What is a dog behaviourist?

A dog behaviourist works on improving dog behaviour by understanding why they are acting in a particular way. They try to understand what is causing a dog to be ‘bad’ instead of just punishing the behaviour. There are no set qualifications you need to have to call yourself a dog behaviourist in the UK. However, there are a number of organisations who provide accreditation for qualified dog behaviourists including ADTB (Academy of Dog Training and Behaviour) and the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers).

Positive Dog Training

If dogs are being aggressive, or destructive, or exhibiting other unwanted behaviour it is not because they want to be naughty. It is normally because they are scared, or anxious, or just don’t understand the boundaries of what acceptable behaviour is. Simply punishing a dog for being bad in this situation will not fix the problem. Unfortunately, this has been the approach of many traditional dog trainers where choke collars and shock collars might be used to try and ‘fix’ bad behaviour.

A dog behaviourist will try to understand what is causing the dog to exhibit unwanted behaviour instead. So, instead of punishing the dog for destroying the furniture they would try to understand why the dog feels the need to do it. It may be that the dog has separation anxiety or lacks stimulation. Once the cause has been identified a plan can be put in place to stop it happening and to reward the dog along the way.

Dog behaviourists will often ask to visit your home and spend time observing your dog in its day to day surroundings. This will let them see how the dog is behaving and to identify possible triggers to unwanted behaviour. Once the cause of the issue has been identified they dog behaviourist will make recommendations on what can be done help the dog cope. Depending on the nature of the issue a number of follow up visits will normally be scheduled in order to monitor the progress of the dog and owners.

Dog Behaviourist Qualifications

As we said earlier there are no set qualifications needed to call yourself a dog behaviourist but there are a few common ones to look out for.

University Degree – there are not many degree courses just in dog behaviour but you can study animal behaviour at university. Abi has a BSc in in Animal Behaviour and Welfare.

Governing bodies – there are a couple of organisations who offer accreditation and qualifications for dog behaviourists. Two of the main ones are the ADTB (Academy of Dog Training and Behaviour) and the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers).

Experience/background – It is possible to go on a course and get basic dog behaviourist qualifications within a few weeks. It takes much longer to become a skilled dog behaviourist. If you are looking for a dog behaviourist try to find out how long they have been practicing and what experience they have.

Testimonials/Vets – it is always a good idea to get personal recommendations, check testimonials and talk to your vet before hiring a dog behaviourist. This will give you a better idea of the kind of work they can do.