Sophia Yin remembered

Dr Sophia Yin.The international veterinary community is mourning the loss of leading animal behaviourist and low-stress handling advocate Sophia Yin.

Yin’s death was announced via her website on September 29.

Shocked and saddened,” UK dog trainer Victoria Stilwell posted on Dr Yin’s Facebook page. “You inspired so many of us and made the lives of millions of people and their pets better. Your wisdom and humanity will be greatly missed.”

Yin said she had dreamed of being a veterinarian since childhood. She graduated from UC Davis in 1993, working initially in private practice. However, when it became apparent to her more pets were euthanased for behavioural reasons than medical ones, she undertook further study in animal behaviour, achieving a Masters in Animal Science in 2001.

Yin had been a vocal opponent of the view that dominance is the root of bad behaviour and that owners needed to show their pet “who is the boss”.

In animal behaviour, dominance is defined as a relationship between individuals that’s established by force, aggression and submission in order to gain priority access to resources,” she said. “A dominance relationship is not established until one individual consistently submits. With this definition in mind, it is clear that most of the unruly behaviours we see in our pets are not due to a desire to gain higher rank. Consequently, dominance theory becomes irrelevant for most behaviour problems in our pets.”

Yin was committed to a philosophy of leadership without force. She improved the wellbeing of animals in veterinary contexts, training veterinarians, technicians and nurses in creating a fear-free experience with low-stress handling.

According to friend and fellow vet Steve Dale, Yin leaves a profound legacy.

To make the world better for animals – and as a demonstration of her underlying generosity, Dr Yin offered a variety of free handouts. She could have charged. She did not.”

The Veterinary Information Network (VIN) postponed its scheduled rounds and hosted a session in honour of Yin.

Those close to her recognised in the past few weeks that she was overwhelmed and tried to help her,” VIN co-founder Paul Pion wrote. “She was scheduled to present VIN rounds this Sunday night and had delayed the session to a future date to relieve her current overload.”

The rounds session, introduced by Yin’s long-term mentor, advisor and friend Jim Wilson, tackled the subject of stress and depression in the veterinary profession.

Social worker Susan Cohen, who held a position at Manhattan’s Animal Medical Centre for over twenty years, provided advice on stress. Cohen stressed the need for veterinarians to overcome perfectionism, set limits on their working hours, develop rituals to establish boundaries between work and personal life and to have “that difficult conversation” with colleagues in distress.

Every moment of every day is a chance to take a deep breath and start over,” she said.


Visit for a transcript of the session. For further information about Dr Cohen visit For information on low-stress animal handling, visit You can contact Lifeline Australia around the clock on 13 11 14.




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