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Dog Behaviorist or Dog Trainer - Which Do I Need?

Looking for a professional to help get your pup's behavior back on track? In today's post, our Morton vets explain the differences between trainers and behaviorists and how to decide which professional is right for your pet. 

Teaching Good Behavior

How your dog behaves is down to a combination of training, genetics and the care and attention of loving owners. While it may be easy to love your four-legged family member training can be a struggle for many of us, and that's where the help of professional trainers and behaviorists come in. But what do these professionals do, and how do they differ?

Dog Trainers (Pet Therapists & Behavior Counselors)

The level of skill and experience that dog trainers have varies widely. While many dog trainers attend professional classes and become certified, others are self-taught skilled professionals.

CPDTs or Certified Professional Dog Trainers earn their title by passing a standardized test administered by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and must demonstrate knowledge of canine husbandry, behavior, and teaching skills. Before receiving their certification, people training as CPDTs are required to work a number of hours as a dog trainer then submit letters of recommendation to the board.

Dog trainers work with pet parents - either one-on-one or in groups - to teach dogs specific skills such as general obedience, scent tracking, agility or search and rescue skills. When dealing with behavioral problems, dog trainers typically work to correct the symptom (the behavior) rather than addressing the cause of the behavior.

Animal Behaviorists

CAABs are certified applied animal behaviorists who have obtained advanced expertise in the behavior of dogs, cats or other domestic animals. Many CAABs are veterinarians (DVMs) who have gone on to complete advanced animal behavior studies after graduating. 

Becoming a CAAB involves the study of animal behavior, biology, zoology, psychology, and more, giving these individuals an extensive understanding of normal animal behavior and the ability to easily recognize abnormal behaviors.

A CAAB can determine why a particular behavior is occurring then teach pet parents behavior modification techniques to help correct the pet's undesirable behaviors. These professionals are also excellent at spotting medical causes of abnormal behaviors in animals and can suggest effective solutions (such as medical treatments) to address these problems.

In some areas, CAABs may be able to prescribe drugs to treat psychological issues such as compulsive behaviors, separation anxiety, and phobias. 

Dip ACVB - Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists or Dip ACVBs are qualified veterinarians who have gone on to pursue more advanced education in the field of animal behavior by completing a residency program. Dip ACVBs must pass a veterinary board exam in order to attain their diplomate status. While not all CAABs are veterinarians, only qualified veterinarians can become Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. 

This advanced training gives Dip ACVBs extensive knowledge regarding the physical and medical causes of particular animal behaviors, as well as an understanding of the behavior modification techniques and medical treatments that can be used to address the animal's undesirable behavior.

Choosing The Right Professional To Modify Your Pet's Behavior

With so many trained professionals ready to help you, it can be overwhelming trying to decide on the right professional for you and your pet. 

Basic Behavioral Training

A dog trainer is ideal if your dog has no behavioral issues and just needs basic training in obedience, agility, or another specific skill. Your vet may be able to recommend an excellent dog trainer in your area. When you have narrowed your search down to one or two people be sure to ask for their resumes and speak to their past clients as a reference.

Group classes are also great for teaching dogs basic manners and skills, and are well suited to new pet parents and puppies.

Correcting Problem Behaviors

Hire a CAAB or Dip ACVB for one-on-one training if your dog has behavior problems that need to be corrected such as phobias, separation anxiety, excessive barking, destructive chewing or aggression. These professionals cost more, but have the skills, training and experience necessary to address complicated issues.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Need help addressing your dog's undesirable behaviors? We can help! Contact our Morton vets today to learn more about canine behavioral training consults at Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital.

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Stoney Creek Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of companion animals in Morton and surrounding areas. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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