Postgraduate Lives: Patty Hunter, MSc student of animal behaviour at Southampton University

The dog that was scared of barbecues

Patty Hunter, 33, is studying for an MSc in companion animal behaviour counselling at the University of Southampton

A few years ago, I was working in the City as an IT consultant. It was fun and very well paid, but stressful. My love for animals was strong, so I left the City and started a BSc in zoology at the University of Reading. I got involved in dog training with a local group, set up my own dog-training club and registered with my vet as a behavioural counsellor.

On the MSc course, we study normal and abnormal behaviour in animals. We learn to diagnose, identify triggers [for the behaviour], make risk assessments and devise plans of action that involve behaviour modification. The Southampton programme is renowned; it's very specialist and is recognised by the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC).

The course is part-time, and every couple of months we have an intensive, week-long module. For me it's a two-hour drive to university, but other students fly in from all over the world. The most interesting module so far has been on dog law, both civil and criminal, which are very different.

Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer or dog behaviourist; there is no governing body. But organisations such as the APBC and the UK Registry of Canine Behaviourists want to see the profession more recognised and, perhaps, regulated. I'm doing the course for my own professional development, but it will stand me in good stead if there is regulation.

At the moment, my local vets refer clients to me, after they've checked that there are no underlying medical conditions causing the behaviour. I then observe the dog in the client's home. I had a memorable case with a Newfoundland who was phobic of most things. It began when he became scared of a barbecue - it really freaked him out. Then it got to the point that if someone banged a pot in the kitchen he would hide, and if anyone made any noise with his bowl he wouldn't eat. If he was taken outside for a walk, he just sat down and panicked. It was extreme. I diagnosed panic disorder and it turned out that the client also had panic attacks, which shows how sensitive dogs are to their owners' states of mind.

I set a programme to desensitise and countercondition the dog to noise. This didn't work, so I brought the dog to my house and changed his outlook. Two weeks after the dog returned to his owner, she called to say: "I'm in Oxford Street and my dog's happy and walking nicely!"

I was born in Spain, educated in Texas and have lived in the UK for 15 years. I'm a mongrel. But as for any problem behaviour, you'll have to ask my husband about that.

Caitlind1@aol.com

News
peopleMathematician John Nash inspired the film Beautiful Mind
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Life and Style
fashionFrom bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Developer - Norfolk - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Software Developer - Norf...

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine