Animal Behavior College Blog

Where Animal Lovers Pursue Animal Careers

Cat Hairballs – Cough It Up

Preventing hairballs—or their aftermath—helps keep cats healthy (and floors clean).

By Sandy Robins

This April 25 marks the ninth year cat lovers will celebrate National Hairball Awareness Day. It is interesting to note that felines aren’t the only hairball expellers; rabbits do, too. So do cud-chewing animals such as cows, oxen, sheep, goats, llamas, deer and antelopes. And—wait for it—people, too! A human hairball is called a trichobezoar. It’s common in people who compulsively play with their hair and swallow it.

Now, this is not a day you want to celebrate by being greeted by a big hairball presented by your cat. A celebration would be NOT waking up to a hairball on the rug.

Most cats are able to expel hairballs by vomiting them up. But often that is the tip of the iceberg of hair—so to speak. Ingested hair can cause a serious blockage in the intestinal tract and lead to all sorts of complications.

It’s so important to remember that while cats are self-groomers, they still need help from their pet parents, especially if the cats have long hair and, also if they are elderly and simply are not agile and mobile enough to groom themselves properly.

There are lots of excellent grooming tools on the market that help get rid of thick undercoats. I am always telling my friends with cats that grooming should be considered a fun way to spend quality time with their cat rather than a chore. My cats really enjoy being massaged with a hand mitt, which picks up the loose hair as your brush.

For owners who need to deal with their cats’ ingested hair, there are products, such as Petromalt Hairball Relief Gel from Sergeants PetCare, which can help alleviate the formation of hairballs by coating the digestive tract to prevent build up—they also act as a laxative. It’s simply a matter of putting a dollop on a front paw and letting the cat lick it off. For really fussy cats, put a blob on their lower chin and let them take over from there.

For anyone wanting to know more about hairballs, the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) in Washington, D. C., has a virtual hairball exhibition on its website. You can learn why hairballs develop in the stomach and see examples of them from various animals, including humans.

There are also craft books such as Crafting with Cat Hair, which shows readers how to transform stray clumps of fur into soft and adorable handicrafts. From kitty tote bags and finger puppets to fluffy cat toys, picture frames and more, these projects are cat-friendly, eco-friendly and require no special equipment or training.

For the past couple of years, there have been all kinds of hairball events, including a celebrity lookalike competition where people were asked to brush their cats and take the fur and style it into a celebrity. I took part last year and got my cats’ shedded fur to look like Howard Stern—well sort of….

On a final note: when you’re stressed and want to pull your hair out, remember it’s simply a phrase, not a call to action. Brush your cat regularly instead!

About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as, and She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats


Pet Identity Crisis

Make sure your pets have proper ID at all times because you never know when they’ll need it most.

By Lisa King

Pet Protection Matters Most in Times of Emergency

Having a dog or cat go missing is a very traumatic event. Not knowing whether they’ve been hit by a car, been pet-napped or have simply wandered off is nerve-wracking. Providing your pet with effective identification is the best way to ensure that if the worst happens, you can be reunited with your lost pet.

Some dogs are real escape artists and will take advantage of a loose board in a fence or an open gate; some have been known to dig under fences to get free. If the escape happens while you are at work, you might not find out for hours, giving your dog plenty of time to wander quite a distance.

Even if you have indoor-only cats, a door left ajar can mean a missing cat. Two of my cats once pushed a loose screen out of a window and went on a walkabout for several minutes before someone noticed. Fortunately, we were able to round them up quickly.

If someone finds your pet and brings him to a shelter, the staff will make every effort to find you. If your pet has no ID and you don’t turn up looking for him, he is at risk of being euthanized. But this tragic outcome is easy to prevent.

A simple metal tag bearing your pet’s name and your phone number attached to his collar can make all the difference. These can be custom made at most pet supply stores or ordered online. Someone who finds your wandering pet needs only call your number to let you know where your dog or cat is.

