Like humans, canines are complex beings with lots of physical and emotional needs. Sometimes you’ll need an expert to help them live their best life – and that’s where dog behaviourists and trainers come in. Dog expert Philippa Short breaks down the differences between the two, how to know which one you need, and what you could pay.
Did you know that you don’t legally need any formal qualifications to become a dog behaviourist or trainer? That’s why it’s so important to do your research when looking to work with someone. There’s a lot of people out there passionate about helping you and your dog. But if they don’t have any training, they could potentially do more harm than good for your pup.
There’s lots of dog behaviourists and training organisations in the UK. While there’s no official regulatory body, many of these groups have joined two large umbrella bodies – Animal Behavioural Training Council (ABTC) and UK Dog Behaviour and Training Charter.
Part of what these bodies do for the industry is bringing:
So you want to look for a dog behaviourist or trainer that’s part of a membership group under either of these bodies. This shows they should follow ethical practices and meet specific training and qualification needs.
Animal Behavioural Training Council and UK Dog Behaviour and Training Charter each have their own needs for trainers and behaviourists, so let’s look at the differences.
Animal Behavioural Training Council members sit under one of five different roles, depending on their qualifications and experience.
Dog member organisations under ABTC:
Members of the UK Dog Behaviour and Training Charter are classed as either trainers or clinical behaviourists:
Member organisations under UK Dog Behaviour and Training Charter:
Each organisation has certain standards for membership. For example, a minimum amount of continuous professional development (CPD). This means doing regular training courses to keep up to date with new techniques.
The Dog Training College and Kennel Club are not currently registered to either ABTC or UK Dog Behaviour and Training Charter.
If you need to teach your dog something, you need a dog trainer. This could be things like:
The instructor will talk you through how to break down an exercise for your dog. They’ll then show you how to rebuild the exercise so your dog can learn in a positive way. The idea is you’re helping your pup have a good emotional response to learning.
If there is a behaviour that you don’t like because it’s inappropriate or abnormal for the species of your dog, you need a behaviourist. This could be things like:
Every possible cause of the behaviour is looked at during a dog behavioural consultation. There’s likely to be a lengthy form and longer initial consultation. The behaviourist will take into account:
The dog behaviourist will then work on goal setting and a behaviour modification plan, which is split into management and training.
Still not quite sure? Try reaching out to a dog expert who’s qualified as both a trainer and behaviourist. They can chat through your pup’s issues and decide what kind of support they need.
To find a positive reinforcement dog behaviourist or trainer:
Most dog behaviourists and trainers work with all breeds of dogs. So many people who focus on specific breeds may not have up to date training or qualifications and could use outdated techniques.
It’s why you always want to look for someone who’s registered with the ABTC or UK Dog Charter. You’ll have the confidence that they’re fully qualified with up to date training and follow strict ethical practices. If they are also specialists in a certain breed, great!
There’s no specific qualifications for individual behaviours, so all dog behaviourists are fully qualified and capable of taking on any issue.
But it’s completely up to the behaviourist which cases they want to work on – and some people do like to specialise in certain behaviours.
One of the more popular behavioural specialisms is separation anxiety, especially with the big increase of new owners during lockdown.
So, do dog behaviourists and trainers actually work? It’s a fair question, but the answer depends on a few things:
And there’s one other major thing to keep in mind here – sometimes, you’ve just picked a breed whose traits don’t match your lifestyle. If you’ve not done the right research on the type of dog you’re getting, you might get a clash.
So always read as much as possible about the breed and learn about the parents to know if you’ve found the right fit for your home.
Behaviouralist support is not a quick fix, as it looks at deep-rooted issues. The cost of a dog behaviourist depends on the individual dog and their needs. And it’s important to keep in mind that complex behaviours will need more time and support.
For example, dogs with separation anxiety usually need to work with a behaviourist for at least six months. But sometimes a behaviourist may refer a dog to the vet. This is because they suspect an undiagnosed medical condition could be a big cause of the problem. Getting diagnosed and treated then helps to reduce much of the unwanted behaviour.
The cost of the behavioural treatment and support plan takes into account:
A behavioural consultation package with Animal Friend, for example, starts at £200. With a bronze package you get:
Check your policy wording or speak to your insurer directly to find out how to claim for behavioural issues through your pet insurance.
To claim for behavioural issues through your Petsure policy, first check what is and isn’t covered:
Get a quote for behavioural treatment and complementary therapy for a Petsure dog insurance policy.
*All information given in this article is correct as of 20 April 2022.