Strengthening our bond to improve animals' lives

2012 AVSAB Student Chapter Award

This year, AVSAB had a record number of student chapters (17) with many groups being quite active. The winner of this year’s award, The Behavior Medicine Club at UC Davis, was particularly outstanding. The club reduced costs for speakers by collaborating with other veterinary student clubs and enlisting the help of graduate and even undergraduate students who were willing to share their interesting behavior experiences. The club also made ample use of its advisor, Dr. Melissa Bain, and resident, Dr. Elizabeth Stelow. Its award nomination is below for you to read.

We realize, however, that many student chapters don’t have access to behavior residents or even board-certified veterinary behaviorists. AVSAB encourages all of its student chapters to submit nominations for the Student Chapter Award; we know there’s a lot of great behavior related activities and lectures going on out there, and we want to hear about them! Learn more about how to enter your club for the 2013 award (

UC Davis Behavior Medicine Club Award Nomination

To celebrate the variety of fields that behavior medicine reaches to positively influence animal quality of life and welfare, BMC put on or teamed up with other clubs at the vet school to put on rounds by experts on behavior issues in many different species!
1) Puppy Socialization with Dr. Melissa Bain, DVM, DACVB
a. Discussed the importance and methods of socialization, and covered the latest research debunking the myth that puppy socialization classes carry an increased risk for parvo.

2) Avian Feather Picking  with avian expert Dr. Brian Speer, DVM (Co-hosted with AAHA)
a. Covered the frustrating behavior of feather picking in birds, with a focus on the behavior related causes for feather picking and the importance of enrichment and low stress environments for pet birds.

3) Service Dog Training with James Mech, a UC Davis undergraduate student
a. James Mech told his story of training his own service dog, and gave insight on everything from how he selected the dog for temperament to the heartwarming benefits his dog provides him in his times of need.

4) Behavioral Problems with Captive Primates, with Daniel Gottlieb, UC Davis graduate student in the department Vet Med – Population Health and Reproduction (Co-hosted with Wildlife and Aquatics Medicine Club)
a. Presented his research on what factors cause the most stress in primates, and discussed how to make simple changes in their environment to decrease this stress in the lab to provide them with a better quality of life and improve their welfare.

5) Small Animal Case Discussions with Dr. Melissa Bain, DVM, DACVB and Dr. Elizabeth Stelow, DVM, Behavior resident
a. Presented cases about a human- aggressive and a dog- aggressive dog, and a cat- aggressive cat, methods to treat, and the clinical importance of the type of environment the dog lives in and owner commitment in treatment of behavior problems.

6) Shelter Animal Enrichment with Dr. Sheila D’Arpino, DVM, DACVB (Co-hosted with Shelter Medicine Club)
a. A webinar presented on the different levels of needs of shelter animals (very applicable to all pet animals), especially the things required for their behavioral health.

7) Pot-bellied pig behavior with Dr. Valarie Tynes, DVM, DACVB.
a. Covered the basics of normal pig behaviors and some potential common behavioral problems that may arise with pot bellied pigs as pets, as well as how to enrich their environment and help prevent behavior problems.


1) Annual Behavior Medicine Symposium
a. 1 day symposium featuring the expertise of several veterinary behaviorists.
b. Educated >170 veterinarians, technicians, and students on important topics in behavior medicine (7 lectures total, CE provided for veterinarians and veterinary technicians)
c. Topics included: Feline Inappropriate Elimination (Dr. Valarie Tynes), Debunking Myths in Veterinary Behavior (Dr. Melissa Bain), Separation Anxiety (Dr. Rachel Malamed), Feline Body Language (Dr. Jeanine Berger), Low stress handling of small mammals (Dr. Valarie Tynes), Dealing with Pet Loss (Dr. Lynette Hart), and Why do pets do that? (Dr. Benjamin Hart).
d. SCAVSAB at UC Davis is particularly proud of this event because of its potential to influence the way veterinarians and technicians in practice approach training, handling, and behavioral problems of animals.  We hope that the knowledge from our symposium will give veterinarians tools to prevent or fix a number of behavior problems, thus reducing the pet relinquishment rate and improving the human-animal bond.

