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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 October, 2004, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
First pet psychiatrist appointed
Danny Mills and dog
Danny Mills has spent 10 years researching animal behaviour
Britain's first professor of animal psychiatry has been appointed at Lincoln University.

Professor Daniel Mills has become the country's first specialist in veterinary behavioural science.

At the university's new biological sciences department, he will study the behaviour of dogs, cats and horses, and see how their anxieties can be solved.

He believes that dogs and humans have similarities as their minds probably developed in the same way.

After 10 years in the discipline, Prof Mills said dogs can offer more than unconditional love to their owners.

What next - yoga for goldfish? Support groups for bereaved gerbils?
Barry, Cheshire

"They share a lot of similarities.

"The two have a long history together, they've faced similar problems.

"People have been cooperative hunters, they've lived in social groups - so have dogs. They faces similar problems in evolution so their minds have probably evolved in similar ways."

Research on traumatised horses has been carried out at Lincoln University.

Using scientific data about natural behaviour to help unhappy pets, researchers say stressful situations effect animals just as they might effect members of the family.

Miranda Sabey with Bosch
Miranda Sabey has spent hundreds of pounds on help for Bosch

More than 15,000 pets get referred to animal psychiatrists every year and it is a growing industry in addition to the billion pounds spent on vet bills.

Dog owner Miranda Sabey has spent hundreds of pounds trying to find out why her seven-year-old boxer Bosch hates going to the park.

"He is my absolute baby and it would be so much nicer if he enjoyed his walks.

"Although we've been dog training, and he was fine in the classes, he still couldn't handle being in society and being down the park. I felt I needed more help than I was getting."

Bosch's psychotherapist Janetta Smith, who has studied human psychology, believes dogs are like 5-year-old children.

"It's a bit like someone suffering from agoraphobia, they can't cope with certain situations.

That is the trouble [with Bosch], he's not exposed to those, so he can't cope, so now its getting him exposed to them so he can cope."

Watch a video report about pet psychiatry

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