About Me

Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB).

Post-graduate education in dog and cat behaviour.

Fifeteen years experience and over 4000 hours of consultation time with clients and their pets.

Extensive hands-on training experience with dogs, cats, and other species (3000 hours).

Successful track record and happy clients.

Full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors.

I use methods that improve the lives of both pet owners AND their animals, rather than using pain, fear, or intimidation to superficially suppress undesirable behaviour.

Mat_Cat_Dog

Mat's background

Mat and Cheetah

Since I was young I have been intrigued by two things: animals and science. After spending time as a teenager with a well-known pet behaviourist, I decided I wanted to make a career of working with problem pets. I wanted to base my understanding of animal behaviour and treatment techniques on both practical experience with animals, and scientific understanding.

In 1998 I completed a Bachelor of Science with a double major in Psychology and Zoology.

Upon completion of this degree I started working with Mark Vette at his pet behaviour clinic in Auckland, New Zealand. Within six months I was responsible for all aspects of the "in-clinic" dog therapy service we offered (where problem dogs stayed with us for around three weeks).

 

 

After a year of this post-graduate practical experience I started a Master of Veterinary Studies degree (in animal behaviour not medicine). I completed this degree while working full time with problem dogs. My Masters' thesis examined two areas: 1) the efficacy of behaviour therapy for canine behaviour problems, and 2) the effect of early socialisation experience on later behaviour in dogs. I received first class honors for my Masters degree.

On completing of my Masters degree in 2003 I took over all consultancy aspects of our practice. This included home consultations, telephone consultations, and consultations at our facility, as well as continuing to run the canine in-clinic program.

At the end of 2006 I left New Zealand with my wife Tracey to travel. The UK is a world leader in the field of applied animal behaviour and welfare, so I wanted to explore the greater opportunities for specialist clinical animal behaviour conferences and other professional development opportunities. We have greatly enjoyed our time in Scotland and have decided to base ourselves here. Trace has set up an equestrian-related business, developing products that enhance the welfare and performance of horses: www.abouttack.com.

In 2008 I submitted an application to the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors for full membership. I was deemed by the APBC selection panel to have satisfied their rigorous selection criteria, and am now a full member. In March 2009 I was elected by other full members of the APBC to the Committee as Treasurer.

My application for accreditation as a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB) was approved in 2011 by the Accreditation Committee of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. This independent certification for companion animal behaviourists demands the highest standards of experience and academic study - currently there are only 24 CCABs in the UK. I am the only CCAB based in the Edinburgh area. You can read more about this accreditation here.

 

Training animals for film and TV:

Mat_and_Xena

On set with Lucy Lawless (Xena)

In New Zealand I also worked as a senior trainer and on-set coordinator for Mark Vette's animals-for-film business. This involved training a wide variety of species to perform various behaviours for feature films, TV commercials, and stills photography. I was the first person in the training team to implement bridging techniques such as clicker training to positively reinforce complex behaviours.

An example of the requirements of training for film is demonstrated in the apparently straightforward cat TV commercial shown at the bottom of this page. The filming of this shoot took a day, and required me to pre-train "Zep" to run, jump, sit, stay, watch, and immerse his arm shoulder deep in water on command (the fish is computer animated). This may sound challenging enough, but is even harder when there is a film crew of 40 people on the set, and the action has to be completed exactly as requested by the director!

My experience training animals for film work, combined with the 400 problem dogs that I personally trained as part of our three-week in-clinic therapy program, means that I am excellent at the hands-on aspects of animal behaviour modification. My Bachelors and Masters degrees provide me with the solid scientifically-based knowledge to best understand and treat behaviour problems in pets.

 

If you would like to see Mat training Zep for this commercial, as well as videos of him training a big black boar, cockatoo, and border collie, click here.