2) Beef Improvement and Low Stress Cattle Handling Seminar  (Co-hosted with Food Animal Reproduction and Medicine Club)
a. A full-day seminar including topics in cattle behavior and low stress handling by food animal veterinarian Dr. Lynn Locatelli who has focus on low stress handling for cattle.
b. The seminar was held for cattle producers to educate them on how they can improve cattle management with respect to reducing stress and improving quality of life, among other topics.
c. Included a pre-seminar rounds with Dr. Lynn Locatelli for veterinary students on cattle behavior.
d. This new team up with the FARM club was particularly exciting due to the prospect of making a big impact on the welfare of many farm animals.

Hands On Training

1) Clicker Training:
a. In this fun wet lab run by Behavior Department Chair Dr. Melissa Bain and Behavior resident Dr. Elizabeth Stelow, vet students learned how to properly time and utilize clicker training and when clicker training can be a potential benefit to training.
b. First, we practiced training each other by picking a set of movements we wanted another student to do, and clicker training them to do the movements using candy as a reward.
c. After that, we applied what we learned about timing and the best time to click to clicker training student’s dogs (or depending on the dog at least got them to associate the sound of the clicker with treats).

2) Dog-Dog Aggression
a. Dr. Melissa Bain and Dr. Stelow led the dog-dog aggression wet lab.
b. We recruited four dogs among vet students–two of them are friendly dogs, and the other two have dog aggression but are friendly with humans.
c. Dr. Bain and Dr. Stelow each took one friendly dog and one aggressive dog to demonstrate desensitization and counter-conditioning.  By offering treats every time the aggressive dog saw the other dog in distance and gradually reducing the distance, the two aggressive dogs were able to tolerate the sight of another dog within 10-15 feet by the end of the session.
d. During this process, vet students were able to observe and interact with Dr. Bain and Dr. Stelow.
CLAS (Center for Lab Animal Science) Dog Socialization and Training
a. Early in May, BMC vet students began socializing and training dogs used in research studies that are going to be ready for adoption soon to make them more socialized, and even train them so that they will be more suitable to go to a home and more attractive to potential adopters.   We are getting them used to walking on leash, or even just used to people, and in some of the dogs’ cases beginning to train them.
b. Volunteers from BMC sign up for shifts in their spare time, and on average we have one or two people going to work with the dogs every day.
c. Already some of the dogs are showing improvement- they are less nervous going out and more comfortable going out on leash as a result of the work of BMC member’s work.
d. We will continue to work with these dogs in the hope that our club will help these valuable animals get a home and enjoy a happy life in a good home!

Year Round Opportunities

1) Behavior Medicine Journal Club
a. Journal club is offered approximately twice a month during the school year.
b. Group discussions where veterinary students have the opportunity to talk about a scientific behavior-related article with behavior faculty (Dr. Melissa Bain or Dr. Elizabeth Stelow).
c. An opportunity to critique papers and learn about new and updated treatments and ideas related to behavior medicine.

2) Puppy and Kitten Socialization Classes
a. BMC students assist with puppy classes are offered by the Community Medicine service at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital twice a month all year.  Recently, kitten classes were instituted in place of one of the Tuesday puppy classes every other month.
b. As a part of the puppy and kitten classes, students make going into an exam room a positive experience, and help desensitize and countercondition them to different textures and sounds in addition to people and other animals.
c. At the puppy and kitten classes, behavior medicine club members have the opportunity to learn and teach clients about basic behavior concepts, NILIF, house training, socialization, and more!
BMC offered many opportunities to learn and apply behavior this year that we as students learned a lot from!    We hope to continue in this trend and provide many more opportunities to teach and learn about behavior next year too!

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For any questions, please contact

Carolyn Lincoln, DVM
AVSAB Corresponding Secretary

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