What to look for in a canine behaviourist and what is the difference between a trainer and a behaviourist?
This is a tricky one as every behaviourist may well say something different so after considerable thought these are the guidelines that I'd recommend and are my own opinion :-
1. Always check that the behaviourist is qualified. This may sound obvious but there are lots of people out there with some pretty wacky ideas that can do more harm than good.
2. Make sure that the person you choose is insured. Accidents can and do happen, insurance is a must!
3. Have a chat with the behaviourist to see if you get on. This may sound daft but you will need to work together to solve the issues that the dog has and so mutual respect and trust is key.
4. This is where it gets a little controversial, society memberships. Some behaviourists join societies or organisations to show their professional qualifications. The problem is that this is an unregulated profession with the societies themselves being unregulated. They can be quite political and subscribe to a particular school of thought or are affiliated with a particular learning provider. The behaviourist pays an annual fee to use the organisation logo to show membership and can choose between or all of APDT, CFBA, APBC, URCB, PAACT, BIPD, CFBA, KCA scheme and the list goes on. What do they mean? That it's very confusing and that it is probably quite profitable but I'm not convinced much else. I have personally decided to "go it alone" to allow independence in treating my canine clients and their owners rather than being restricted by an "this is how you must do it" set of instructions from whichever organisation. So the big questions :-
i. Am I qualified enough to join an organisation or is it sour grapes? In short yes I am, and no it's not. I have an honours degree in a biological science, an advanced level 4 diploma in canine behaviour and two further diplomas in canine nutrition and holistic canine health along with other qualifications and years of dog work experience.
ii. Will insurance companies pay for my services? The answer is that it depends on your company and obviously if your dog is insured. Always look at your policy as you may find that the excess is similar to my fees and you can bet your bottom dollar that if you claim your premiums will rise as a result. Even if the issue is rectified you will still have to disclose it to future insurance companies if any aggression was involved. Some insurance food for thought!
As a professional I believe that it is up to me to regulate my conduct.
5. To help you decide if you need a trainer or behaviourist or both I have summarised the difference between them in this sentence. A trainer adds new desirable behaviours (for example jumping over obstacles in agility) whereas as behaviourist is usually called to take away existing undesirable behaviours (for example aggression towards other dogs). Trainers are generally less expensive than behaviourists for the following reasons:-
i. Behaviourists work on a one to one usually at the clients home as this is where the dog is most likely to display the problem behaviour, on its own turf!
ii. