At Your Service: Animal Behavior Clinic

The Animal Behavior Clinic at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University provides comprehensive services aimed to help pet owners address many common animal behavior problems, including:

  • aggression directed at people or other animals, inside or outside of the home;
  • anxiety, including specific fears and phobias (e.g., separation anxiety and thunderstorm phobia);
  • compulsive disorders, such as tail chasing, shadow chasing, flank sucking, acral lick dermatitis, psychogenic alopecia, and wool sucking;
  • species-typical behaviors, such as urine spraying; and
  • nuisance behaviors such as excessive barking, digging, and nipping

Founded in 1986 by internationally renowned animal behaviorist, Dr. Nicholas Dodman, the Animal Behavior Clinic was one of the first of its kind in the country.

Providing Access to Specialized Animal Behaviorists

The clinic is home to individuals who are board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, as well as licensed veterinarians who are either involved in or have completed their residency training. As the only veterinary teaching hospital in New England, you will appreciate knowing that our animal behaviorists have access to a wide range of veterinary specialists, who may be consulted if a medical issue is found to be a factor related to an animal’s behavior.

Meet our Team

Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, MRCVS, is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, and Professor, Section Head and Program Director of the Animal Behavior Department of Clinical Sciences at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. Dr. Dodman is internationally recognized as one of the world’s most noted and celebrated veterinary behaviorists. Shortly after joining the Tufts faculty in 1981, Dr. Dodman developed a strong interest in behavioral pharmacology and the field of animal behavior, and in 1986 founded the Animal Behavior Clinic. The list of accomplishments that define Dr. Dodman is extensive and reflects his wealth of experience and prestige in the field of animal behavior. He has authored four acclaimed bestselling books: The Dog Who Loved Too Much (Bantam Books, 1995), The Cat Who Cried for Help (Bantam Books, 1997), Dogs Behaving Badly (Bantam Books, 1999) and, the latest, If Only They Could Speak (W.W. Norton & Co., 2002). Additionally, he appears regularly on radio and major television programming, is a Pet Expert for Time, Inc. and also writes a monthly “Expert Advice” column for LIFE magazine.

Stephanie Borns-Weil, DVM, earned her doctorate in veterinary medicine at  Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in 2007. Prior to joining the Behavior Service as a resident, Dr. Borns-Weil was in general practice on the North Shore. As a general practitioner, she focused on educating owners about animal behavior and making the visits stress free for the pets. In 2010, she opened a behavior house call practice that served the Boston area. Dr. Borns-Weil has had a lifelong interest in the human-animal bond as well as animal behavior. She holds a Masters Degree from Harvard Divinity School, which has helped her to develop the tools to communicate effectively with pet owners. Dr. Borns-Weil is deeply committed to working closely with clients to solve their pets’ behavioral problems and support their important relationship with their pets.

Ronni Tinker, animal behavior clinic’s office manager, is responsible for the business operations of the Animal Behavior Clinic. Ronni is well known with existing clients for her friendly and compassionate personality when booking clients for in-house appointments or VetFax consultations. She is the “go to” person for all the information and materials you will need to set up a behavior consultation for your pet. As a veterinary teaching institution, we are committed to training the veterinarians and animal care specialists of the future. These students rotate through our clinical services and are integral to the entire veterinary team.

Services We Offer

There are two different ways a pet can come to receive care from our animal behaviorist team. Some pet owners may self-refer or you as a primary care veterinarian may recommend our services.

  1. Veterinary Behavior Consultations
    A pet owner will participate in a ninety-minute consultation with either Dr. Nicholas Dodman or Dr. Stephanie Borns-Weil at which time he/she will receive a diagnosis, behavioral explanation, prognosis, and treatment plan for the pet’s behavior problem. The program includes a six-month follow-up period during which our Animal Behavior team will help the owner implement the treatment suggestions.
  2. VETFAX
    You may refer one of your pet clients for an animal behavior consultation, which will involve a veterinarian–to–veterinarian consultation. You will work with your client owner to provide a written account of the behavior problem and mail or fax this report to Tufts Behavior Clinic. Dr. Dodman and his assistant will make a three- to six-page consultation response to the you within one week.

In both cases, an extensive questionnaire is required regarding the pet’s behavior, health and lifestyle. We will then provide a full explanation for the behavior, develop a behavioral management and treatment program, and work closely with you/your client, providing ongoing support via telephone and e-mail communication to address questions that may arise as the recommended behavior modification are implemented.

Treatment typically involves a combination of behavior modification for pets and management changes for owners. In some case, drug therapy is required to resolve the problem.

Established behaviors take time to change with a minimum course of behavioral treatment to be about eight weeks. Pharmacological intervention takes longer, and typically requires a 6-12 month course of treatment.

Scheduling a Consult

We recognize that animal behavior problems play a significant role in the breakdown of the human/animal bond in families that own pets. At the Animal Behavior Clinic, we are dedicated to providing the most compassionate experience for pets and their loved ones. If you would like to arrange for a VetFax consult, you may contact Ronni Tinker at 508-887-4640.