Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman


Nicholas H. Dodman

Professor, Section Head and Program Director,
Animal Behavior Department of Clinical Sciences
Tufts’ Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine
North Grafton, Massachusetts

Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman is one of the world’s most noted and celebrated veterinary behaviorists. He grew-up in England and trained to be a vet in Scotland. At the age of 26, he became the youngest veterinary faculty member in Britain. It was at that time that Dr. Dodman began specializing in surgery and anesthesiology.

In 1981 Dr. Dodman immigrated to the United States where he became a faculty member of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine. Shortly after his arrival, Dr. Dodman became interested in behavioral pharmacology and the field of animal behavior. After spending several years in this area of research, he founded the Animal Behavior Clinic - one of the first of its kind - at Tufts in 1986. He received an additional board certification in animal behavior from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. Dr. Dodman began to see clinical cases in 1987 and since 1990; he has devoted all of his time to his specialty practice of animal behavior.

Since the mid 1990s, Dr. Dodman has written four acclaimed bestselling books that have received a tremendous amount of national press. His first book, The Dog Who Loved Too Much (Bantam Books, 1995), was an unqualified success selling more than 100,000 copies as did his second book, The Cat Who Cried for Help (Bantam Books, 1997). His third book, Dogs Behaving Badly (Bantam Books, 1999) was again a bestseller while his latest, If Only They Could Speak (W.W. Norton & Co., 2002) has just been released as a trade paperback.

Dr. Dodman is internationally recognized and sought after as a leader in his field. In addition to his four trade books, he has authored two textbooks and more than 100 articles and contributions to scientific books and journals. He also holds 10 US Patents for various inventions related to the control of animal behavior. Dr. Dodman appears regularly on radio and television including: 20/20, Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The early Show, Dateline, World News with Peter Jennings, Discovery Channel, NOVA, Animal Planet, Fox TV, the BBC and CBC, CNN’s Headline News, Inside Edition, MSNBC, NOVA, NPR’s “Fresh Air” and A&E. He is an ad hoc guest on WBUR’s “Here & Now.” In addition, Dr. Dodman is a columnist for the American Kennel Club’s quarterly publication, AKC Family Dog. This column was nominated as column of the year (2005). Dr Dodman also writes a column for Life Magazine that is read by an estimated twelve million people weekly and recently has agreed to write a column for Martha Stewart’s Body and Soul magazine.

Dr Dodman is editor of a popular press puppy book, Puppy’s First Steps (Houghton Mifflin) which was released in April 2007. He has also recently had a proposal accepted by Houghton Mifflin for a new book about responsible dog ownership. Dr Dodman is a consultant and official spokesman for a new national product, Zero Odor.

Dr Dodman has made a pilot television film of his own – sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States – that is under currently under review by various TV outlets. Good Morning America producer Patty Nager has dubbed Dr Dodman their ad hoc pet behavioral expert.

Dr. Dodman attended Glasgow University Veterinary School in Scotland where he received a BVMS (DVM equivalent). He was a surgical intern at the Glasgow Veterinary School before joining the faculty. He received a Diploma in Veterinary Anesthesia from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and is board certified by the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

He is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

Dr. Dodman lives near Tufts University with his wife, Dr. Linda Breitman, a veterinarian who specializes in small animals, and their children.

His website is ThePetDocs.Com

Blog posts by Dr. Nicholas H. Dodman


Dominance Dilemma

Konnichiwa, dog aficionados. I am sitting here in a hotel room in warm and sunny downtown Tokyo contemplating some talks I am due to give between now and June 1st. The first is on canine aggression and when it comes to owner-directed aggression, the type of aggression formerly known as dominance aggression, I often find myself somewhat stuck for words. A recent article by Sophia Yin in the Huffington Post explains current thinking on the matter and gives some pointers (not German short-haired ones though).  The gist of the article is correct, that physical punishment in dog training is passé and, whatever TV made lead you to believe, is counterproductive.


Hypothyroidism Help

Treating hypothyroidism as a way to improve behavioral health dates back to the 1940s, when psychiatrists first noted this correlation in their human patients.  More recently, Drs. Nicholas Dodman and Linda Aronson, of Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (TCSVM) began treating dogs with behavior problems for low, or borderline-low, thyroid levels and noting an improvement in a variety of behavior problems involving fear, anxiety and aggression.    While such reports of behavioral improvement are helpful, more conclusive evidence is necessary to validate the therapeutic efficacy of thyroid replacement therapy in the treatment of canine behavior problems.  To address this need, researchers at TCSVM are currently enrolling dogs that demonstrate owner-directed aggression and have concurrent low or borderline low thyroid levels into an 8-week clinical trial.  