Another option is a specially designed flash drive. These are available in shock-proof, waterproof cases that attach to your pet’s collar. You program your contact information onto the drive so whoever finds your dog can plug the drive into his computer and contact you. These devices can also include medical information if your pet has a serious condition.

Since collars can come off—especially cat collars, which should always be breakaway collars—all your pets should be micro-chipped. If your pet is ever stolen, the thieves can remove tags, but cannot remove the microchip.

Some countries require that all pets be microchipped. Most U.S. shelters routinely microchip their cats and dogs, but if not, you can pay your veterinarian a one-time fee of about $50. She will inject the tiny chip (about the size of a grain of rice) with a syringe, usually just under the skin between the shoulder blades.

This procedure is no more painful than a vaccination would be for you. The chip remains inactive until it is scanned. You must then put your contact information into a pet database. If your pet is picked up and brought to a shelter, he will be scanned to see if he is microchipped. If so, shelter staff will contact you through the database. Always keep your contact information up to date. The chip will remain usable for the life of your pet.

Since there are a few different types of chips, shelter staff might have to check several registries before they find your pet. You can simplify the job by putting a tag on your pet’s collar that names the type of microchip he is carrying. Newer scanners can read all types of chips, but older ones can miss certain chips.

Microchipping may sound pricey, but it can save you the trouble and expense of searching the neighborhood, posting fliers, and paying rewards, not to mention the anxiety and heartache of losing a family member.

About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea” and the recently released “Vulture au Vin.”


Is A Pet Career Your True Passion?

3 Childhood Passions You Can Turn into Adult Careers

Become a Veterinary Assistant at Animal Behavior College

Many of us had passions as children that we long ago gave up on pursuing. Maybe those lofty childhood dreams just seemed too difficult to pursue in real life when we became adults, or maybe other things simply got in the way. Either way, too many people end up stuck in jobs they find unsatisfying, or even hate. According to Forbes, 44 percent of people in the U.S. are unhappy in their jobs. That’s no way to live your life. It’s time to reclaim your childhood passion and turn it into a career you’ll love. Here are three careers you can get into with minimal training for a more fulfilling and happy life. Anyone can do this—even you!

1. Teacher

Lots of kids play “school” with their friends, where one kid will be the teacher and the others will be the students. The child who plays the teacher is often interested in what teachers actually do in the classroom and model themselves after their favorite teachers. In fact, it is common for children to say they want to be teachers when they grow up, because it is one of the only careers they see every day. So many teachers helped develop your young mind, so it feels good to give the gift of learning to others.

Fortunately, today’s schools are looking for teachers. The path to becoming a teacher can be different in every state, and it is certainly different from many other traditional paths, according to Many school districts today will hire people without education degrees to be teachers. Depending on the state, they are hired on a probationary basis and allowed to teach under temporary teaching certificates for up to two years. During these two years, they are supposed to take special training sessions with the school district and complete certain college courses to get their full certification. Many districts across the nation will even sponsor someone from the corporate world in their transition into teaching. It’s a remarkably easy field to enter and one so many people find fulfilling when they jump in to achieve their childhood dream.

2. Veterinary Assistance

What child doesn’t love animals? Most do, especially girls. Girls frequently express a love of animals of all kinds, or of certain kinds like dogs, cats and horses. It is not uncommon to hear a child say he or she wants to be a veterinarian when they grow up. A lot of these animal lovers back out of that dream when they discover the tough science curriculum necessary to become a veterinarian, or learn they will have to dissect animals as part of their training.

If the love of animals and the desire to work with them is still strong as an adult, animal lovers may seek out volunteer opportunities at shelters and animal rescue organizations. If their current job isn’t fulfilling, their love for animals can still be turned into a career as a veterinary assistant in just one years. At Animal Behavior College, we are passionate about helping animals & helping you find career training that suits your needs. Are yuou interested in a rewarding career working in an animal hospital or veterinary office? You can learn from practitioners and leaders in the field during our externship hands-on training. Veterinary assistants are in demand, with job opportunities for this career expected to see continual growth through 2020.

