Pet Behavior Wellness: Fad or Wave of the Future?

Dan Estep, Ph.D., CAAB and Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D., CAAB
With guest chatter Nancy Williams, M.A., RVT,  ACAAB


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In the last few years there has been a gradual change in the thinking of dog trainers, veterinarians, behavior consultants, other pet professionals and pet owners.  The shift has been away from a focus on behavior problems, obedience training and good manners to a wider consideration of the quality of life for pets and their people.  Terms such as quality of life, behavioral health, behavioral well-being and behavioral wellness have become more frequent in writings and discussions of pet behavior.

Suzanne and Dan wrote an article* 11 years ago that encouraged general practice veterinarians to consider adding behavioral wellness programs to their services.   They also have written and lectured to many other pet professional groups, including trainers and behavior consultants, urging them to add behavioral wellness programs as well.

Behavior health and wellness are terms we see used more frequently lately, but often without any definitions or descriptive information.  As we’ve formulated our ideas about these topics over the years, here’s some of the questions we’ve asked ourselves:

  • What is behavioral wellness and why should we be interested in it?
  • What does it mean to have a behaviorally healthy pet and how do you get one?
  • How do behaviorally healthy pets act?  What are the criteria for behavioral health?
  • Is behavior wellness simply the absence of behavioral problems or something more?
  • Is a state of behavioral wellness an ideal that can be applied to all pets, or does it vary with the living conditions and the ‘job’ that we ask our pets to do?
  • Does simply meeting an animal’s behavioral and physical needs put it in good behavioral health or is good behavioral health something more?
  • Is good behavioral health an unobtainable ideal?
  • How can adding behavior wellness services be beneficial to a variety of pet businesses?

In this CAAB Chat Suzanne, Dan, and Nancy, discuss these questions and talk about what Behavioral Wellness means to pet professionals and pet owners today and in the future. They also address how the services offered by pet professionals may or may not be changing in response to behavioral health considerations.

Watch the replay and judge for yourself if Behavioral Wellness is just another pet profession fad term or if it is something more permanent, reflective of shifting attitudes about our relationships with our pets.

Here are the links to the cat and dog behavior wellness evaluations we mentioned in the Chat

Cat Behavior Wellness Evaluation
Dog Behavior Wellness Evaluation

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We mentioned our guide to “Incorporating Behavior Wellness into Your Training Business”.  Just as the title says, you’ll get ideas about wellness services and which ones would be a good fit for your business. We wrote the book in 2005, and although it needs a bit of updating, the principles remain relevant. For that reason, we’ve discounted the price from it’s original $19.95 to $10.95. Still gives you ideas and techniques to add a wellness approach to your business!  Delivered digitally as an e-book in pdf format.


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*Hetts, S., Heinke, M.L. and D. Q. Estep, 2004.  Behavior wellness concepts for the general veterinary practice.  JAVMA 225(4): 506-513.