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Academic Qualifications, ASAB Accreditation, RSPCA Recognition of CCABs.
Jennifer is a highly qualified and very experienced postgraduate specialist Behaviour Consultant, having achieved a First Class Bachelor of Science Honours Degree in Applied Animal Science.
Applied Animal Science specifically covered animal behaviour and associated areas that contribute to behaviour and behavioural modification such as learning theory, genetics, functional anatomy, pathology and toxicology, biology, biochemistry, microbiology, mammalian physiology, animal management, animal husbandry, nutrition, breeding, animal welfare, managing change etc.
Canine aggression is a very frequently encountered and potentially very serious behavioural problem and Jennifer’s extensive practical experience and detailed knowledge of it prompted her decision to choose this subject for her degree thesis, looking at influencing factors and practical training during original research to establish how best to address this problem, both in terms of prevention when possible, and resolution if aggression does occur.
Prior to retiring from the ASAB Register in 2018, in 2004 Jennifer qualified for further postgraduate Accreditation as a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB), having fulfilled the exacting stipulations of expertise composed of practical experience, appropriate academic qualification and knowledge of theory underpinning practical behavioural modification applications and techniques, professional references and professional insurance, all required for acceptance onto the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) Register of CCABs.
CCABs are also required to adhere to ASAB’s Code of Conduct. The Register of CCABs was established by ASAB with a view to providing the public and the veterinary profession with a reliable, reputable source of professional, academically qualified, experienced and accountable Animal Behaviourists.
CCAB qualification is the only accreditation of animal behaviourists bestowed by ASAB. This qualification and the various requirements that have to be achieved to attain it means that it is also recognised by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) as a standard to look for when choosing a behaviourist.
This confidence, and their personal experience and knowledge of her work and of her reputation, has led to over 200 veterinary surgeons referring cases to Jennifer.
Rescue organisations including Dogs Trust and Cats Protection, and breed rescue organisations such as Labrador Lifeline and Newfoundland rescue have also requested that Jennifer see cases on their behalf for behavioural and rehoming assessment and for behavioural modification. She has also provided behavioural and handling advice to the RSPCA.
Jennifer is also a full member, and currently a Council member, of the British Veterinary Forensic and Law Association (BVFLA) and regularly attends and contributes to their training days.
Aside from her academic achievements, ASAB accreditation and RSPCA recognition of CCABs, Jennifer has very extensive practical ”hands on” experience, having been a professional Behaviour Consultant and Trainer for over thirty years. She occupied the position of Behavioural Associate with the Mitcham Veterinary Clinic in Surrey from 1986 until her house move in 2015. Over this time she has received frequent referrals from many other veterinary practices, helping over two hundred veterinary surgeons and thousands of owners and their pets, including several high-profile personalities.
She has also owned and trained falcons for free flying and successfully trained dogs for competition in showing, agility, obedience and lure coursing winning “Best of Breed in Field” over the season in 1999 with her own Borzoi.
Jennifer has kept and shown her own cats, and also taught them various tricks. She has regularly acted as vetting-in steward at GCCF accredited cat shows, meeting and handling several hundred cats of different breeds in the process.
Although no longer seeing horses professionally. Jennifer has extensive equine experience having been in sole charge of backing a number of previously unridden horses, conducted further ridden schooling and having resolved loading issues and other problems in horses. Jennifer re-schooled her own Arabian ex-racehorse to compete successfully in various equine disciplines including dressage, show jumping, cross country and ridden showing classes.
Apart from dogs, cats, horses and falcons Jennifer has kept a wide variety of other birds and animals from childhood, ranging from wildlife rescues to pet ducks, mice, rats, chipmunks, ferrets, chinchillas, snakes and a free-ranging, house-living fox, amongst other species.
Forensic (court-based) Work, Police & Government Departments
Expert witness work is another area where Jennifer is consulted. She is acknowledged as an expert witness in animal behaviour by Crown and Magistrates Courts and by the many lawyers (defence and prosecution) who have consulted her for advice and who have instructed her to conduct behavioural assessments for court cases and to give live and written expert evidence in animal-related cases. She has lectured on animal behaviour and forensic temperament assessments to solicitors and Police Dog Handlers at the Metropolitan Police Dog Training Establishment at Keston in the early 1990s.
Various aspects of Jennifer’s work and interests frequently bring her into communication and discussions with other animal-related professionals such as various officers in the Metropolitan Police Status Dogs unit, RSPCA Inspectors, Borough Council Environmental Health Officers, Dog Wardens, Children's Services Personel and farmers and proprietors of rescue and boarding establishments, aside from extensive, more formal, constantly-ongoing Continuous Professional Development in various areas.
By invitation of Sergeant Trevor Ford, then of the Metropolitan Police, Jennifer has been directly involved in Police dog training days, being a part of an “unruly crowd” and being a hiding “suspect” for a building search, as well as closely observing other training exercises, including firearm support training.
Jennifer has advised various Government Consultative Committees on Parliamentary Bills relating to behaviour, training, welfare and safety issues of dogs and dog ownership and her expertise and contribution were mentioned by the Select Committee responsible for 1996 amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act that removed compulsory destruction of dogs found to be of Pitbull type.
Jennifer submitted written evidence on training and welfare considerations relating to dogs to EFRACOM during consultations for the then upcoming Animal Welfare Act (2006) and at their specific invitation she gave live oral evidence to DEFRA relating to that Act.
