Veterinary Behavior Consultants

What is a Veterinary Behaviorist?
How does someone become a Veterinary Behaviorist?
Does my pet need a Veterinary Behaviorist?
What behavior problems do you treat?
How is a veterinary behaviorist different from everyone else (trainers, animal behaviorists, consultants)?
Don’t you need to come to my house and see my pet in action?
Why not offer telephone consultations for new clients?
What happens during a behavior consultation?
What treatments are used?
How do I schedule an appointment?
What should I bring to the appointment?
How much active training will we be doing during the consult?
Will my pet need drugs?
If I have already had my pet evaluated by other behaviorists, will your plan be different?
How are rechecks handled after my initial appointment?

How much time will be needed daily to implement my pet’s plan?
What is the success rate for behavior problems?
Do you guarantee your success rates or my satisfaction?


What is a Veterinary Behaviorist?


Veterinary behaviorists are specially trained veterinarians dedicated to managing behavior problems and improving the well-being of animals. ONLY veterinarians certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists can call themselves “Veterinary Behaviorists.” 

Behavior problems can result from a neurochemical imbalance, a medical condition, learned fear associations, or conflict over rules and social structure.  Veterinary behaviorists are in a unique position to diagnose medical conditions that can affect a pet’s behavior, as well as diagnose and treat conditions that are purely behavioral.

How does someone become a Veterinary Behaviorist?

A Veterinary Behaviorist is first and foremost a licensed veterinarian.


Board certification requires the following education and credentials:

  • Undergraduate degree (3-4 years)
  • Veterinary degree (4 years)
  • Internship (1 year)
  • Residency program (3+ years)
  • Publication of original research
  • Successful completion of a comprehensive examination covering all species

In addition, Dr. Seibert has completed the following:

  • Master’s degree with thesis (3 years)
  • PhD degree with dissertation (+2 years)

Does my pet need a Veterinary Behaviorist?

If your veterinarian or trainer referred you to a Veterinary Behaviorist, you need one.
Veterinary Behaviorists can legally diagnose behavior problems, assess medical complications, and prescribe or advise you about medications that could be helpful for your pet.

Behaviors that create problems for you or your pet, impact quality of life, create a public health risk, or cause distress for your pet should be evaluated.  In general, if the problem behavior is increasing in frequency or intensity, has lasted longer than 2 weeks, or involves aggression, seek help!

What behavior problems does Veterinary Behavior Consultants LLC treat?

Our doctors treat behavior problems in dogs, cats, horses, birds, and other exotic pets such as rabbits and ferrets.  Consults for pigs and other large companion animals are also possible.  We do not treat wildlife or reptiles.  Any behavior that is objectionable to a pet’s family can be seen for a consultation. These are just a few of the problems we can address: aggression to people or animals,  excessive vocalization, fear and anxiety (including separation anxiety), phobias (including noise or storm phobia), unruly behavior, destructive behavior (including scratching furniture), stereotypic (repetitive) disorders (tail-chasing, self-mutilation, over-grooming), house training problems, avoidance of the litter box, and cognitive dysfunction (aging changes).  We can also offer preventive behavior consultations, for expectant parents, or for families adding a new pet, who want a preemptive approach.

How is Dr. Seibert different from everyone else (trainers, animal behaviorists, consultants)?

Board-certified veterinary behaviorists are the only professionally-licensed animal behaviorists. After meeting the stringent requirements for board-certification, they are required to stay current on the most recent scientific findings through research and attendance at professional continuing education meetings.

The term “animal behaviorist” is not a protected term.  Anyone and everyone can call themselves animal behaviorists or behavior specialists.  The majority of “animal behaviorists” are simply dog trainers, with no academic training in animal behavior.  There are no uniform standards for evaluating competency in animal trainers and no state educational or licensing requirements.  Experience alone does not ensure proficiency.  The ability to train an animal to perform obedience commands does not equate with the ability to correctly diagnose and treat complex behavior problems. 

There are circumstances where obedience training can be very useful if appropriate and humane training techniques are used.  Click here for tips on how to find a reputable trainer. (http://avsabonline.org/uploads/position_statements/How_to_Choose_a_Trainer_(AVSAB).pdf)

Don’t you need to come to my house and see my pet in action?

Many dogs are territorial and too highly reactive toward strangers in their home environment for us to demonstrate relaxation training. Cats often hide from us when we enter the home, and we never even see the cat.  Our presence in the home alters the “natural” environment, so we do not truly see the animal’s natural behavior. Also, it is helpful for us to see the pets in a novel environment and assess their ability to acclimate to the novel situation.

If there is a behavior that is likely to occur only at home, you are encouraged to videotape the behavior and bring videotape to the consultation.  We especially encourage owners of cats to videotape passive interactions between the cats.  However, we never advocate that you intentionally trigger aggressive behavior for the sake of videotaping it.  We do not need to see that behavior in order to assess the problem.  For bird and cat cases, it is helpful if you bring photos of the litter box area, or cage.  
 
Why not offer telephone consultations for new clients?


Unfortunately, we cannot legally offer remote telephone consultations. Veterinarians are required to establish direct doctor-patient-client relationships before recommending any specific treatments - and that includes behavioral medicine.  If you are unable to bring your pet to see us, you should contact your regular veterinarian for assistance.  You can also have your regular veterinarian contact Dr. Seibert or Dr. Biehunko.  She can speak directly with your veterinarian without violating any practice ethics.  Once Dr. Seibert or Dr. Biehunko has evaluated your pet, follow-up questions can be addressed remotely (via phone or email) for a limited period of time.

What happens during a behavior consultation?

In Georgia, owners bring their pets to Hollyberry Animal Hospital for the initial behavior consultation. 

Consultations last approximately 1.5 - 2 hours. Anyone who will be working with the pet should attend.  Please do not bring young children who might become disruptive during the 2-hour appointment. 

A behavior consultation is similar in appearance to a family counseling session. The doctor will ask detailed questions regarding your pet’s background and the behavior problem and observe your pet’s behavior.  You are encouraged to bring video of your pet’s behavior in the home environment. Pets are allowed to explore the room, play with toys, eat treats, and interact freely with family and staff members when appropriate.  Aggressive dogs will remain on leash, or wear a muzzle. 

We will never intentionally provoke or upset your pet.  We do not need to see your pet misbehave in order to make a diagnosis. We do not do provocative temperament testing.  Temperament tests used by shelters and trainers do not predict future behavior, but only reveal information about the specific circumstances in which the test is administered. 

After assessing your pet, individualized written instructions are provided and exercises are demonstrated for pet owners to follow at home. We do not focus on obedience, or a “one size fits all” program, but rather focused relaxation, and systematic desensitization exercises.  Plans may include modifications to the environment, behavior modification training, and supplements, training tools, or medication.  

As veterinary medical doctors, we will explore contributing medical issues and prescribe behavioral drugs if indicated. Physical examinations are done for most patients and laboratory testing when indicated.  Our office will communicate directly with your regular veterinarian regarding treatment recommendations after your appointment.


What treatments are used?

Veterinary Behaviorists use the science of learning and ethology (scientific knowledge of species-specific behavior) to help clients improve their pet’s behavior. Our methods are non-confrontational, humane and designed to decrease household stress while improving the human-animal bond.

Treatment consists of environmental and behavior modification.  Training tools, supplements, and medications are often incorporated into the treatment plan.  If medical problems are contributing to the abnormal behavior, these issues will be addressed directly or with the assistance of the regular veterinarian.

Successful outcomes depend on owner compliance with the treatment plan.  Even 15 minutes per day can achieve results. In general, the more committed you are to working with your pet, the faster and better your improvements will be.


How do I schedule an appointment with Dr. Seibert?

Ask your veterinarian to submit a referral for your pet to see Dr. Seibert, if you are in Georgia or South Carolina, and Dr. Biehunko, if you are in Alabama.

Open the Appointments page

Download the appropriate history form (dog, cat, horse, bird)

Download the contract, read, and sign

If your dog is aggressive, download the aggression treatment waiver, read, and sign

Complete the forms and return via email to ocddoc@msn.com


Once you have submitted your paperwork, call Veterinary Behavior Consultants at 678-878-4410 to set up your appointment.

A non-refundable appointment fee of $50 will be charged to your credit card when the appointment is scheduled. Appointment time and date adjustments can be made one time with at least 72 hours advanced notice prior to your appointment. The deposit is credited to your appointment invoice once your pet is seen.  However, if adjustments are made to the scheduled appointment with less than 72 hours’ notice, or if the appointment is cancelled, no credits will apply.  