3. Librarian

If you were a child who loved to read and spent every afternoon at the library picking out new books, a career as a librarian could be just what you need to help you feel fulfilled in your career. The adventures in the books enticed you as a child, and took you on journeys you still reminisce about. You can get hired as an assistant at a library with little-to-no experience and get on-the-job training. For those who wish to become a head librarian and run their own library, there are online schools that offer degrees in library science (which are usually required for head librarian jobs). These degree programs can be done on your own time while you’re actually working in the stacks as a library assistant.

March Grooming Instruction Program Canadian Student Of The Month – 2014

ABC Grooming Instruction Program Canadian Student of the Month– March 2014

Sharon Joanisse

Grooming School Student of the Month - Canada - March 2014Sharon Joanisse lives in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada, where she works as a registered massage therapist, school bus driver, pet/house sitter, dog trainer and also does some grooming part time. She found Animal Behavior College while searching for an Obedience Training program. She completed ABC’s Certified Dog Training program before enrolling in its Grooming Instruction Program. One of Sharon’s favorite parts of the program is that the first portion is distance learning. She loves being able to work at her own pace.

What prompted you to become a pet groomer? Was there a specific event, circumstance or person who inspired you to pursue this career?

Falling into grooming was much the same as falling into training. I have three dogs at the moment and around the time I got my second Aussie, I realized there was a lot I did not know. I set off to learn as much as I could about training specifics that related to us, and also about grooming. Two years ago, I got my third Aussie and once again found out just how much I didn’t know. With him came my introduction to the conformation ring, and a whole new world of grooming and care. At my first show, I looked around and saw that most of the people around me were groomers and they were my inspiration.

Describe a humorous moment you witnessed or took part in while working at your externship location.

Dogs are always surprising us, whether it’s their silly behavior on the table or their happy howling when they see their family and get excited. A few weeks ago, we took in our Aussie to be groomed. He wiggled and yodeled and was just an adorable “goofball.”

What one thing stands out for you in terms of knowledge and/or skills acquired from the program?

Working within a dog’s limits, and working with my client’s desires is something that stands out for me in terms of knowledge and/or skills acquired from the program. Often, clients come in and have an idea of what they want but that idea is not always workable. I have found that this program has taught me how to [have a]dialogue with these clients and find a happy medium for them.

Have you started working professionally as a groomer yet? If yes, where? And are you working full- or part-time?

A year ago, I opened a second business, Heeling NRG (Sanctuary Massage Therapy) and made allowances for grooming to be a part of it. In January of this year, I began offering grooming to my clients, and am now seeing two to four clients per week.

What grooming skill(s) or technique(s) do you want to master during the next 12 months?

I hope to master scissor cuts, and breed-specific grooming for the show ring. My mentor trainer at my externship was a poodle breeder for more than 40 years and she has had me grooming her poodles and grills me hard on them. I love it!

Designing a Play Palace for Your Pet

Designing a Pooch Palace or Feline Fortress in a Small Space

If you’ve been thinking it’s time to give your four-legged family member his own dedicated living space, most vets will agree it’s a good idea. Not only is it fun, but it can help soothe your pet when he’s stressed or overstimulated. You don’t have to transform an entire spare room into your pooch or kitty’s favorite hangout (although that’s a trend growing in popularity, too)—you can get started with just a patch of underused space.

A Special Space is Smart

If your home has become a haven for claw marks or paw prints, a space of his own can minimize damage in the living areas. A pet room also helps confine shedding and dander, which is especially beneficial if you have guests frequently. This will minimize suffering for those with allergies and give your pet a safe place to hang out while you entertain.

