The “Two Traceys” – Legends of animal behaviour

At VetPrac we love teamwork, and thrive on it, from planning workshops to facilitating workshop participants to work together in their learning experience! When I met Dr Tracey Henderson and Tracy Irons a few years ago, I was blown away by their working relationship; it’s certainly something to witness – a perfect example of a team achieving more than the sum of its parts. There’s a reason why within VetPrac circles we call them the 2 Traceys!

Dr Tracey Henderson always had pets and loved them; she grew up wanting to be a farmer, but her parents wouldn’t let her come home on the farm as they wanted her to ‘strive higher’. And the rest is history! When she graduated in 2000, she started puppy preschool at her first job at Willunga Veterinary Services. That is where her passion for behaviour unexpectantly grew! And grow it did! The more she learnt and consulted, the more passionate she became. Tracey finds it so rewarding being able to help pets and their owners live their best lives with mental illness. Since 2004 Tracey has been offering behaviour consultations – initially at Willunga Veterinary Services, and then at Australian Veterinary Behaviour Services, which she co-founded with Tracy Irons in 2012. She left GP practice about 5 years ago to do 100% behaviour – now she can live and breathe it!!!

Tracey and Tracy have known each other for many years, but probably really became friends when they were both pregnant – their two girls were born 1 day apart in 2008! And again, the rest is history. When I asked Tracey about her working relationship with Tracy, she said “Tracy and I get along really well both in the consulting room, the clinic and presenting workshops. We are both as passionate as each other about animal behaviour. Her strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa – we bounce off each other so well. The secret of a successful working relationship includes similar motivation level and work ethic, good communication, honesty, kindness and support.”

Tracy Irons has worked for 8 years at the RSPCA as a behaviour trainer and kennel supervisor, and became a Delta trainer in order to have the qualifications to work with a behaviour vet! (No prizes for guessing which vet that might have been!). She recalls that she first met Tracey when she came to assist at the RSPCA. Their friendship and love for behaviour developed from then. They call themselves the “behaviour nerds”. Tracy says that the secret to their relationship is honesty, dedication and lots of laughter… and wine!!!!

 

 

I asked them both if they had noticed any behavioural problem that is significantly more common now, compared to say, 10 years ago?

Tracey said that over the last 10 years she’s been seeing a lot more anxiety cases in general, but that this is probably because pet owners are more aware that there is help available, and behavioural medicine is becoming more widespread and referred more often.

Tracy has noticed an increase of diagnosing dogs with “hyperarousal disorder”. She says that “instead of being labelled as a “naughty dog or disobedient” these dogs are suffering emotionally. And the owners are so grateful for our support and assistance”

In Tracey’s opinion, recent veterinary graduates receive inadequate undergraduate training in behaviour. She believes that they aren’t adequately trained to advise pet owners about behavioural issues, “which is concerning because many pet owners turn to their vet as their first port of call for a behavioural problem”. She is also concerned that they may not receive adequate training in animal handling to be able to safely manage “difficult” dogs and cats in their everyday GP practice case load. At Roseworthy University in South Australia Tracey is allocated just 2 hours to teach dog behaviour to the 5th years, and another 2 hours for cat behaviour.

Experiencing the 2 Traceys in a workshop, it’s hard not to develop a keen interest in behaviour.

When asked about what they enjoy about teaching, Tracey said “I am so passionate about behavioural medicine and educating people on how to recognize mental illness and understand pet’s behaviour in general, which in turn helps pets improve their quality of life. I love watching participants get excited and motivated as they learn throughout a workshop.”

Tracy says “I enjoy the moment when participants learn something that they haven’t learnt before. And from then the participant has a keen interest in behaviour.”

Believe it or not, the 2 Traceys do enjoy their leisure time in different ways!

Tracey likes to walk her dog in the mornings to start her day off well. She likes to spend time with her horse and her dogs, and loves spending time with her family. She also loves camping, with no internet or devices, and off the grid!

 

 

Tracy and her husband have just started sailing racing nacras which is a great opportunity for them to spend time together. They have 5 children between them, so they spend a lot time on the river water skiing, and down at the beach.

 

 

To experience firsthand this amazing duo of Traceys, come along to the VetPrac Practical Skills Bootcamp on October 16-18th at UQ Gatton. This workshop is open to new veterinarians, those returning to work after a break, or experienced veterinarians looking for a refresher course. We’ll cover everything from animal behaviour to abdominal surgery, dentistry, communication, and so much more!

 

 

Dr Tracey Henderson and Tracy Irons can be contacted at Australian Veterinary Behaviour Services (AVBS), 116 Main Road, McLaren Vale, SA 5171

Phone: 08 7480 0597 Email: info@avbs.net.au