I wish he’d listen: Client centered interviewing approaches are associated with higher compliance with behavioral modification advice in pet dog owners.

Julie T Daniels, Debbie Busby, Margo Chase-Topping, Sarah Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In the UK, over 40,000 dogs are given up annually to shelters or euthanized due to problem behaviors. It may be possible to reduce these numbers through behavior counseling and development of a behavior modification plan (BMP) by a canine professional (CP). However, if the client does not or cannot adhere to the BMP the dog's prospects may be compromised. This study explored the experience of the initial behavior consultation and possible reasons for adhering to (or not) the BMP from the client's perspective. An online survey solicited the opinions of canine behavior clients who had sought professional help in the UK for their dog's unwanted behavior within the last 2 years. Principal Component Analysis of Likert scale statements revealed one significant PC (P < 0.001) that explained 57% of the variation in the data and was significantly correlated with BMP compliance (r = 0.567, P < 0.001). Specifically, believing the plan was right for their dog and having CP support throughout to achieve behavior improvement through the implementation of a mutually agreed BMP were important. Qualitative thematic analysis of free text responses regarding motivation for future client BMP compliance echoed these factors. Conversely, a negative consultation experience was created by CPs adopting an authoritarian or ‘telling’ approach with their clients for example, making them feel judged. This was associated with a lack of BMP compliance. Essentially, CPs who involved their clients in BMP development were perceived as creating a positive experience of the initial behavior consultation and as a result were able to promote client BMP adherence and improvement in unwanted behavior improvement. This CP approach, which adopts a nurturing rather than an authoritarian strategy, has been termed Client-Centered Interviewing (CCI). The main thing about CCI is the client is an equal partner in the process. The core conditions are as per Rogers and Egan of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard. CCI builds on empathy with the client, avoids inappropriately challenging client beliefs by gently exploring options without being judgemental, clearly explains the likely cause of the behavior and the plan to resolve it, and provides a BMP that is bespoke and flexible. Future research is required to validate the findings, for example through a prospective comparison of Client-Centered Interviewing versus an instructional (authoritarian) approach. Crucially, the impact of Client-Centered Interviewing on canine welfare must also be evaluated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-30
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Veterinary Behavior
Early online date28 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Behaviorist
  • behavior modification
  • consultation
  • dog
  • dog trainer


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