Crate Training Dogs - Tips and Benefits

Things to Consider

A converted laundry room with a large sink or tub is ideal, because it makes bath time easy. Natural lighting is important, so try to choose a room or area with a window. Make sure your pet’s outdoor view can easily be controlled with window treatments—this way, you can open up the blinds or shades when you want to give him some action, and close them when it’s nap time or when the barking gets to be too much.


Dog Laying Down - Arthritis

Also consider his size. If he weighs more than 20 pounds, he may be more inclined to stay in an entire room devoted to him rather than a segmented area of the house that isn’t enclosed. And try to use a space you know he already likes.

Outfitting the Space

Include plenty of features that will attract your pet’s attention and keep him occupied. Cats love ledges that give them opportunities for climbing and cozy nooks for napping. Some pet owners even put an aquarium or television in the room, so their pets have something interesting to watch or listen to all day long. This can decrease their anxiety and make them feel less lonely.

For furniture, try placing a used piece near a window. You can find a cheap chair or couch at your local Goodwill. Or, put a comfortable pet bed on a rug, so your pet can lounge around. Just be sure whatever you choose is washable. For flooring, the perfect choice may be interlocking rubber tiles that are comfortable under all four feet. Add colorful cubbies or baskets around the space, and fill them with plenty of safe toys.


If you can go custom, consider installing counter-tops at the perfect height for brushing and grooming. Another option: food and water bowls built into the wall to reduce spills and messes.

Decorate the walls however you would like. Go with pet motifs, jungle themes or simply abstract art with lots of color, so the humans who spend time in the space can feel welcome, too.

March – Veterinary Assistant Program Student Of The Month – 2014

ABC Veterinary Assistant Program
Student of the Month
March 2014

Eduardo Ochoa


Eduardo Ochoa lives in Los Angeles and did his externship at the Pasadena Humane Society. When Eduardo first started in the program, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to pursue a career in the medical field. However, after going through the externship, he is now ready to continue his education and become a Registered Veterinary Technician.

Was veterinary assisting your first career choice? If not, what was it?

Becoming a veterinary assistant was not my first choice. I actually had all of my classes already picked out and was ready to start Community College at Pasadena City College [before attending ABC]. Before that, my dream was to move to San Francisco and become an artist. I wanted to use my creativity [to be an] eco-friendly architect. However, as I thought about it more and more, I realized having a hobby as a career would probably interfere with my creativity. Then, when I really thought about the direction I wanted to take in my life, helping and being around animals is what made me feel more comfortable and complete. Therefore, this is the path I chose and followed through with.

What was/is the biggest challenge you faced during your externship and how did you overcome it?

When I started my externship, I was really nervous. Reading a book is one thing, but actually doing it is another. When it comes to what was the most challenging for me, I’d say it was trying to overcome my embarrassment of asking questions. I needed to learn how to do things and had to get the courage to ask how things needed to be done. Once I overcame this, I was so relieved. This helped me grow so that I am now able to move more quickly. Also, this has brought me closer to the staff so I feel like I’m now a member of the team.

How did you hear about the ABC program and what convinced you to become certified?

When I first decided to follow a career path in working with animals, I didn’t know about Animal Behavior College yet. I searched around and truthfully, this school seemed more inviting than others.

What has your experience been like in the ABC Veterinary Assistant Program?

Being in the ABC program has been great! It’s easy, quick and extremely informative, especially for how short of a time it takes to get certified.

If you could work with any exotic animal, what would it be and why?

If I could work with any exotic animal, it would be with penguins. I love penguins and cold weather. I find penguins to be very interesting animals. Some of the things a male does to specifically attract a female is just amazing.

March – Grooming Instruction Program Student Of The Month – 2014

ABC Grooming Instruction Program Student of the Month
March 2014

Brian Beechum

Brian Beechum resides in Bowling Green, Ky., and is currently working as a part-time Groomer for a local grooming shop called Dogs’ Day Out. He was hired by his mentor Yvonne immediately after completing his externship. Prior to beginning his grooming career, Brian attended Western Kentucky University, where he majored in Computer Science. While in college, he landed a part-time job at a local factory that made components for Toyota. He enjoyed this position so much that he decided to leave school in order to work fulltime. He worked his way up and eventually become a Safety and Ergonomics Specialist in the Human Resources department. When the economy was hit a few years ago, he decided to find a new field to work in: the pet industry.

