Do I need to see a veterinary behaviourist?

Your pet has likely been referred to BBVS because your regular veterinarian or trainer has recognised that your pet is displaying abnormal behaviour and needs further help. Or you may not have been referred – you may have been given our details from a friend, or found us yourself on the internet because you are worried about your pet’s behaviour.

It is sometimes difficult to know which way to go to get help because, when it comes to pet behaviour, EVERYONE has an opinion! It can feel a bit overwhelming especially as often the advice you receive is contradictory.

Unfortunately, not only is much of the ‘old school’ advice wrong, it can also make many situations worse, especially if anxiety underlies the behavioural problem your pet is exhibiting.

We can review, obligation free, your questionnaire and provide feedback as to whether your pet will benefit from a consultation with us. If we feel that your pets problem is due to a lack of appropriate training, and not an underlying emotional disorder, we will recommend a force free trainer. In some cases where the animals behaviour poses a serious risk to itself or those around it, we may recommend you proceed directly to a veterinary behaviour specialist*.


*Currently there are just two veterinarians working within Australia that have achieved Specialist qualification (the level above MANZCVS) in Veterinary Behaviour. If you would like more information or referral to them at any stage we will be happy to assist. 

What is involved in a consultation?

If only it was this simple…

Unfortunately veterinary behaviour is a little like child psychology when it comes to obtaining the historical aspects pertinent to current behavioural issues. We have to rely not only on what a 3rd party (in this case the owner) tells us but also what the animal is saying in its body language and behavioural repertoire. This is why a 15 minute consultation just doesn’t cut it when treating mental health issues.

We ask that all new clients fill in a comprehensive questionnaire for their pet. Ideally this should be a family effort, with all caregivers contributing to the information given (interestingly we often see that the humans within a family can have a very different perception of what is happening!).

You will also be asked to provide us with details of your pet’s medical history. You can obtain a copy of this from your vet or ask they email it directly to us. Once Dr Emma has received the completed questionnaire and medical history BBVS will contact you to arrange a suitable consultation time.

If possible, short videos of your pet’s concerning behaviour would be of value. These do not need to be sent; they can be reviewed during the initial consultation.

However, please note: We do not expect, nor want, videos of elicited, provoked aggression.

Where are the consultations?

BBVS services the Macedon Ranges and surrounding area.

Consultations are performed within your home, as this can give us additional information that might not show up in a questionnaire. Owners may inadvertently omit to mention something pertinent within the animals environment because it appears unimportant to them (e.g. there is a school bus stop across the road that may act as a ‘trigger’ for a noise reactive dog during term time).

By visiting the premises where the animal lives, Dr Emma can obtain additional information that can help in the development of a successful behavioural modification programme.

It is also much easier to work through the practicality of management options once we understand the layout of the home.

How long do the consultations go for?

Initial consultations run for approximately 2 hours.

In cases of aggression we will give the client immediate management to keep everyone safe until we can start to work on Better Behaviour.

A full report will be sent both to the client and to their referring vet/trainer (where applicable) within two weeks of the initial consultation. This will include a diagnosis, relevant handouts and a comprehensive management plan – including information about any recommended medications.

Where the need for additional assistance with training is identified, a force-free positive trainer will be recommended that services your area.

What is the cost?

Initial consultations are $425. This includes the report, supplementary reading material, the management plan and prescriptions for any medication required . It also includes ongoing support via e mail and phone for two months after the initial consultation.

Follow up consultations at your home generally take about one hour and cost $185/hr. Travel charges may apply for clients outside of the Macedon Ranges. We can confirm this when the appointment is made.

**Cancellation notice of more than 24 hours must be given otherwise a fee may be charged**

Will my pet need medication?

Dr Emma may recommend that your pet be placed on medication as part of its behavioural modification plan. The aim of this is to normalise the neurochemical pathways in the brain, so that the animal can learn to think and behave more appropriately. The aim is NOT to sedate the animal to mask its unwanted behaviour.

Many people are concerned that medications will change their pets’ personality; and that they will become ‘zombies’. Often this is because they have known humans who have had such a response to similar medications. In companion animals this is extremely rare. Where sedation is observed it is most commonly transitory, and usually resolves within two weeks from the onset of treatment.

However, animals are individuals and as such react to medications in different ways. There is no ‘one drug fits all’ approach to veterinary behaviour. In those rare cases where side effects are deemed unacceptable, we will look at alterative medication options and treatment regimes.

Please note that continued provision of prescriptions requires a recheck consultation with a veterinarian every 6 months. This can be with BBVS or your regular veterinarian.

Can you give me a guarantee my pet will be cured?

We guarantee that we will do our best to help you understand the causes and options for modifying your pets’ behaviour. But we cannot guarantee that your pet will be ‘cured’.

There are many factors that influence an animal’s behaviour – including genetics, early life experiences and its current living environment. Many of these factors are beyond our (and your) control. When a pets’ behaviour is due to an underlying medical condition such as anxiety it will likely require lifelong management. We will closely work with you to achieve the most successful outcome for all concerned.

Does BBVS only work with dogs and cats?

At BBVS we are happy to consult on any species, not just cats and dogs, because we believe every animal deserves to be happy and have a good quality of life.

Dr Emma has studied the behaviour of many different types of animal both domestic and wild. Her MSc postgraduate thesis was based on the maternal behaviour of intensively farmed pigs; and she has retained an interest in the behaviour and welfare of production animals. The Macedon Ranges has many hobby farms and clients can request advice to achieve optimum conditions for their ‘pet livestock’ ensuring both their physical and mental well-being are appropriately considered.

BBVS is also happy to offer guidance and advice with regards to husbandry and housing for your more unusual pets. Species such as rabbits and guinea pigs often live a less than ideal existence because owners fail to appreciate their unique needs. Enriching their environment and providing appropriate socialisation helps reduce the risk of behavioural problems occurring in these animals.