Behavior Services at Charleston Veterinary Referral Center


Behavior problems in pets are very common and can lead to frustration, a weakening of the human-animal bond, and even a loss in quality of life for both you and your pet. Studies have shown that behavior problems represent the most common cause for the relinquishment of pets to animal shelters.

The Behavior Service at CVRC is committed to:

  • Helping keep pets in their homes
  • Eliminating troubling or unsafe behaviors
  • Strengthening the bond you have with your pet
  • Maximizing quality of life for you and your pet

Our behavior specialist, Kristi, has trained both exotic and domestic animals for more than 20 years, and holds a Diploma in Canine Behavior from the Companion Animal Science Institute. She is also a graduate of Dr. Susan Friedman’s course, Living and Learning with Animals, and a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. In addition to extensive behavior training, she is a licensed veterinary technician and is Fear Free®-certified. As a Fear Free Certified Professional, Kristi can recognize and help reduce anxiety triggers that cause pets to become fearful prior to, and during, veterinary visits. 

Kristi utilizes a scientifically proven, reward-based approach that focuses on the use of applied behavioral analysis. During behavior consultations, clients will be asked a series of questions so Kristi can learn about the pet’s history, living environment, problem behaviors, and client goals. Afterwards, a behavior plan will be created that includes behavioral management and training strategies.

Consultations, training, and follow-up sessions will take place at Charleston Veterinary Referral Center. At-home visits may be accommodated on an as-needed, basis. Virtual consultations are also available and, in some cases, preferred, especially when dealing with fearful animals or separation anxiety. Training packages are available and can be customized based on individual needs.

If you would like to learn more and find out how your pet would benefit from a consultation with the CVRC Behavior Service, please contact us at (843) 614-8387.


Common Reasons for Behavior Consultations

  • Separation anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Fears/phobias/compulsive behavior
  • New puppy 
  • Introduction of new pet into household
  • Preparing for a baby

Behaviorist or Trainer: What's the Difference?

Many pets require a variety of professionals throughout their lives to help keep them happy and healthy.

Some of these professionals may include behaviorists and trainers. Let’s understand the difference in how they help animals so you can choose the best option for your pet’s individual needs and your family’s goals.

Veterinary Behaviorist

Veterinary Behaviorists are veterinarians who have gone through advanced training to become board certified specialists through the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. These specialists are able to diagnose medical conditions that can affect a pet’s behavior as well as treat conditions that are purely behavioral. As veterinarians, they are also able to prescribe medication, if needed, to be part of an integrated treatment program that includes custom behavioral modification plans.

Behavior Specialist

Behavior Specialists see animals that display troubling behaviors such as aggression, fear, separation anxiety and other anxious behaviors, noise phobia, resource guarding, excessive barking/howling/whining, etc. They have extensive training and knowledge of behavior principals, tactics, strategies, and procedures in non-coercive animal training, functional behavior assessment, case management, professional ethics, and species-specific behavior.

Dog Trainer

These professionals teach commands and cues, train polite manners, and coaches animals to participate in sports and activities. Dog trainers understand basic learning theory and have developed their handling and training skills. Most training is done in private lessons or group classes while others are taught through boarding school arrangements.

Things to Consider

When choosing a professional to work with, consider the following:

Type of Training

  • Training methods are most effective when they focus on teaching the animal what to do, rather than punishing them for unwanted behaviors.  
  • Research shows a clear advantage of reward-based methods over aversive-based methods with respect to immediate and long-term welfare, training effectiveness, and the dog-human relationship.

Type of Education

The world of animal training is an unregulated industry. When selecting a professional for your pet, consider the following:

  • What kind of education does the trainer or behaviorist have?
  • Have they graduated or achieved accreditation from of the well-known training academies?
  • Do they have a solid education and understanding of applied behavior analysis?

Ensuring Safety During COVID-19

Due to the hands-on nature of behavior training, in-person consultations and training are preferred. During COVID-19, our behavior specialist exercises required safety protocols including:

  • All participants must wear masks
  • Utilizing 6’ distancing when indoors
  • Training outdoors and on porches, when possible during home visits
  • Offering virtual consultations

Veterinary Professionals

Behavior and training educational opportunities are available for veterinary team through the Behavior Department at CVRC.

Presentation topics include:

  • Reading Dog & Cat Body Language
  • Using the Least Invasive Handling and Restraint Techniques for Dogs & Cats
  • Understanding How Behavior Works
  • Training Basics and Incorporating Cooperative Care into Veterinary Visits