What to look for in a trainer or a behaviourist
In the UK the dog training and behaviour industry is currently unregulated, although many within the industry are working hard to change this. For now though, anyone can call themselves a dog trainer or behaviourist, and use any approach that they see fit. The vast array of advice and opinion on the internet can be bewildering for those looking for help with their dogs behaviour or training.
As a qualified dog trainer and behaviourist, I am passionate about ensuring that dog owners receive ethical and effective support when looking for help with their dogs. With so many options available, it can be very hard to know who you should trust to work with. In this blog, I will guide you through the key factors that you should consider when searching for an ethical dog trainer and/or behaviourist.
Firstly, it’s essential to find someone who prioritises an ethical approach. This means that the dog’s welfare and well being will always be put first. Ethical trainers will never use aversive equipment such as shock collars, prong collars or choke chains, and won’t use any kind of verbal or physical reprimands. An ethical approach takes into account the dog’s unique personality, breed, and life history and then, using an in-depth understanding of dog behaviour, learning theory and training techniques develops a personalised training or support plan that is both kind and effective, and works for both the dog and the owner.
Qualifications and accreditations
- Would you use a teacher that wasn’t qualified and accredited?
- Would you go to a child pyschologist/therapist who wasn’t qualified and accredited?
- How do you know how to check if a trainer or behaviouist is suitably qualified, knowledgeable, AND ethical?
In the UK we now have The Animal Behaviour and Training Council which acts as an umbrella organisation overseeing the registration and qualification of ethical animal trainers and behaviourists. In order to be included on their listings, practitioners have been required to undergo a rigorous assessment by their professional organisation to ensure that they have attained a specific level of education, as well as meet the performance criteria for knowledge and practical skills.
There are various ethical dog training organisations, such as the Professional Association of Canine Trainers, who both train and assess dog trainers, as well as two professional bodies assessing and representing ethical and accredited animal behaviourists: the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors and the Fellowship of Animal Behaviour Clinicians.
All the above named organisations hold practitioner directories so you can look up practitioners in your area, although many behaviourists, including myself, work remotely now which works really well for behaviour cases.
An ethical dog trainer and/or behaviourist does not work by ‘fixing’ your dog. Look for someone who works with you to give you the knowledge and skills you need to understand your dog and his/her behaviour, and empowers you to make any necessary changes to fully meet their needs and support them with their challenges, which in turn means they have the emotional and cognitive capacity to learn new behaviours and be the wonderful companion you dreamed of.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions. A good reputable trainer/behaviourist will be more than happy to answer any questions that you have and will be transparent about their training methods, qualifications and experience. If a trainer is reluctant to answer questions or tries to push you towards a particular training method without explaining the rationale behind it, ask yourself why. Watch out for anyone promising a quick fix; it might seem like the easy answer but it never is, often these methods simply suppress behaviour and the fallout will be evident later on or in other areas.