Studies are now coming out indicating that dogs have much the same perception of the world around them as we do. One of the first was a study by Harvard scientist Dr Brian Hare, who showed that dogs could follow a person pointing toward a treat-laden target. This study showed that dogs are in tune with our signaling, interpreting our body language, if you will.

Another large study from England concluded that dogs exhibit the secondary emotion of jealousy, indicating that they have a sense of self and other. Most recently another study from Vienna showed that dogs react to unfairness by ceasing to perform and “dissng” their caregiver.


A Tale OF Two Turkeys

The holidays can either bring out the best or worst in people. A woman client of mine told me how proud she was of her dog one Thanksgiving for keeping her engaged daughter from a bad marriage.

Apparently, all were gathered in the family room before the Thanksgiving meal when suddenly there was a shout from the kitchen. One of the assembled throng had gone into the kitchen to get a drink and found that the dog had hauled the cooling turkey off the table and was chowing down mightily.

Everyone came running and all thought it was hilarious, except for the daughter's fiancé. He went black in the face and started yelling at the dog and threatening it. Everyone looked at each other, now seeing the other side of this otherwise presentable man.


Equal Opportunity Annoyance

The party line is that humping by dogs is a sign of dominance and is not related to sexual thoughts or connotations. I'm not so sure about that.

Regions of the brain that control both aggression and sexual behavior are so close that some overlap in executive function is inevitable. In intact males, testosterone activates both brain regions, enhancing aggressive responding, mounting (humping), wanderlust (roaming), and urine marking.


Dueling Doctors?

A few months ago, Dog Star Daily co-founder, Dr. Ian Dunbar, and myself were quoted in an extensive New York Times article entitled Animal Pharm, about behavior canine modification with and without medication.

Ian represented the training perspective while I defended the use of medication to treat certain cases as part of an overall behavior modification program. As a result of this article, NBC's Today Show decided to cover the subject as only they can, with video footage of interesting cases to make the point. The Olympics and one other dog feature held up their plans but finally our piece has been filmed and will appear on the Today Show tomorrow.


Positive vs. Punitive Training Techniques: What each achieves and what we can learn about ourselves from the discussion.

I once had the honor of meeting the British ex-Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, at a university event.  I was described by the president of the university as an animal behaviorist to which Prime Minister Thatcher replied, “Ah yes, behavior!  That’s what it’s all about really.”  And she was right on the mark, her wit sharpened by years of debate on the floor of the House of Commons. Her business was dealing with the behavior and misbehavior of people in her own country and abroad.  

My business is dealing with the behavior and misbehavior of other animal species, in particular, dogs, cats, and horses, and there are many parallels to be drawn.

One of the current controversies is to whether the punitive methods of dog training, popularized by William Koehler in the 1960s and a sea of dog trainers who have since adopted his methods, offer any advantages over more benign training and, indeed, whether they are even humane.  


Busy On Behalf Of Dogs

It has been quite a month. My new book, The Well-Adjusted Dog, came out on July 9th 2008 and was launched with auspicious fanfare as I appeared on Good Morning America that day. A trip to Washington DC followed as I was interviewed on NPR’s Diane Rehm show. Next came a radio satellite tour from my office in Massachusetts. I spoke with about 25 radio shows around the country in 2 days about what the book was about and what it meant for dogs and their guardians.


A Dominating Issue?

Last weekend I took a longish trip north from my home in Central Massachusetts give a talk at a progressive dog training center in Portland, Maine called Happy Tails. The audience for my talk, Canine Behavior 201, comprised of dog owners, trainers, dog evaluators, veterinary technicians and veterinarians. Quite an eclectic bunch. The topics I covered ranged from aggression to compulsive disorders, with case vignettes and medical material interpolated. To my relief (always), I think the talk went well and the reviews were positive.


“Trainer To The Stars”

This week it was brought to my attention that LA-based “dog trainer-to-the-stars” ******* (*name of business owner omitted by Dog Star Daily editorial staff) had copied my Valentine’s Day article for PetPlace.com for his enewsletter ******* and attributed authorship to himself. I emailed him and told him that plagiarism was dishonest and illegal and that the material was copyrighted. Here was his website’s public response (which was similar to a personal email sent to me):



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