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?
Doctor rechecks are an integral part of behavior therapy. Doctor behavior recheck appointments are scheduled in 3-month increments after the initial behavior consultation; the periodic recheck appointments allow us to evaluate your pet’s response to the prescribed behavior modification training and behavior medication plan and adjust as indicated. Please note that Dr. Rigterink must see your pet for an in-person recheck appointment at least once every 6 to 12 months to maintain a valid doctor-patient relationship.
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?
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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