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How Do I Find A Behaviourist For My Dog?

Let me guess… you have a dog that has certain behaviours which make you feel emotionally drained or frustrated? Well, this is happening to more people than you think. And you are already taking the best steps to finding a solution.

This article will look at the steps you need to take to find a behaviourist for your dog; not to be mistaken with a dog trainer (but we will get into this later).

Do I Need A Behaviourist?

Firstly, we need to look at what a behaviourist is; a behaviourist is a qualified professional that specialises in animal behaviour and are kind of similar to a pet psychologist. Behaviourists are often used when there are particular traits that your dog has that you wish to change. Now, these behaviours are ones that may be causing harm or risk of harm to you, to others around them, or to themselves this could be not having the ability to calm down to the point of causing damage, obsessive compulsive behaviours, or severe anxiety. Unfortunately these are traits that are very difficult to change or train out of. And it must be done with patience, knowledge and expertise.

It is important to remember that some breeds have behaviours such as barking, chasing smaller animals or digging. These are natural instincts and will happen regardless of the training that you put in. That being said, it is very important that when buying a puppy/dog you research that breed in depth before agreeing to take them on. This is to ensure that you are aware of natural traits that they may show a strong tendency towards. And to be sure that you are willing and able to work with these behaviours from beginning to end.

Trainer vs. Behaviourist

When most people want to train their dog out of a behaviour, it is very common for them to do a quick type on a search engine online and end up with endless lists of ‘dog trainers near you’ for them to speak to. However, this section of the article is here to remind you that dog trainers and dog behaviourists are not the same. Time should be taken when trying to find the best one to suit you and your canine companion.

So, what is a trainer? 

A dog trainer is a trained professional that works directly with the owner to prepare the dog and teach commands that will enable them to stay safe. For example recall when off lead; walking with attention to the owner rather than surroundings; food manners, and other commands which make your life a little easier with your dog! They are often known to host socialisation classes for dogs. As well as lots of classes which younger (and older) dogs can attend to get them used to everyday situations. A behaviourist, on the other hand, is somebody that analyses, diagnoses and resolves the behavioural problems that your dog may have.

It’s very easy for somebody to contact a trainer and hope for the best for their dog. And whilst sometimes there are miracle workers out there, a dog that needs a behaviourist should not settle for anything else. When a behaviourist works with you and your dog, they are able to find the source of the behavioural issue and work towards a resolution. By doing so they are locating and removing the emotional stress for your dog. And then allowing them to feel and act differently about a certain situation. Fr example being aggressive on walks due to particular triggers such as strangers or other animals. 

How do I find the best behaviourist for me and my dog?

So, how are you supposed to know if a behaviourist is legitimate and will work for you and your pup? First and foremost, I would always advise to see your veterinarian. This will firstly rule out any medical conditions that may be resulting in the change of behaviours. And they can also prescribe medication should this be the case.

A veterinarian can offer advice and refer you to a qualified behaviourist alongside providing them with a full medical history for your pet to ensure that they have a good understanding of any current or previous medical conditions, whether they be related or not. For example, if a dog tries to bite when you approach their head (particularly their ears), this could be related to ongoing painful ear infections. The referral from the vet to the behaviourist is vital in the investigation process of your dog’s behavioural issues in order for them to create the right approach and plan to make them feel safe and start the journey to a more relaxed life.

So, where do I find one?

Speak to your vet! As mentioned earlier, it’s always best to start with a veterinary consultation so that you are not rushing into changing these behaviours; these types of lifestyle changes need to be done carefully. Your local veterinarian will have the best advice to help you on your path.

If you cannot or do not wish to speak to your vet, it’s definitely worth searching on accredited websites or approved methods:

  • The Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) carry a huge list of fully accredited behaviourists with the right qualifications: www.abtc.org.uk 
  • Veterinarians that carry an Advanced Practitioner or Specialist Status in Animal Behaviour can be found via the Royal College of Veterinary Science (RCVS). They are usually the certified professionals that your veterinary will refer you to: www.rcv.org.uk
  • The Fellowship of Animal Behaviour Clinicians (FABC) is another organisation that carries a list of validated and certified clinical animal behaviourists: www.fabclinicians.org 

The important thing to remember through all of this article and your steps moving forward is that changing behaviours take time. Even the most qualified behaviourist in the world cannot work miracles. You as a dog owner must be willing to take your time; accept the good and the bad days, and keep motivated to reach that goal with your canine companion.

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