Behavior Service

Photo: Behavior

Dr. Melissa Bain of the UC Davis Clinical Animal Behavior Service works with "Pocket Change" a male puppy in one of the Behavior Service exam rooms at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH).

Welcome to the Behavior Service!

Many clients are referred by their veterinarian or trainer, but a referral is not required to make an appointment. Even if you've consulted multiple veterinarians and/or trainers regarding your pet's situation, we are happy to see you.

How to make an appointment:

  • Please call (530)752-1393.
  • We offer morning new patient appointments (9:00 am - 9:30 am) and afternoon appointment (1:00 pm - 1:30 pm) Monday through Friday.
  • If you have questions, check out our FAQ tab, call or email us at (NOTE: appointments cannot be scheduled via email).
  • Click here to review our Canine Questionnaire or Feline Questionnaire.
  • Click here view our Behavior Service Appointment Policies.

Do you only see cats and dogs?

Though dogs and cats are our most frequent visitors, we also see birds, pocket pets, exotics, horses, wildlife and farm animals. Veterinary Behaviorists trained in all non-human species!  We work with shelters, rescue organizations, laboratories, sanctuaries, farms, zoos and more to address individual as well as population behavioral health concerns.  We can assist in development of environmental enrichment, management strategies, behavior modification and systems to improve the well-being of the animals in your care. 

It's not just a "training problem".

Behavior problems are a leading cause of pet relinquishment to shelters. Issues such as anxiety, aggression towards owners, animals or visitors can result in a breakdown of the bond between an owner and pet. These issues aren’t “training” problems, they’re deep emotional issues which require careful and methodical treatment rather than "obedience training". We are committed to providing evidence-based, humane, fear-free non-confrontational treatment for our patients. Our goal is to help you understand your pet’s behavior and achieve realist goals which provide safety, harmony and comfort for everyone in the home.

Behavioral issues we treat include:

  • Aggression to people and other animals
  • Fears or phobias regarding people, animals, noises, places or owner interactions
  • Problems when home alone
  • Compulsive disorder
  • Destructiveness, hyper-excitability and reactivity
  • Self-injurious behavior
  • House soiling (cats and dogs)
  • Cognitive dysfunction and senior pet behaviors
  • Excessive whining, barking or meowing
  • Preparation for major household changes (such as moving or a baby’s arrival)

What happens during an appointment?

A patient questionnaire is emailed once you’ve made an appointment. Initial consultations typically last 2 to 3 hours. We invite anyone who lives with the pet to participate. The appointment will include:

  • Evaluation of submitted data: video, pictures, medical record and questionnaire
  • Observation of the pet(s)
  • Discussion of the diagnosis
  • Establishment achievable goals and the outlook for treatment
  • Establishment of management strategies
  • Recommended tools to aid in the treatment process 
  • Practice of new training methods/cues
  • A written detailed treatment plan including behavior modification exercises
  • Discussion whether drug therapy is indicated.

If diagnostic testing is recommended, some procedures can be performed during your pet’s appointment or may be done by your referring veterinary health provider.

Like psychiatry in humans, some patients require follow up visits. Our recheck appointments are hands-on exercises working on desensitization and counterconditioning in order to change your pet's emotional response to the things which cause problems. These appointments typically last an hour to an hour and a half. We can work with outside trainers to give at-home support for this training process. We can provide an idea of how many recheck appointments might be needed in the treatment of you pet during our initial consultation.

Will my Primary Care Veterinarian be involved?

Veterinary behaviorists work closely with referring veterinarians to ensure any medical problems which cause or exacerbate behavior problems have been investigated to help determine an accurate diagnosis. We always send a copy of established treatment plan to your veterinarian once our records are complete.

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