Vet referral – why is it so important?

I am often asked why I only accept behaviour cases with a veterinary referral, so I wanted to share with you why I think this is so important.

The main reason I require veterinary referral is to try and ensure that there aren’t any medical problems underlying, or adding to, a behaviour problem. If there are, working alongside a dog’s own vet can enable the appropriate diagnosis and treatment of any medical problems.

A study carried out by the University of Lincoln found that 23% of behaviour cases referred to their behaviour clinic had an underlying medical condition. When looking at cases involving aggressive behaviour, the number with an underlying medical condition rose to 27% – that is more than one in four cases.

A thorough vet check can pick up on underlying medical problems

Why is this important?

Medical problems can trigger or worsen aggressive behaviour – with pain in particular having a marked effect. Imagine you are a young dog with hip pain caused by hip dysplasia. Other dogs come running up to play with you in the park; one jumps at you a little too hard, ouch that hurt. Another dog bumps you, ouch that hurt too. You turn fast trying to catch another dog in a game of chase, and again you feel pain in your hip. What do you learn? You learn that interactions with other dogs aren’t comfortable, they can hurt. You may learn to be wary of other dogs, to use aggressive behaviour to keep them away. You may want to be sociable and interact with other dogs, but you aren’t sure because sometimes it hurts, you become frustrated and conflicted around other dogs.

This is just one example of how pain can specifically trigger a problematic emotion around other dogs, and why it is so important to work alongside a dog’s own vet to identify and treat these problems. Behaviour training for a dog like this will only help so much, if their hips are still painful they are still having negative experiences around other dogs, even during training. The underlying hip problem itself needs treating to enable the behaviour training to be fully successful.

Dental disease is one of the potential problems your vet can check for

Another example of a simple medical problem adding to dog to dog behaviour problems is anal gland issues. Over-full, blocked, impacted or infected anal glands can not only be very uncomfortable and so lead to a dog being less happy with dogs around their bottom, but they can also make a dog smell more interesting to other dogs – they give off more of an odour which makes other dogs want to investigate them. So for the dog, having more unwanted attention around a bottom which is sore, can lead to them feeling the need to use aggressive behaviour to make the other dogs go away.

As well as a direct effect on behaviour, medical conditions such as arthritis, skin allergies or dental disease can have a marked effect on a dog’s overall mood state too – more on the importance of mood state in the next blog post…….

Dog Meets Dog – The Blog!

Our Story

I am Dr Hannah Lyon MRCVS, a vet and behaviourist. I run Dog Meets Dog Behaviour Practice.

A soft spot for spaniels……

I graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, London in 2003. After working for several years in general small animal practice I realised that dog training and behaviour was my passion. I started working part time in practice and part time for a local dog trainer, taking classes and eventually running a branch of a training school.

In 2005 I completed the COAPE Advanced Diploma in Companion Animal Behaviour and Training and became a member of the COAPE Association of Pet Behaviourists & Trainers (CAPBT). In 2007 I was assessed and accepted as a full member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT).

On returning to work following the birth of my daughter in 2008, I became the in-house behaviourist for the practice, seeing cases from within the practice and on referral from other local practices.

In 2016 I completed the Masters in Clinical Animal Behaviour at Lincoln University. My Thesis involved studying elements of dog to dog communication and whilst doing so I realised this was my real passion within dog behaviour and from this Dog Meets Dog Behaviour Practice was formed.

My behaviour practice focuses on helping dogs who have problems communicating with other dogs and who show aggressive, frustrated or inappropriate behaviour towards the dogs they meet on walks. I offer consultations working with my own dogs as stooge dogs so I can assess dogs’ behaviour and work with them to change how they feel and behave around others dogs.

I have a Rehab Group which dogs are able to join once I feel they are ready for a small group environment where they can continue to practice their training in a controlled and supportive environment with other dogs and owners. I find working with my regulars at Rehab Group particularly rewarding, seeing the dogs progress and seeing the support that owners offer to each other.

Gone but never forgotten………

I have a soft spot for spaniels. I currently share my life with four, two English Springers, a Working Cocker (my daughter’s) and a German Pointer cross Springer. Having sadly lost my three elderly boys within eighteen months of each other, the house seems strangely quiet with only four!


My daughter and I train and compete our own dogs in the sports of agility, canicross (cross-country running with dogs) and bikejor (off-road biking with dogs).


Many weekends we spend travelling the country to take part in competitions and races with our canine team mates. Our dogs love their sports – keeping them stimulated both physically and mentally.

Being a vet, behaviourist and dog sport competitor, I am often asked what I feed my own dogs and what foods I recommend. Dog food can be a complex and sometimes hotly contested topic with many differences of opinions. I decided to create Dog Meets Dog Fuelled & Ready to offer quality food to fuel our own dogs and to enable me to have the confidence to recommend it to others to fuel theirs too.

Dog Meets Dog – The Blog is intended to provide training tips, interesting information and insights into the Behaviour Practice. Thanks for reading, come and join us for the next one!

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