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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
Would you send your pet to the psychiatrist?
Five golden Labrador puppies
Professor Daniel Mills has been appointed the professor of animal psychiatry at Lincoln University.

The role will involve studying the behaviour of dogs, cats and horses and examining their fears and stresses.

The growing arena of pet psychiatry sees 15,000 pets referred to animal behaviour experts every year, in addition to the billions of pounds spent at the vets by pet owners.

Have you sent your pet to the pet psychiatrist? Was it a success? Or do you believe that pets belong off the counselling couch? Send us your comments using the form on the right.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

I've grown up with pets, and I love animals. And I've learned that mostly, pets will react to and behave according to their environment. So, if the owner needs the couch, the pet will probably too. However, I think that a pet psychiatrist is a little too ludicrous a luxury. There are people out there with more important problems that could use specialist help. Then again, we all know that it's better to send that deranged poodle or Siamese for therapy than its owner and his neighbours. It's probably cheaper too.
Nik, Bradford, UK

They are trying to tell us something when they behave badly
I would absolutely send my pets if it would help them. I have a horse who is very defensive due to previous bad handling. He has tried to attach me on numerous occasions, and if you've ever been charged by a shire-type horse before, you will understand how frightening it is. After reading many books on behaviour and listening to advice, because of the way I am treating him, he has now calmed down considerably. It's not so much 'psychiatry' but understanding that animals are not 'humans' in fluffy coats. They react differently to things than we would, and we have to put ourselves in their shoes to understand why they do the things they do. Believe me, they are trying to tell us something when they behave 'badly'.

As a Trainer/psychologist who sees many dogs with behaviour problems, I have referred quite a few on to Professor Daniel Mills, as often behaviour problems have quite complex causes. Particularly hidden medical conditions, which require the expertise of Daniel to investigate further.
Fran Griffin, Milton Keynes, UK

My chocolate labrador keeps me sane, so he is a psychiatrist himself!
Paul Gibbons, Gloucester

don't waste your money on stupid things
Joe, UK
Now way. You must be joking! Sounds like too many people have lost their reality. Get a life and play with your dog! That's what they want! And don't waste your money on stupid things.
Joe, UK

No one complains when people spend their spare cash on a flashier car or more CDs or a bigger TV set, so why do some people get so irate when dog-owners want to spend some of their money on helping a pet with problems? Those who think this is money that would otherwise be going to the starving millions in Africa are dreaming. It would otherwise go on exactly the same kinds of consumer goods that you yourselves spend your expendable income on.
Adam Hunter, UK

Of course we should. It has often been said that pets behaviour mimics that of their owners. Given that the pet psychiatrist is not funded from the NHS this is a brilliant idea. Who does fund Professor David Mills? I do hope it is not the non pet owning public...!
Peter Morgalla,

Perhaps we will finally get to the bottom of why that Andrex puppy keeps on running away with that boys toilet roll.
John Ovens, Harwich

My cat is saner than I am - he doesn't go out to work, he doesn't pay tax, and lives by his own rules
Phil, UK
My cat would probably want to send me to the shrink 'cos I don't dismember shrews mice and frogs on the lounge carpet. Apart from that, my cat is saner than I am - he doesn't go out to work, he doesn't pay tax, and lives by his own rules.
Phil, UK

We adopted our 4-year old cat, Cuddles, from my mum last May because Mum had to go and live in an intermediate care facility. As a result, Cuddles who we love dearly suffered from severe separation anxiety. In retrospect, a pet psychiatrist would have been a great help to us and our cat!
Barbara Blum, Victoria

I laughed when my vet suggested I took my dog to an animal behaviourist when he suddenly started exhibiting extreme anxiety when left alone in the house after we moved. I tried all sorts of things to "cure" him myself all to no avail. In desperation I finally came round to the idea of taking him to a behaviourist and the improvement is great. So this cynical person has now come around to the idea of animal behavioural therapy being more than a money making gimmick!
Teresa, London