What prompted you to become a pet groomer? Was there a specific event, circumstance or person who inspired you to pursue this career?

Carrie Gump is a local dog trainer I had been taking my new puppy to and struck up a conversation about becoming a trainer myself. She asked if I had ever considered grooming since I had been grooming my own dogs for some time. She then recommended that I call Animal Behavior College and speak to an Admissions Counselor about my options.

What has been your most rewarding moment during your externship?

The most rewarding moment during my externship, occurred a couple of weeks into working with my mentor, Yvonne Gray. She told me I had a love and drive she had not seen in other students she had trained in the past. She did make a point to inform me that she was not referring to any ABC students.

What has your experience been like in the ABC Grooming Instruction Program?

I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge and had so many great experiences that it is difficult to answer this question. Animal Behavior College’s curriculum gave me an excellent foundation to build on and my mentor was simply the best in teaching me. I could not ask for this experience to have gone better.

What was/is the biggest challenge you faced during your externship and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I faced during my externship was clipping dark-colored nails. My mentor was always kind and understanding, showing me different approaches until I was able to master this task.

What grooming skill(s) or technique(s) do you want to master during the next 12 months?

Over the next 12 months, I hope to master several breed-specific cuts. I specifically want to master the Poodle and Schnauzer cuts.

March 2014 – ABC Dog Training Program Student of the Month – USA

ABC Dog Training Program Student of the Month – USA – March 2014

Heather Ibbitson

A Registered Nurse in Torrance, Calif., Heather Ibbitson always wanted to train dogs for a living. Upon nearing retirement, Heather thought that going through ABC’s Dog Obedience Program would help her embark on a second career. She currently has three paying clients who have been more than pleased with their dogs’ training. Following completion of her certification in a few weeks, Heather’s goal is to work with shy and fear aggressive dogs. Continue reading

March 2014 Dog Obedience Program Canadian Student Of The Month

Dog Obedience Instruction Program
Canadian Student of the Month
March 2014

Keith Andersen

ABC Student, Keith Andersen resides in Burnaby, BC, Canada, and is currently working with Vision Quest Recovery Society as its in-house dog trainer. Dog training was not Keith’s first choice of careers. He tried the accounting industry, but didn’t like being stuck behind a desk. Keith then moved on to construction work and now is making dog training a full-time job.

“My goal is to retire very soon and devote the rest of my time to dogs,” he said.

Keith found Animal Behavior College on Google. He had looked at many distant-learning programs as well as local ones. Out of all of them, ABC had the most professional look and was very reasonable.

What prompted you to become a dog trainer? Was there a specific event, circumstance or person who inspired you to pursue this career?

I decided to become a certified dog trainer after working with my dog Mak and using that knowledge to help others. It made sense to me to be certified. Working with Mak as a guinea pig taught me a lot about myself and how humans interact with their furry friends. It showed me how much fun humans can have and how our happiness with our buddies can make them happy.

Describe one pet story that touched you the most during your volunteer hours. Do you plan on continuing your volunteer work?

I have spent most of my volunteer hours doing the Puppy Pet Rehabilitation Program at Vision Quest. The most rewarding story is with Zander, our first rescue. He was shy and lacked self confidence when we first got him. His obedience skills were not bad but needed polishing. By using the Urban Agility and Confidence Program I am working on, we got him to come out of his shell and gain much more confidence. Also, he became much more athletic, a bonus.

I plan on spending much more time with that program and expanding it with the hope of introducing it to others.

Have you started training professionally yet? If yes, are you training full- or part-time?

I have started training but only part time. I am busy winding down the waterproofing business and developing the Vision Quest program. I also am completing my Pet First Aid Instructors program.

