Behavior Reports: Facilitating Communication

The connection between mental and physical health and wellness in human medicine is by now well established.  We accept that our thoughts and behaviors influence our health and that in turn keeping physically active, managing our weight, not smoking, etc., gives us more energy and helps us feel better about ourselves.

The mind-body connection for our pets isn’t yet something that’s hit the radar to any significant degree in either the veterinary or behavior field.  Granted, we know certain conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (seen in both people and pets) are made worse by stress, but we don’t often hear we should reduce our pets’ stress to improve their physical condition or make them healthier. 

Part of the problem obviously, is that we can’t ask our pets how they are feeling and whether they are happy in their daily lives.  We can only infer emotional states from behavior, and possibly physiological variables, which most of us don’t have the means to measure.  Careful observations and accurate interpretations of an animal’s behavior can provide insights not only about his emotional state but about his physical health as well.  The first sign an animal is ill is often a change in its behavior.

If we accept that behavioral and physical health are related, then a logical extension of that assumption is the best way to keep our pets physically and behaviorally healthy is for experts in the fields of veterinary medicine and animal behavior and training to share information and work together to provide care for our pets.

Trainers and behavior consultants have opportunities to observe pets in contexts and for longer time periods than do general practice veterinarians under normal circumstances.  During these longer interactions, pet owners may also impart information they might not think to share with their veterinarians because they don’t recognize the importance of it.

Behavior and training experts can thus be an important source of information for veterinarians which can positively contribute to an animal’s health care.  But collecting information is not sufficient – it must be shared in a meaningful, credible way.  That’s where the behavior report comes in. 

A communication gap often exists between veterinary and non-veterinary pet professionals.  Non-veterinarians have been known to step on veterinary toes when they suggest to pet owners what medical conditions they think pets have (“I think your dog has hip dysplasia”), what diagnostic tests should be performed (“You should have your dog’s thyroid checked”), what food to feed (“You should put your dog on a high protein diet”), or what medication the pet should be on (“I think your cat needs Prozac®”).

On the other side of the coin, trainers and behavior consultants are frustrated when they hear veterinarians advise clients to be a good “pack leader”, advise against using food in training, or fail to mention head collars as an alternative to pinch collars and choke chains.

This communication gap can be bridged with good behavior reports.  A good behavior report shares meaningful observations about normal and “not normal” behavior, may include a risk assessment, provides hypothesized “whys” of the behavior or training issue, explains the rationale for behavior modification and/or training procedures selected for the particular pet, and emphasizes behavior observations that suggest the need for veterinary follow-up. 

A behavior report can serve as an educational tool for its recipient, whether it is written for the pet owner or the pet professional. It can open a dialogue among pet professionals that can result in the sharing of expertise, which becomes a winning outcome for all.  It also is a way by which readers – especially veterinarians – can evaluate the expertise of its author.

Poorly written behavior reports that oversteps professional boundaries, make unsubstantiated claims, arrive at conclusions that are disconnected from the scientific literature, are rambling and difficult to read, harm not only authors’ credibility but their associated fields as well.  And no report at all perpetuates the communication gap.

Those outcomes can easily be avoided when you know how to create a well written, concise report that provides accurate, useful information that establishes your credibility, helps the pet, and educates the reader. 

On July 23 2011, you’ll have the chance to learn how to write this sort of influential behavior report – or be a critical consumer of behavior reports if you are on the receiving end – when you attend our evening workshop that is an add-on session to the “Dogs of Course” weekend workshop with our good friend and colleague Dr. Patricia McConnell.  We’ll be speaking all day Sunday  on "The Devil’s In the Details: Recognizing and Promoting Dog Behavioral Health."  To discover more, read our article on this topic.

Members of our Behavior Education Network who register for one of both days of the weekend seminar can attend our Behavior Report writing workshop at no additional charge as a special member benefit.  Registration fees for others and for the weekend itself can be found on Dogs of Course event page

Click HERE to register and take advantage of early bird pricing.

Come join us for an educational, fun weekend with a special on-your-own entertainment option Friday night that we guarantee is like nothing else you’ve ever attended.  You can hear us perform in the Pan Ramajay Festival concert at DU’s Lamont School of music Friday night.  You don’t want to miss it!

If you register for one or both days of the July seminar BY May 18th, we’ll let you attend our monthly Pro Member webinar available exclusively for Pro members of our  May’s topic is Reactivity, Impulse Control and PTSD in Dogs:  Fiction, Fad or Fact.  Can’t attend live on May 19th?  No worries – we’ll give you 7 days to watch the recorded replay.  Email or fax us proof of registration and we’ll tell you how to access this webinar.

Email:  FAX 303-932-2298



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