In the busy veterinary practice of today, not all animal issues presented in clinic are of a problematic physiological nature; some can be due to – or co-exist with – psychological issues. Time is limited for the vet or vet nurse, and behavioural knowledge can be required to help clients with certain queries and concerns. Therefore, it can be beneficial for both the practice and the client to work with an animal behaviour technician (ABT) in some capacity.
What is an animal behaviour technician?
The Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) ABT standard relates to the design and implementation of programmes that provide preventative and first-aid behavioural advice to owners, handlers and co-professionals. This standard also includes the implementation of behaviour modification and environmental modification plans, developed by a clinical animal behaviourist or veterinary behaviourist.
The role of ABT is suitable for all those working in the animal care sector with responsibility for managing humane approaches to animal behaviour
The role of ABT is suitable for all those working in the animal care sector with responsibility for managing humane approaches to animal behaviour, from veterinary nurses to practitioners, and from those working in a rescue setting to private practices.
The commonplace jobs for an ABT are:
- Designing and implementing procedures to safeguard against the development of problem behaviours
- Providing preventative advice to owners, handlers and co-professionals
- Providing behavioural first-aid advice to owners and handlers before referral to a suitably qualified practitioner
- Implementing a behaviour modification plan that has been developed by a clinical animal behaviourist (CAB) or veterinary behaviourist (VB) following an assessment/evaluation by that same CAB or VB. This could be alongside the CAB/VB or independently – as agreed by both parties
The Animal Behaviour and Training Council
The ABTC is the regulatory body that represents animal trainers, training instructors and animal behaviour therapists to both the public and legislative bodies. It sets and maintains the standards of knowledge and practical skills required for each role, as well as maintaining the national registers of appropriately qualified individuals from practitioner organisations.
ABTC practitioners must use science-led, compassionate and non-punitive methods, and the charity believes that it cannot be right to cause any animal fear or pain to motivate it to perform desired behaviours when humane methods not only are available but produce better long-term results.
How can an internal ABT benefit the veterinary practice?
Having an ABT working within the veterinary clinic would prove financially viable for the business model and the level of service offered to the client base. This may be a service that is not offered within another clinic locally, so may drive customers to your clinic which provides this extra service.
Being able to refer within the practice to an ABT-trained RVN, for example, would bridge the much needed “gap” frequently found in veterinary practice today. The “in-house” ABT could quickly access records and the referral would be seamless
Being able to refer within the practice to an ABT-trained RVN, for example, would bridge the much needed “gap” frequently found in veterinary practice today. The “in-house” ABT could quickly access records and the referral would be seamless. Instant preventative and first-aid advice can be provided to clients without the need for the owner to contact anyone else. The knowledge that is then provided by the ABT would support the rest of the clinical team. Animal patients with handling and husbandry difficulties can be supported by the ABT to ensure not only that the visit is less stressful for the animal, but also that it is easier for the staff to treat the patient.
This model is echoed within human medicine today. We see our NHS general practitioners employ doctor associates and nurse practitioners who are able to relieve the client waiting time and support the busy GP.
How can a good working relationship with an external ABT benefit your practice?
Once medical issues have been ruled out or considered, the vet can refer the client to the APBC website with the knowledge that all full members have the skill sets and professional qualifications to consult with their client. The member will liaise with the clinical team, possibly alongside a clinical animal behaviourist or veterinary behaviourist, and work within their skill set to assist the owner and animal.
The ABT also has the time to see inside the home or environment where the animal is kept, whether remotely by supported video or by a visit to the house … areas that the busy vet team rarely get to explore
A local ABT would be happy to provide staff training to assist the practice in handling skills and improve understanding of behaviour. The ABT also has the time to see inside the home or environment where the animal is kept, whether remotely by supported video or by a visit to the house. These are areas that the busy vet team rarely get to explore.