Most behavioural problems are down to animal psychology and a lack of thought from their owners
David Hazel, Fareham, UK
Why "psychiatry", rather than "psychology", I wonder? I am aware that animals do sometimes have mental illnesses, but most behavioural problems are down to animal psychology and a lack of thought from their owners.
David Hazel, Fareham, UK

No I wouldn't, but Id pay good money to see someone telling 13 stone of Ticked off Rotwieller that its socially unacceptable to chase cats.
D Lindley, Cambridge

Nope....I love my dog just the way she is.
Brendan , Belfast

Not likely, he's loopy enough already.
Phil Davies, Evesham UK

Most pet owners need to see psychiatrists. I like the idea of seeing a joint vet and human clinic in Oxford in which people bring their pets and they can both be assessed at the same time. Appropriate action can then be taken to remove animals and children in danger. A pet never lies!
Kate, Oxford

Pathetic...This country seems to focus more and more on animals rather than people.
Sara, UK

I find an interesting connection between this 'pet psychiatry' story and the incident this week of the woman lying injured in the gutter as motorists drove by. We have so much love to give, and yet other humans are just not worth lavishing it on. Pets thus fill a certain psychological need - they remind us of how good it is to care.
Trevor Cerbera, Brighton, England

I would gladly send my old dog to a pet psychiatrist if it would cure him of his fear of fireworks
Ann Cooper, Orpington, UK
I would gladly send my old dog to a pet psychiatrist if it would cure him of his fear of fireworks. Yobs near me are already letting them off and he is terrified. As for being smelly and flea ridden - he is neither & never has been. Generalising in that pets are flea ridden and smelly is the same as saying that all people with the initials LP are bigoted.
Ann Cooper, Orpington, UK

If a pet owner did that then I'd recommend that maybe it's them that should be seeing the psychiatrist. There's so much poverty in the world and people actually consider this as an option?
John Kelly, Cardiff, Wales

How about people think long and hard about whether they really want a pet, and whether they can give it the time and training that it needs. Most pets that go to behavioural experts have not been cared for properly. Pets are like very young children in some senses, they need to be taught right from wrong and where their boundaries are.
Liz, UK

I can certainly see the logic behind identifying why a pet may behave in a certain way, especially if there has been a history of abuse.
Daniel, Warrington, UK

I did see a dramatic improvement
Anne Graham, Bristol
I'm not sure about a pet psychiatrist but when my vet recommended I sent my two year old Labrador to her colleague who specialised in behaviour of dogs, I did see a dramatic improvement. He had failed all his puppy training classes and was totally out of control. He is now (a bit) more sane and I'm glad I spent the money on it. It was worth it for a quieter life!
Anne Graham, Bristol

This is all we need in this country. Pet psychologists I ask you . What next - yoga for goldfish? Support groups for bereaved gerbils? Let's get a grip people.
Barry, Cheshire

Why not. If you've got the money and it is obviously very popular. We are clearly a nation of pet lovers. But that doesn't convince me to let the flea-ridden smelly things in to my house.
LP, London

Roy, Sunderland

Pets share the same emotions as their owners because of the time they spend with them
Bob Thackery, Rochdale
I think pets share the same emotions as their owners because of the time they spend with them. Things like moving house and divorce unsettle pets as much as they do other family members. If you can help them by sending them to a animal behaviour expert then I say go for it.
Bob Thackery, Rochdale

This will be a debate between pet lovers and pet haters. Everyone falls in to one of these camps - there can be no half-way house. I don't see what it's got to do with anyone else if I want to send my troublesome and depressed cat to see someone like Professor Mills.
K Harley, Lanarkshire

First pet psychiatrist appointed
02 Oct 04  |  Science/Nature
Pets used as pawns by abusers
02 Aug 04  |  Scotland
Pets 'thrown away' over Christmas
17 Jan 04  |  Scotland


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