This weekend, as a 'treat' I am at a 3 day conference in London by the wonderful Dr. Karen Overall, and I'm literally still smiling on the inside.
I have been studying non-stop for 12 years now. I have been on 11 different courses, to countless seminars, and I have a DVD collection of educational DVDs from the worlds leading experts that would rival Xtravision, yet today's conference has blown everything out of the water!! I'm just back, after the seminar ran an extra 90mins, and I'm dying to pull out my notes and start digesting what we covered.
The topic was a mouthful... "Pharmacology, medication, diets and the use of supplements to change brain chemistry", but in layman's terms.... " How to help suffering dogs with more than simple behaviour modification...
That's not to belittle behaviour modification, sure that's what I do all day every day, but far too often we overlook other ways to help dogs because we're scared of the big 'D' word... drugs.
In the past before I knew better I was one of the many and many who frowned upon those who used drugs as a first resort instead of last... but as I have learned over the years how 1) an animal suffering emotionally is having an almost identical neurological response to an animal in physical pain , and 2) The use of drug intervention is sometimes an essential part of the behaviour modification programme as often an extremely anxious animal is unable to learn so using drug intervention helps that animal get to a place where they can focus and learn, and then of course in most situations you can wean off the drugs.
However, even though I am now a supporter of the use of drugs in with some behaviour cases, its an entire world, and a world I had been dancing about for several years, trying to learn where I could but still feeling like I was swimming in treacle.
Today's seminar has turned that treacle into water :)
I don't claim to all of a sudden be a psycho-pharmacologist, and I will need to go over my notes multiple times and will continue to study in the field, but I'm so inspired after today I feel like going off and studying veterinary medicine after I finish my masters.
We learnt so much that can massively benefit the vets in Ireland, so much about what drug or supplement can make huge differences in the lives of suffering animals, so much more about how the brain works, and so much about how to be the very best behaviour consultants that we can possibly be.
To finish, with a quote from the wonderful Dr. Overall (any woman who chokes up several times talking about her much loved and now gone dogs is a legend in my books)
"The use of behavioural medication is about creating an effective, scientifically based, multi-focal, integrated and humane treatment programme that respects everyone's needs. If we allow them to do so, our patents will change us for the better"