Ellie is part great Pyrenees, german shepherd and husky. 

“Ellie barks at dogs when she’s outside and when she’s on walks. And also inside and during training classes, she can get a bit exuberant we call it, overenthusiastic,” Leah Nettle, a pet behaviorist, said.

That’s why Ellie and her owner, Constance, are working with Leah. Their goal is to tackle those difficult behaviors. What exactly is a pet behaviorist? Leah likes to make the analogy to a human psychologist. 

“There are psychologists and psychiatrists in the human world. A veterinary behaviorist would be like a psychiatrist so they can prescribe like medication and they can work on animals’ behavior whereas psychologists will give you coping mechanisms or ways to work through behavior problems," Leah said. 

Behaviors Leah works with include biting, dogs fighting each other, barking, and lunging or pulling on walks. She also works with cats — cats with litter box problems, cats who fight each other or cats that are afraid of or are aggressive towards humans. Leah always loved animals and was in graduate school studying crows when she discovered researchers who studied pet behavior. 

"This was a great way to merge my love of science and animal behavior but also be able to work with people and help people in their everyday life," Leah said.

Leah says she’s seen an increase in popularity and need for pet behaviorists during the pandemic. She says a lot of people were adopting dogs who hadn’t had dogs before. There were also COVID-related behavior issues, like people staying at home and their dogs bothering them while working from home or getting stressed out with the amount of time people were around. Overall it’s important to improve pet behaviors for safety reasons. 

"But pets make people happy and when we make their pets happy we make the people happy too," Leah said.