What are your plans for dog training? Do you want specialize in particular type of training or in training a particular breed of dog?

I will do basic obedience training but there are many “trainers” who do that already. I want to focus on the rescue program with Vision Quest. I also want to teach the Urban Agility and Confidence program, teach first aid and to run a program I call “Doguistics,” which teaches humans how dogs communicate to themselves and to us. I also will include how dogs learn and how important “leadership” is as opposed to “alpha” and being dominant. I would also like to get involved with reactive dogs and helping them have a better life.

Which dog breed best describes you and why?

Labrador Retrievers; they are smart, hard working, very sociable and love people and other dogs. Also, they’re well-liked by most people.

Allergies in Dogs – Providing Allergy Relief for Dogs

allergy free dogs

Allergies in dogs, what to know…

By Lisa King

Even though the eastern part of the U.S. is covered in ice and snow and California is experiencing heavy rains and mudslides at press time, spring will eventually come. When it finally arrives, people with seasonal allergies will begin sneezing and wiping runny eyes. Although their symptoms are very different, dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies, too.

Allergies are basically an overreaction of the immune system to a specific trigger. While in allergic humans, spring (and in some cases fall) brings on upper respiratory misery, in dogs who are allergic to pollen the symptoms are usually skin-related. Although allergic dogs sometimes sneeze and have runny eyes, they usually scratch, chew and lick themselves excessively, especially their feet. A dog who scratches all the time can create open sores, hair loss, hot spots and skin infections. These dogs also are more susceptible to ear inflammation and infections. Not to mention, they feel miserable from all the itching.

If you notice your dog scratching excessively, take him to your veterinarian to have him evaluated. He might have flea-bite dermatitis, an allergy to flea bites, another spring and summer phenomenon. This condition is usually relieved by effective flea control and thorough house cleaning.

However, if fleas aren’t the problem, your vet might diagnose your dog with a seasonal allergy. There are several ways you can help your allergic dog be happier and more comfortable. Clean off his feet when he comes in from outside so he doesn’t track pollen and other allergens into the house. Bathe him often; this removes allergens in his coat. Vacuum your home frequently to keep floors free of allergens. Wash your dog’s bedding and blankets often, too, to remove accumulated allergens. If it’s feasible, request that people remove their shoes before they come into the house to reduce tracking in pollen. Keep track of the pollen count in your area, and on bad days reduce the amount of time your dog spends outdoors.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can be effective in reducing minor inflammation. Many supplements formulated for dogs are available at pet supply stores. Ask your vet if your dog should be eating an anti-inflammatory diet. These diets are formulated to contain very little grain.

Medications that suppress the immune system can help reduce allergic reactions. Some over-the-counter oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl, are safe for dogs, but check with your vet for dosage recommendations, which will vary based on the size of your dog. These medications reduce itching and inflammation, but can make your dog sleepy.

If you try all these measures to mitigate your dog’s allergies but he is still scratching, your vet might recommend oral or injectable steroids. They are effective with many allergic dogs, but they can have side effects, especially if used over the long term. Cyclosporin, sold as Atopica, is the same drug that people take to prevent organ transplants rejection. It is an oral medication, and its use in dogs is relatively new. It can be more effective than steroids and has fewer side effects, but it is also more expensive.

Your vet might also recommend an intradermal skin test, which is similar to a human allergy test. The vet will shave off a patch of hair and apply specific allergens to isolate the one causing problems. If she is able to find the source of your dog’s problems, she can give your dog a series of allergy shots or a vaccine to prevent future reactions. These solutions can be costly, however.

Some dogs grow out of allergies, but some dogs’ allergies get worse as they age. If you think your dog might have seasonal allergies, the wisest course is to take him to the vet as soon as he begins scratching to prevent his symptoms from becoming too severe so he can enjoy the spring weather outdoors with you.

About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea and the soon-to-be-released “Vulture au Vin.”