Dog Behaviourist or Dog Trainer

Dog Behaviourist or Dog Trainer

They are two very distinct roles that focus on different aspects of your dog’s behaviour and training. 

The Aims Of A Dog Trainer

 A Dog Behaviourist primarily assesses the dogs underlying confidence, character and temperament, identifies why the dog is performing the unwanted behaviour and then formulates a working plan to modify the dog’s behaviour. They often assess complex behavioural issues or disorders. They can also assess the underlying emotional and psychological factors within the owners family dynamics which may also be a contributing factor, and so education plays a big part too.  

 A Dog Trainer primarily focuses on teaching specific human requirements for obedience commands and basic skills for dogs. The owners requirements for basic obedience often includes sit, stay, heel, and recall, as well as addressing innate behaviour such as  issues like jumping and pulling on a lead. Trainers usually offer generic frameworks for dog owners regardless of the dogs character, confidence and temperament e.g. One size fits all. 

Expertise of A Dog Trainer

 A Dog Behaviourist typically have a proven background in animal behaviour, psychology, or a related field. They may hold academic qualifications such as a degree or hold a certification from professional organisations. Because they are equipped to deal with complex behavioural issues, they may also work closely with veterinarian referrals and pet insurance companies, including cases involving medical conditions. They may have obtained extensive knowledge on one breed or are willing to work with all breeds. 

Dog Trainers often have varying levels of expertise, from a casual dog walker, self-taught or hold certification from dog training organisations. Some trainers may specialise in he basic obedience listed above, while others may have expertise in specific areas such as agility training, search and rescue, or enjoy working with specific breeds.

Dog Training Methods

Dog Behaviourists use a holistic approach to assess and modify a dog’s behaviour. They will consider natural dog behaviour, scientific principles and positive reinforcement techniques to address underlying emotional and psychological issues. And of course the environment: the owner, their family, their lifestyle. Behaviour modification/rehabilitation plans are tailored to individual dogs and their specific issues.

A Dog Trainer may use a variety of training methods, which often reply on treat based techniques to promote positive reinforcement, clicker training, and may promote ignoring unwanted behaviours or may also use correction-based techniques. Their primary goal is to teach a dog to look, listen, behave then the owner rewards.  Training methods can vary widely among trainers as do the results due to the fact that no two dogs or humans are the same.

Case of positive dog trainings

Dog Behaviourists generally offer 1:1 consultations at the clients home. They are typically called upon for cases involving severe behavioural problems, such as aggression (dog on dog or dog on human), separation anxiety, phobias, fear-based reactions, adopted dogs or compulsive behaviours. They work to understand the root causes of these issues and then they create a behaviour modification plan that will provide the owner with the best possible chance of success. They may also offer advise on food and equipment choices. 

Dog Trainers often hold group sessions that require people to attend a venue (community hall/local park) and then teach basic obedience, socialisation, addressing common behaviour problems such as leash pulling, sit, stay and so on. They may also work with puppies to establish a strong foundation of good behaviour. They may require dogs to be wearing a harness.  

Costs of dog training

As you might expect, costs can vary a great amount depending on experience, qualifications, expertise, professional accreditation insurance, complexity and quality of service. A typical Dog Trainer might hold group classes from £5-£15 per dog per session whilst a Dog Behaviourist might charge several hundreds of pounds or more depending on the program and ongoing commitment to their client.

Guaranteed results:

Managing owners expectations comes from experience. So regardless of who you might choose, experience should be a consideration. Some people/companies in this field might only offer Video packages. So think about this, are you likely to be able to get the results you require from this format? If you’re hoping to take your dog to the pub for a quiet drink, then maybe not; in-person tuition might get you instant results? But the single most important thing to consider is that no one can “guarantee to fix your dog”. It is an animal and you are a human. The dog might be capable but the human isn’t? The dog might be capable but its in the wrong environment. The human might be capable but the dog is genetically unstable. And so sometimes, it’s just the wrong match. And a reputable professional will advise you, often with written reports and on-going support.    

In summary, while both Dog Behaviourists and Dog Trainers play essential roles in improving a dog’s behaviour, their focus, expertise, and methods are likely to differ. Behaviourists address complex behaviour issues from a psychological and relationship perspective, while trainers focus on teaching specific predetermined commands and basic manners through various training methods, which may be based on beliefs regardless of results. In many cases, a Dog Behaviourist may well be an accredited Dog Trainer too, so it is possible to get the best possible service and results from one source. Professionals in their field may also discuss cases with their peers or Veterinary surgeons, no egos, just what’s best for the dog, especially when dealing with severe behavioural problems. For these reasons, get it wrong and it can have a detrimental effect of the dogs development and your relationship. So I would suggest the experience is best viewed as an investment, an investment in the dog and your family. How much you value that investment is your decision. 

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