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 first component of the initial consultation (in-office) is 1 ½ hours. During the in-office portion, Dr. Rigterink reviews your pet’s behavior history and medical records and observes your pet in the office (and by any video clips you provide). We may perform a physical exam if indicated. After the assessment is completed, Dr. Rigterink develops an individualized treatment plan suited to the needs of both pet and owner. The plan will include medical and behavioral recommendations. The behavioral plan includes a combination of (1) management strategies (2) behavior foundation exercises (3) mental enrichment activities (4) training tools (5) behavioral supplements and/or behavioral medication as needed. All the above are important components in every treatment plan. You will receive a comprehensive behavior visit summary that will outline the treatment plan for your pet. The second component included in the initial consultation process is a 15-minute video conference scheduled a few weeks after the in-office visit to answer any questions about the initial plan. Unlimited email follow-up is included for up to 3 months after the initial consultation. Anyone who will be working with your pet should try to attend the initial consultation (in person or video) except for young children because of the length of the consultation. It is important to remember that behavior treatment plans require your input and hard work to be successful. After the initial consultation, our office will communicate directly with your primary veterinarian and send them a copy of the visit summary to make sure they are informed of the plan.
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?
Recheck appointments are an integral part of behavior therapy. These appointments are scheduled in 3 month increments after your initial behavior consultation and early on in your pet’s treatment plan. Once your pet is stabilized, a recheck should be scheduled every 6 months for continued care.  Please note, Dr. Rigterink legally must see your pet at least once a year to maintain a valid doctor-patient relationship.
What are some steps I can take while I wait for my initial consultation?

At Veterinary Behavior of Indiana, we aim to see clients for an initial consultation with their pet as soon as possible. Many of our clients are in similar situations and may have waited several weeks for their first appointment. As a result, we usually are unable to displace clients who already have scheduled appointments. Due to the length of the initial appointment (1 1/2 hours), Dr. Rigterink can see only a small number of new patients per week compared to a general veterinary practice.

The following steps may be helpful to ensure the safety of your pet and family until your initial appointment time.

1. Consult your Primary Veterinarian

If you feel that you have an urgent case but must wait to be seen, please consult your primary veterinarian if you have not done so. Be sure that your primary veterinarian has examined your pet, run any laboratory tests that he/she feels are appropriate, and has prescribed treatment as needed. Please note that Dr. Rigterink cannot prescribe medications or other specific treatments for an animal she has not examined. If your primary veterinarian wishes to consult Dr. Rigterink while you are awaiting your appointment, please have him/her contact our office.

2. Increased Management

Most behavior problems are long-standing, chronic conditions for which there is no magic “quick fix.” As much as possible, owners should try to avoid the circumstances where the problems are likely to occur. For example, if you have a dog that is aggressive towards other dogs when out on a walk, avoid walks until your appointment. Or, if your dog is exhibiting signs of separation anxiety, consider the use of family members/dog sitters to avoid having the dog stay home alone.

Remember: If you have a veterinary emergency, please call your primary veterinarian right away.

3. Work with a credentialed trainer

Work with a credentialed trainer who uses behavioral training techniques that are based on science through positive reinforcement. We do not advocate or prescribe aversive methods (i.e. shock collars, prong collars, correction-based training) to modify behavior.

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, doctor recheck appointments may be done by Zoom if the patient has been seen in the last year.

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?

NON-refundable reservation fee of $247.50 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 48 hours in advance of your original appointment date, we will apply the reservation fee to your new appointment.

If you reschedule with less than 48 hours notice, your reservation fee will not apply to your new appointment and will be forfeited. The cost of the full initial consultation ($495) will be due at the time of your new appointment. 


If you cancel your appointment, the reservation fee is non-refundable.

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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