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Ten-minute chat
  1. Jodie Foster


Jodie Foster is a registered veterinary nurse who works with companion animals at Haygate Veterinary Centre in Telford. She recently won a bursary to study animal behaviour

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What sparked your interest in animal behaviour?

Since qualifying as a VN in 2002, animal behaviour has been a strong interest of mine. I attempted to apply for a place at Southampton university, but I was under-qualified at the time, and I also had a mortgage to pay, so my interest had to put on a back burner. Irrespective of this, I completed some small modules and also the BVNA certificate in companion animal behaviour, but found that the more I learned, the more I wanted to know. A few years ago I took in a stray German shepherd dog, which developed severe aggression/behavioural problems, so I sought advice and consulted a local animal behaviourist and this made me realise how much I still needed to learn.

Why did you apply for the bursary?

My colleagues saw the advertisement for a bursary and they prompted me to apply for it.

How did you apply?

The form asked why I was interested in furthering my career in animal behaviour and what I wanted to achieve. In short, I want to restore client-pet bonds where they have broken down.

What did you win?

A £2000 bursary from Vétoquinol towards the cost of the Centre of Applied Pet Ethology's (COAPE's) Year 1 diploma.

Tell us a bit about the course

The qualification is a two-year diploma in companion animal behaviour, with an additional third year to qualify at BSc (Hons) degree level.

Year 1 covers theoretical and practical principles using case history examples, introductory demonstrations with dogs, and a research project in animal learning. It leads to a diploma at QCF Level 4.

Year 2 focuses on small group instruction with hands-on practical behavioural therapeutic techniques with real cases that involve dogs; structured online canine and feline cases; and an organised research project in canine cognition in association with the University of Lincoln. Year 3 includes advanced study and training in applied clinical pharmacology, cognitive science and neurophysiology, and advanced companion animal behaviour therapeutics.

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Jodie and her dog, Maori. He is a blood donor for the Pet Blood Bank (PBB) and Jodie coordinates the PBB blood drives at her practice

How will you apply what you have learned?

Assuming I successfully pass my second year studies, I can start to get hands-on experience of all aspects of behaviour as well as additional training from my CAPBT (COAPE's Association of Pet Behaviourists and Trainers) mentor. He or she will help me to establish a behaviour practice. This is similar to the way in which newly qualified vets are mentored working alongside experienced practitioners.

Do you plan to hold behaviour clinics?

My dream is to be a qualified behaviourist and hold routine obedience classes, and well as ‘problem’ dog one-to-one sessions. My main interest is in dogs rather than cats. I already run social clinics for dogs that show fear aggression when visiting veterinary practices, which usually stems from negative experiences. I try to habituate and build positive experiences for these dogs in an attempt to make them more amenable and handleable for when they need to attend the clinic. I want to extend the range of clinics as I become more qualified.

Do you think you might go on to study animal behaviour in more depth?

My goal is to complete the full three years with COAPE and this will enable me to propose my registration with the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors. This is, of course, dependent on finances, so I will apply for grants, further bursaries and sponsorship where they are available.

What was your most embarrassing moment in practice?

I was thought to have been exposed to ethylene oxide at work (which, as it turned out, I had not), and before I could be taken to hospital by ambulance, the paramedics insisted that I be stripped naked and showered by my colleagues in the practice's tub table/dog bath.

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