Because we provide a unique service and because we have a limited number of appointments available each month, we ask that you let us know as soon as possible if you will not need your appointment time.  Please help us accommodate as many pets as possible by canceling your appointment early should you decide you do not need it.   


What should I bring to the appointment?


  • YOU! You are an important part of helping your pet
  • Your pet on leash or in a carrier
  • A completed behavior history form, or email forms prior to appointment
  • Any written training plans/notes from previous trainers or behaviorists
  • Your pet’s favorite treats (If your pet requires a special diet, please bring some acceptable treats)
  • Your pet’s previous training tools (leashes, collars, muzzles)
  • Dogs that have bitten people or other animals should wait outside until we can bring them into the consultation room safely
  • Video of the behavior problem (Do this ONLY if you can get the footage without creating a risky situations for other people or animals)

How much active training will we be doing during the consult?

That depends. Initial consults are more like family counseling than seeing a dog trainer. We are happy to demonstrate and practice behavior modification techniques that make sense for your pet. Some of our clients are extremely adept at behavior modification and don't need or want demonstrations. Others are brand new at training and behavior modification and want to practice with a professional.

Many dogs seeing Veterinary Behaviorists are actually very well trained; they just can't respond as their families hope in trigger situations. Even if your dog doesn't know basic obedience, you could still see success with a behavior modification plan. There are many easy-to-teach cues that can be helpful when implementing a behavior modification plan. Your pet only needs to learn a few to get started. More cues are added to the plan when you and your pet are ready.

If you have trouble implementing behavior modification techniques on your own, don't feel bad - lots of clients do. We can organize controlled follow-up sessions or we can refer you to an exceptionally skilled behavior modification trainer who knows how to work with special-needs cases and is committed to maintaining continuity of care.

Will my pet need drugs?

In certain cases, the doctor may talk to you regarding the use of behavior medication.  Medication is rarely life-long, and needs to be used in conjunction with behavior modification in order for it to be effective.  Medication alone will not resolve your pet’s behavior problem.  Laboratory testing may be recommended for cases requiring medication.

Dr. Seibert will provide 6 months of refills for most medications.  After 6 months, a follow-up visit is required in order to receive additional refills, or the prescription can be transferred to the regular veterinarian, provided that doctor is comfortable prescribing the medication.  

If you use an outside pharmacy to fill your pet’s prescription, Dr. Seibert will not sign prescription requests faxed by a pharmacy.  She will provide a written prescription for you to take to the pharmacy of your choice. 

If I have already had my pet evaluated by other behaviorists, will your plan be different?


Good question! We won't know until we sit down and discuss the details of the previous plans you have tried. We may suggest few or small changes (sometimes these can make a big difference) or we may recommend a completely different plan. It is possible the previous information you received makes good scientific sense, but the plan was incorrectly or incompletely implemented. We can also discuss any barriers you may have faced in trying to implement previous plans. We can also adjust medication protocols as needed.
 
How are rechecks handled after my initial appointment?

As a convenience for our existing clients, a limited number of telephone progress checks are included with all initial consultations. These appointments are approximately 30-minutes. Additional telephone appointments can be purchased. Clients are encouraged to call at any time if there are problems or questions about the treatment or medication.  

After 6 months, an appointment is required to assess patient progress and reevaluate the treatment plan when medications are involved.  Medications will not be refilled unless the patient has been seen in the previous 6 months.  Laboratory testing may also be recommended.  After one year, all patients will need to be reevaluated in order to continue working with our doctors.

How much time will be needed daily to implement my pet’s plan?


You might be surprised by how much improvement you can see with a few changes to your daily interaction patterns with your pet. You should plan to spend at least 15 minutes/day working on behavior modification exercises in order to see the best success. Of course, in general, the more committed you are to working, the faster and more robust your improvements will be.

What is the success rate for behavior problems?

Most families seeking help with Veterinary Behaviorist Consultants see improvements in the intensity and frequency of their pet's behavioral issues. However, success is really defined by each individual family. Statistical success rates vary by the specific problem that each animal has and his/her family’s willingness to implement a complete treatment plan. While it does happen, it’s uncommon for patients not to improve or to worsen in spite of treatment.

Do you guarantee your success rates or my satisfaction?

Unfortunately no guarantees can be given regarding the outcome of your pet’s behavior treatment.  Behavior is complex and never completely predictable, and as such, making any guarantees about a pet’s behavior would be unreasonable, irresponsible, and unethical.