Meet Dr. Suzanne Hetts

Pets have been part of my life from the time I was five years old.  My love of animals prompted me to consider veterinary medicine as a career, but at the time it was an extremely male dominated field and women were discouraged from entering.

Instead, I earned my undergraduate degree in medical technology and microbiology and worked in the clinical labs at a Denver hospital after graduation.   After a few years, I decided to enter a master’s program in wildlife biology at Colorado State University (CSU).  When I completed my degree, and with few job opportunities in the field at the time, I was drawn back to medicine and animals, and took a position as a medical technologist at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) at CSU.

It was there that I discovered the field of animal behavior and began a PhD program. After a few detours, including one to co-found the pet loss program at the VTH (now part of the Argus Center), I finished my Ph.D. in 1989 with a dissertation on separation distress in puppies.

I incorporated Animal Behavior Associates, Inc. in 1985 with my major professor, Dr. Philip Lehner, when I was still in graduate school.  Since 1991, my husband Dr. Dan Estep, CAAB has been co-owner of Animal Behavior Associates, Inc. and together we’ve worked with thousands of pet owners, and educated and delivered hundreds of lectures to pet professionals on five continents.

In addition to co-founding the pet loss support program at CSU I also founded the Behavior Help Line at the Denver Dumb Friends League when I worked there in the early 1990s. Other accomplishments I’m proud of are leading the teams that developed an in-house education program for trainers at PetSmart in the early 2000s and another that resulted in the publication of “Professional Standards for Dog Trainers: Effective Humane Principles” , sponsored by the Delta Society and American Humane Association.

American Animal Hospital Association published my book “Pet Behavior Protocols: What to Say, What to Do, When To Refer”, which was one of their best selling titles.  Dan and I have also self-published “Raising a Behaviorally Healthy Puppy”, “Help! I’m Barking and I Can’t Be Quiet” and “Twelve Terrible Dog Training Mistakes Owners Make…And How to Avoid Them”  This last book was on the Amazon Best Seller list when we first released it.

I’ve worked with thousands of pet owners, lectured to pet professionals on five continents,

Since 2009, Behavior Education Network has been our signature website, educating pet professionals in the science and practice of animal behavior consulting with monthly webinars, how to guides, reviews of scientific papers and more.  Through CAABChats.com, we provided monthly webinar “chats” with Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists like ourselves, and other expert guests.  You’ll not find many of the topics we discussed in those chats anywhere else on the web.  (In 2019 we turned CAABChats over to Drs. Jessica Lockhart and Mindy Waite who now do regular podcasts).

In recent years, after losing our last dog, our beloved Irish setter diva dog Coral, knowing we weren’t ready for pets of our own again right now, we’ve started doing some limited pet sitting in our home. We provide custom, one-family’s-pets-at-a-time, care as our schedule permits.  We’ve enjoyed seeing the variety in personalities, sociability, and adaptability in the pets who stay with us.  Definitely have our favorites who shall remain nameless here!

In 2018 we made the difficult decision to end our six years of snow birding between our home in Denver and Sun City AZ.  Leaving CO, my native state where I’ve lived most of my life was extremely difficult and in many ways Colorado will always be my home.  But we enjoy the mild winters in Sun City and all the activities available to us “of a certain age”.  We get back to Colorado and travel to other places in the summers to escape the desert heat.

All of us at Animal Behavior Associates, Inc. are committed to to bringing the science of animal behavior to everything we do, from educating professionals, evaluating animals, and helping pet owners.

If you’d like to see my formal vita, detailing my education, employment, additional publications and speaking experience, click here.   I will admit to not having been diligent about adding additional publications and activities in the last few years.

Meet Dr. Dan Estep

I’ve been interested in animal behavior since a young age. During my childhood, I was always around animals, including our family pet turtles, guinea pigs and dogs including Ike and Tex both German Shepherds and Frenchy, a Standard Poodle.

When I went to college at The University of Texas, I majored in Psychology and was lucky enough to become a research assistant in an animal behavior laboratory. We studied the genetics of behavior in mice and gerbils and I became hooked on animal behavior and research.

I went to graduate school at the University of Florida and studied animal behavior under Dr. Donald Dewsbury, one of the best known animal behaviorists in North America.

While at Florida I did research on the reproductive behavior and social behavior of wild rodents. Our goal was to understand the evolution and functions of behavioral differences between species.

After I graduated from Florida in 1975, I joined the faculty at the University of Georgia. There I taught animal behavior to psychology, zoology and veterinary students. I studied the reproductive and social behavior of a variety of species including wild chipmunks, golden hamsters, domestic rats and mice and four species of Old World Monkeys.

At the same time my graduate students and I began to do research on the welfare of laboratory animals. We tried to find ways to enrich the environments of these animals and make their lives better. This led me into the field of applied animal behavior – the field concerned with applying behavioral knowledge for the good of animals and people. While at Georgia, I began applied studies of the behavior of sheep, goats and horses.

In 1991 I married Dr. Suzanne Hetts and became co-owner of, Animal Behavior Associates, Inc. in Denver CO.  For almost 30 years we have been helping pet parents with the behavior problems of their animals, and educating pet parents, veterinarians, trainers, animal control officers and other pet professionals about animal behavior. I have also consulted with governmental and private organizations about pet behavior as well as consulted/’ with attorneys concerning animal behavior related legal issues and serving as an expert witness in court cases.

I’ve spent most of my life living with companion animals and I understand the joys and frustrations they can bring to our lives. It is my goal to help people and animals have the best relationship they can with each other while improving the welfare of both.

If you’d like to see my formal vita, detailing my education, employment and experience, click here.

Meet Tracey Metzler

Animals have always been a special part of my life. My first dog was Sam a Jack Russell Terrier born just a few months after I was. Sam was my constant companion for the first 16 years of my life. That relationship began my lifelong interest and love for animals. It took many years however before I was able to turn my passion into a career.

I married a great (and patient) guy, and spent several years as a stay at home Mom with my two wonderful children. I still feel that was the most important and (difficult) job I’ve ever had. When my children started school I did too. I attended the Bel-Rea Institute of Veterinary Technology and became a Certified Veterinary Technician. After graduation I was fortunate to go to work with the great crew at Evans East Animal Hospital in Denver. I learned something each and everyday for the eight years I worked there. We had long recommended Animal Behavior Associates for our clients with behavior issues, and in 2007 when the opportunity to work with Dr. Hetts and Dr. Estep presented itself, I knew it was time for a new adventure.

In the time since I’ve join Dan and Suzanne and Animal Behavior Associates, my children have grown up and my little family has expanded to include 2 grandchildren, a son and daughter in-law, and multiple four legged furry “grandchildren”.  I am grateful for my growing family and the new and wonderful joys of being a Granny!

Working with Animal Behavior Associates for over a dozen years has afforded me the opportunity of continuing to learn and grow in my professional life.  I have seen firsthand the positive impact that working with both pet parents and pet professionals has on the individuals we work with.  And on a broader scale, I know the ripple effect of sharing the real scientific knowledge and experiences that Dan and Suzanne have acquired about animal behavior will  to make a difference for years to come.

If you call our office or contact us via the web, chances are I will be the one to assist you in getting the information and help you need. Whether it’s an inquiry about a consultation or questions about the website and our courses I look forward to working with you!