but always our goal.
Are behavioral problems simply training issues?
There are some pets that would benefit largely from some simple training, but many behavior problems require much more than that. Animals, like people can develop a number of fears, anxieties, phobias, compulsive behaviors and aggressions that require an in-depth history and actual behavioral modifications (not training) to help resolve them. Sometimes trainers will employ aversive or punishment methods in attempts at resolving some of these behavioral problems which may actually aggravate the problem further. Training can however be an integral part of behavioral modifications, and often a good trainer will be employed or recommended to help the owner work with behavior modifications techniques once they have been prescribed and explained in the initial consult.
Does Dr. Moffat answer questions over the phone?
No, an adequate history and description of the problem is impossible to get quickly over a phone call and attempting to do so would provide you and your pet a grave disservice. If for some reason you cannot schedule a consultation, Dr. Moffat can work directly with your veterinarian to help them work with you and your pet. They can call her directly at the office for advice. Your veterinarian however needs to spend the time and effort to help you and your pet, so adequate compensation should be provided to them.
What is behavioral modification?
Behavior modification techniques are used to alter an animal's behaviors and reactions to stimuli using both operant and classical conditioning techniques. The most common employed techniques include systematic desensitization, reinforcement of more appropriate behaviors and extinction.