When people are having a problem controlling their dog, they may consider obedience classes. This is usually a great way to get you and your dog on the same page when it comes to expectations. If you are having a really hard time training your dog, you might hire a dog behaviorist.

What is a dog behaviorist and when should you consider hiring one?

What is a Dog Behaviorist?

One thing to point out is that most people who are dog behaviorists are able to work with other animals too. A dog behaviorist is actually an animal behaviorist who has chosen to work specifically with dogs.

At the most basic level, a dog behaviorist is a person who works to change the behavior of dogs. This person likely has veterinary experience with many animals. It is fair to say that even someone without formal training can work to change the behavior of a dog. Applied Animal Behaviorists or Veterinary Behaviorists are titles that can only be used once someone has completed formal education.

What Does it Take to Be a Dog Behaviorist?

If you are looking to become a dog behaviorist, it’s a long road. As any dog behaviorist is actually an animal behaviorist that specializes in dogs, there is a lot of training that needs to occur.

To become an animal behaviorist, you would first need to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Then you would need a master’s degree in animal behavior. Once you obtain a master’s you can choose a few different routes. Many people choose to either work in a clinical setting or a research setting. Either way, once you obtain more experience working with animal behavior, you can attempt to become a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist with the Animal Behavior Society.

Dog Trainer vs Dog Behaviorist

Some dog trainers claim to be dog behaviorists. After all, a dog trainer often works with a dog to stop unwanted behavior. Trainers also teach dogs to do new things that are beneficial.

Dog trainers will not be as formally educated as a behaviorist. That’s not to say that some dog trainers have a ton of experience and are great at their job, though. Formal education is a big difference between dog trainers and dog behaviorists.

A dog trainer can get work without any formal education. For many trainers, having experience is usually good enough. Though, dog trainers who become very serious about their work often get certified. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) are two of the best known certifying bodies for dog trainers.

As for a dog behaviorist, there is much more formal education. A behaviorist earns at least a master’s degree in animal behavior. Many even go on to earn a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist certificate. This certificate is only earned after a person has already become an animal behaviorist. Once a person achieves this certification, it’s safe to say that they are animal psychologists, and many have even worked as veterinarians.

One is not better than the other, but a dog behaviorist certainly has much more formal education needed.

When Should You Call a Dog Behaviorist?

When you’re thinking about how you can change your dog’s behavior, it’s important to consider the severity of the behaviors you would like to change. If your dog is doing things that are somewhat annoying but not dangerous, a trainer might be all you need. These kinds of behaviors may include:

  • Jumping on guests
  • Digging
  • Barking
  • Mild separation anxiety

These behaviors may be something you do not like, but they are not going to cause harm. In this instance, a trainer should be able to help you out.

If your dog is showing aggression, it might be time to call in a dog behaviorist. Concerning behaviors would include:

  • Barking in reaction to stimulus, like a passing car or people walking by
  • Guarding resources like water or food
  • Biting
  • Severe separation anxiety

These actions can cause real harm to an owner or family member. Even a dog that is crated can harm themselves in a bout of separation anxiety.

Your dog should never have the inclination to harm you or themselves. If you feel you, your family or your dog is in harm’s way, you should definitely try to find a dog behaviorist.

If you need help finding a behaviorist, your vet is going to be your first stop. They will have the contact information for local behaviorists that they recommend and trust.

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