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On My Mind: Visiting with Vets

Startling truths

Did you know that…

AVMA conference

KPA Alumni in St. Louis.
From Top (L-R): Lorraine Martinez, Cinder Wilkinson,
Tracy Buck, and Sarah Hoth. Middle: Lucy Bailey,
Karen Pryor, Dixie Tenny, and Gail Czarnecki-Maulden.
Bottom: Tia Guest, Alicea Shaeffer, and
Melissa Spoooner.
(click to enlarge)

…more dogs (and cats) are turned in to shelters or euthanized for behavioral reasons than for any other problem?

…the average veterinary practice in the US loses approximately 15% of its patients a year, when pets are given away or otherwise disposed of by owners, usually because of behavioral problems?

…until very recently most veterinarians experienced years of training without having one lecture (never mind a whole course) on animal behavior, humane handling, or animal training?

These are just some of the revelations from the annual conference of the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) in St. Louis. It’s a huge convention—thousands of attendees, hundreds of educational presentations, and at least an acre of exhibitors, all touting new medicines, machinery, surgical instruments, and more.

Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) was represented at the AVMA conference with a booth staffed by KPA Program Director Tia Guest, vet tech specialist in behavior and KPA Certified Training Partner (CTP) Alicea Schaeffer, and CTP Gail Czarnecki-Maulden, plus her adorable Havanese. Many more KPA graduates dropped by the booth. KPA was also represented at a pre-conference meeting of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), a young and very active organization.

At our booth we talked to vet techs who provide behavior services in vet hospitals and clinics, and to veterinary and vet tech students who plan to take the KPA course after they graduate. We also talked to veterinarians who are hoping to sponsor one or more of their assistants to go through our program, and to vets who want to go through the program themselves.

We also showed Alicea’s amazing video clips of:

  • in-the-clinic rapid training to calm a dangerously fearful dog
  • the step-by-step training procedure to teach a dog to offer a paw and hold still voluntarily, without restraint, for a blood draw
  • a panicky puppy learning to tolerate nail clipping calmly, in one five-minute session

I enjoyed narrating the videos to vets who came to the booth:

“Now she’s clicking while she palpates for the vein; see how calm the dog is? The dog is still free to leave, no one’s holding it, and yes, the owner is in the room.”

In reply, I received a stream of comments.

“That’s amazing. That’s incredible. I am STUNNED.”

And then…

“I need that in my clinic. What do I do to get started?”

Behavioral enlightenment is spreading. It’s an exciting time to be involved.

Happy clicking,

Karen Pryor

About the author
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Karen Pryor is the founder and CEO of Karen Pryor Clicker Training and Karen Pryor Academy. She is the author of many books, including Don't Shoot the Dog and Reaching the Animal Mind. Learn more about Karen Pryor or read Karen's Letters online.

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