Jennifer is very frequently asked to participate in hands-on handling and conducting of behavioural and “type” assessments in forensic cases, including being instructed to conduct the behavioural assessment for “Judd”, Mr Dunne’s dog, of the landmark Dunne and Brock judgement (1993) for consideration under Section 4a of the Dangerous Dogs Act, successfully demonstrating his suitable temperament to be returned to his owner under the terms of the Index of Exempted Dogs.
The forensic caseload undertaken by Mitcham Veterinary Clinic, in which Jennifer is routinely and regularly involved, also covers cruelty, neglect and welfare cases involving various species, other dog-related criminal cases and civil cases involving dogs and other species.
Merton Borough Council are amongst Jennifer's Borough Council clients. On a number of occasions Jennifer has conducted assessments and, when necessary, behaviour modification programmes for dogs in homes that have applied for consideration to take on adoptive or foster children.
Lambeth Borough Council have also asked Jennifer for behavioural advice and information regarding children being placed in homes with resident dogs, as have Bromley Borough Council with regard to reducing problem behaviour from dogs belonging to owners living in Council run accommodation.
Additionally in 1996 and 1997 she designed and judged canine temperament and obedience tests at the request of Hounslow Council dog wardens at borough-sponsored dog events in Bedfont and District Country Park to promote responsible dog ownership.
Media credits include being a regularly-invited guest on Sky News since 2005. Jennifer has repeatedly appeared live on Sky News, both in the studio and via phone link, to provide advice and information to viewers about owner:animal bonds and interactions, dog behaviour, welfare, training and legislation. Aside from these guest invitations, Jennifer has addditionally provided advice and information on animal-related issues to Sky News researchers.
A number of other National television television programmes including Central TV “Weekend Live” and John Stapleton's "The Time, The Place" have also invited Jennifer to participate in recorded programmes to discuss behaviour and animal-related legal issues. She has also appeared on local cable television to discuss health and welfare of pets.
Radio stations including Radio Five Live, Talk Radio and Radio Berkshire have conducted live interviews with Jennifer to provide behavioural advice and information on air for their listeners. She has also contributed to LBC 97.3 radio broadcasts, discussing animal behaviour, welfare and legislation.
Jennifer’s behavioural work was the subject of a feature article in the Daily Mail.
Being an invited, commissioned writer for Veterinary Times, Veterinary Nursing Times and Animal Health Advisor, Jennifer is herself a published author. She has had several full length articles and numerous shorter communications published. The content has covered breed specific legislation, legal expert work and the role of the expert, welfare and training issues raised by the plethora of assorted TV “problem” dog training programmes, human-directed canine aggression, animal welfare and suffering, fears and phobias in cats and dogs, use of the whip in horse racing, behavioural considerations contributing to heatstroke, dominance theory in training, etc.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Commitment to CPD ensures that Jennifer constantly remains up-to-date with new developments in the fields of ethology (behaviour), behavioural science including learning theory, training techniques and communication skills by attending over 80 hours of lectures, seminars, conferences and events each year, provided by a range of organisations including veterinary associations in Europe and America, veterinary pharmaceutical companies, animal activity events, forensic organisations, behavioural organisations, various independent experts, zoological societies, etc, in addition to very extensive self-study.
Some particular CPD highlights have included spending a private 1-2-1 day at Candy Kitchen wolf sanctuary in New Mexico, USA, providing a very special opportunity to observe, handle and interact with their resident wolves and wolf hybrids, and to discuss various aspects of their care and behaviour at length with the proprietors, and also spending a further similar day at San Bernadino wolf sanctuary in California with their wolves. Wolf Watch in the UK provided further opportunity for a less personal group-based observation and less "hands on" interaction with wolves. She and a veterinary colleague were extended a private invitation by the proprietor to observe the wolf pack at West Midlands Safari Park. Jennifer and her colleague have also visited, by invitation, animal law enforcement agencies here in the UK and also in the United States where she gained experience with dogs and wolf hybrids that had serious behavioural issues including aggression.
In 1998 she was privileged to be personally invited to experience private clicker training sessions with lions and hyenas at Busch Gardens in Florida where they were being trained to safely present themselves for blood testing, without sedative use. She was also invited to meet and interact with their Serval cats and to actively take part in their training as species ambassadors.
In 2012 Jennifer was invited to visit ringmaster Norman Barrett MBE to discuss training and welfare of animal circus acts, including horses and budgerigars.
Choosing a Trainer or Behaviourist- Be aware!
“Animal Behaviourist”, “Whisperer”, "Animal Communicator", "Pet Psychologist", "Pet Sitter", "Dog Walker", “Trainer” etc are all completely unregulated titles i.e. anyone can use them to describe themselves, and anyone can claim to be "professional" if they have ever charged a fee and anyone can claim to be “fully qualified”, even if only by a correspondence course or by attending a few short lectures provided run by a self-appointed individual or organisation.
It is very important therefore, but it can be difficult, to ensure that you are seeing someone who is genuinely knowledgeable, suitably experienced in actually seeing and conducting real, genuine cases, including any necessary re-training of the owner and animal, and who is qualified to university degree level in an appropriate, relevant subject, by an independently recognised, accredited body.
Veterinary recommendation, personal recommendation and independent recognition and accreditation of the potential behaviourist by respected animal-related organisations such as ASAB and RSPCA can help with quality assurance when looking for help.
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Copyright © 2008-18 J. Dobson