Answers to our most common questions!
What is a veterinary behaviorist?

A veterinary behaviorist is a graduate veterinarian (DVM) who has completed a specialized training program (residency) in veterinary behavior and achieved board certification. See for more information. Currently, there are only 89 board-certified veterinary behaviorists throughout the world.

How is a veterinary behaviorist different from a dog trainer?

Dog trainers can help you train your dog. Most trainers offer foundation courses to help young dogs develop to their fullest potential. Some trainers help owners with behavior modification to address behavior problems.  Dogs with complex behavior problems, including aggression, generally need a full behavioral assessment by a veterinary (DVM) behaviorist. As a trained veterinarian, the veterinary behaviorist also determines if underlying medical problems are contributing to the development of serious behavior problems.  A dog trainer often helps to implement the behavior modification plan prescribed by the veterinary behaviorist. 

What is a certified dog trainer or behaviorist?

You may find that some individuals with no specific credentials will use these terms. It is important to learn about the education and credentials of the “certified trainer” or “behaviorist.” 

Do I need a veterinary behaviorist?

Veterinary behaviorists are veterinarians trained to treat conditions that are purely behavioral as well as those conditions that may have an underlying medical basis. In addition, fear-based and anxiety disorders are complex problems. If the behavioral problem is mismanaged, or if help is not sought early on in the progression of the problem, it often worsens. If you already have worked with a trainer and the problem is not improving, then an evaluation by a veterinary behaviorist is recommended. 

Don’t you need to come to my house to see my pet’s behavior problem?
If there is a behavior that is likely to occur only at home, you are encouraged to videotape the behavior and bring the videotape to the consultation.  However, we never advise that you intentionally trigger aggression for the sake of videotaping it. Dr. Rigterink does not need to see the problem behavior in order to assess the problem.  In addition, a visitor in the home alters the “natural” environment, so we actually are not observing the animal’s natural behavior.
What happens during an initial behavior consultation?

The initial consultations last approximately 2 hours. Anyone who will be working with the pet should try to attend the initial consultation except for small children (because of the length of the consultation). 

Dr. Rigterink will ask detailed questions regarding your pet’s history and the problematic behavior, and she will observe your pet’s behavior in the room. You are encouraged to bring short video clips of your pet’s behavior in the home environment. 

During the consultation, pets can explore the room, play with toys, eat treats, and interact freely with family and staff members when appropriate. Aggressive dogs will remain on a leash. We never will intentionally provoke or upset your pet. 

After assessing your pet, individualized written treatment plans are provided with handouts, and exercises are demonstrated for owners to follow at home. We focus on teaching the pet alternate behaviors and coping skills, as well as helping the pet develop more appropriate responses to triggers. Treatment plans also may include modifications to the environment, training tools, supplements, and medication. As a veterinarian, I also explore possible contributing to medical issues. Physical examinations are done if possible. After your appointment, our office will communicate directly with your primary veterinarian regarding further diagnostic and treatment recommendations after your appointment.

What treatments are used?

Veterinary behaviorists use the science of learning theory to help clients improve their pet’s behavior. Our methods are non-confrontational, humane, and designed to decrease household stress while improving the human-animal bond.

How much time per day will I need to spend training my dog after the consultation?
Most behavior modification exercises can be done throughout the day while you are interacting with your pet.
What is the prognosis of a behavior problem?

The outcome or prognosis for an individual pet is impacted by many factors. Underlying medical conditions, the number and severity of behavioral concerns, and the dynamics of the people in the household can impact the success of treatment. Most families seeking help are committed to following the treatment plan and see improvements in the intensity and frequency of their pet’s behavioral issues.

How many visits will I need?
After the initial consultation, we like to see our patients for a “current patient follow-up appointment” every 4 to 8 weeks to work on the behavior treatment plan. If there are specific behavior modification tasks we are working on like loose leash walking or cooperative care handling, we may encourage you and your pet to meet with one of our trainers for a training session either in person or by video.
Can you provide an assessment or offer advice by telephone or by email?

Veterinarians must establish and demonstrate a valid veterinarian – client – patient relationship before offering any diagnosis or specific treatment advice.  If you live a great distance away, follow-up appointments may be done by Skype and/or telephone.

Does my pet need to exhibit the behavior?

Generally, it is not necessary for Dr. Rigterink to see your pet engaging in problematic behavior. Many behavior problems are rooted in fear and anxiety, and as a result, it can be detrimental to attempt to elicit the behavior for any reason. In fact, treatment of a behavior disorder is most successful when the pet is not motivated to perform the problem behavior.

What if I don't want my pet to take medication?

The use of medication is based on several factors. First, the behavioral diagnosis and prognosis will be considered. In addition, your pet’s overall health and your preferences will be considered before any medication is prescribed. If Dr. Rigterink advises the use of medication, she will explain why the medication is indicated and encourage you to consult with your primary care veterinarian if you have any special concerns.

Do you have a cancellation policy?
A NON-refundable reservation fee of $100 is required to hold the appointment slot and is applied to the total initial consultation fee when you book the appointment online.

If you reschedule more than 72 hours in advance of your original appointment date, we will apply the reservation fee to your new appointment. If an appointment is canceled or not rescheduled more than 72 hours in advance of the scheduled appointment, the $100 reservation fee will be forfeited, and no refund will be given.

Contact Us


950 N Rangeline Rd #100
Carmel, Indiana 46032

Office Hours

Monday - Friday: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Saturday & Sunday: Closed

Consultations by appointment only.

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