In Scotland, anyone can call themselves a qualified dog or cat "behaviourist", "trainer", "psychologist", "listener", or "whisperer".
Why choose me?
- I am accredited through the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour as a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB), one of only 35 in the UK, and the highest standard achievable for behaviourists.
- I have a Bachelor of Science degree (Psychology and Zoology double major) and Master of Veterinary Studies degree with first class honours in companion animal behaviour.
- I have seventeen years' experience and over 4400 hours of consultation time with clients and their dogs and cats.
- I have extensive hands-on training experience with dogs, cats, and other species (3000 hours).
- My advice works - for you and your dog or cat. A study undertaken to investigate the success of my advice showed high levels of success and client satisfaction (click here).
- I am recommended by vets. Over 130 veterinary clinics in Scotland have referred behaviour cases to me.
- My clients can often claim on their pet insurance for my services.
- I use methods that improve the lives of both pet owners AND their pets, rather than using pain, fear, or intimidation to superficially suppress undesirable behaviour.
- I am a full member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors. Full membership is achieved after undergoing a rigorous selection process, ensuring that dog and cat owners and their veterinarians can identify the most qualified and experienced behaviourists in the UK.
- I am also a Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) Registered Clinical Animal Behaviourist.
- I have been independently vetted by the UK Register of Expert Witnesses (dog behaviour specialist).
The only letters I place after my name are those of my university qualifications and accreditation as a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB). Be wary of unqualified behaviourists that attempt to use their membership to an organisation as if it is a qualification. Other self-proclaimed behaviour experts may cite the completion of an unaccredited or low-level behaviour course as evidence of their qualifications.
Since I was young I have been interested in two things: animals and science. After spending time as a teenager with a well-known pet behaviourist, I decided 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 a well-known New Zealand behaviourist at his pet behaviour clinic in Auckland. 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 honours for my Masters degree.
On completing of my Masters degree in 2003 I took over all consultancy aspects of our practice, 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.
In 2008 I submitted an application to the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors for full membership and was deemed by the APBC selection panel to have satisfied their rigorous selection criteria. In March 2009 I was elected by other full members of the APBC to the Committee as Treasurer, and have held this position since.
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 35 CCABs in the UK. I am the only CCAB based in the Edinburgh area. You can read more about this accreditation here.
In 2014 I was registered as a Clinical Animal Behaviourist by the newly established Animal Behaviour & Training Council (ABTC).
Training animals for film and TV
In New Zealand I also worked as a senior trainer and on-set coordinator for our 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, and the 4400 hours I have spent with clients and their pets in consultations, means that I am proficient 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 me training Zep for this commercial, as well as videos of me training a big black boar, cockatoo, border collie, and other animals click here.