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What to look for in a good dog behaviourist

Over the course of their lifetime, some dogs can develop a range of behavioural problems such as aggression, anxiety or destructiveness for a variety of different reasons. Sometimes we need a helping hand in understanding why these behaviours are happening and how they can be managed and, ideally, resolved. With the right support and guidance, dog trainers and behaviourists can assist in correcting the problems your dog might be experiencing.

Here are some things to consider before looking for a behaviourist.

What’s the difference between a dog trainer and a behaviourist?

It’s important to find the right help for your dog and while they sound similar, trainers and behaviourists have particular expertise in different areas.

If your dog has problems listening to commands and don’t really do as they’re told, you might need a dog trainer whereas if your dog shows signs of a behavioural issue such as aggression or anxiety, your dog would be best suited with a behaviourist.

Speak to your vet for advice first

If you believe your dog has developed a behavioural problem or you need some advice on what to do next, speak to a vet first to rule out any form of possible illness or injury. From here, your vet can then refer you to a behaviour expert if needed.

Once you have established what kind of help your dog needs, finding the right person becomes a lot easier.

How to find a qualified dog behaviourist

Finding a good canine behaviourist gives you the best possible chance of resolving a problem with your dog. Here are our top tips to finding the right professional for your pooch.

Check their qualifications and experience

Unfortunately, anybody can advertise themselves as a ‘dog behaviourist’, even without qualifications or experience so it’s important to check that they belong to an organisation or regulatory body, such as the APBC. These types of organisations require their members to have good standards of education, qualification and experience which will ensure that you work with experts that have the knowledge, skills and ability needed to help you and your dog.

Read any references or reviews

Every website, social media page, poster or brochure for any business will tell you how good their services are, but you should always look for independent customer reviews. You should be able to get a range of references from previous clients and be able to talk to them about their experience with the behaviourist and their methods, too.

If they have no references and they’re not new to the profession, this could indicate they either have unhappy customers, or the reviews they might have received were poor and they’re better off hiding them from other dog owners.

They should have insurance

When looking for a behaviourist, it’s a good idea to make sure they have liability insurance in place should anything go wrong whilst they are working with you and your dog.

Ask them about their training techniques

If you find a behaviourist which uses punishment, fear, pain, shouting or hitting to train a dog or correct unwanted behaviour, you will be better off looking elsewhere. Positive, reward-based techniques are best as they can help strengthen the bond between you and your dog.

Using painful methods may not only cause you and your dog distress, they can inadvertently cause issues or add to existing problems such as fear-based aggression.

They should be interested in your dog’s past

It’s important for a dog behaviourist to show interest in your dog’s history and go into their past in detail as they require this information can help identify the root cause of the issue and it will mean they can properly assist you with the problems you are experiencing.

Consider how you feel around the behaviourist

You should feel comfortable speaking to the trainer or behaviourist as they should be approachable, knowledgeable, easy to talk to and happy to answer any questions you may have so that you can be confident that your dog’s welfare is always prioritised.

If you want to find out more about behavioural support for your dog before speaking with Joii or your local vet, then please see a list of websites below which can help.

Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC)

Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC)

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT)

Pet Professional Guild (PPG)

Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (IMDT)

Absolute Dogs


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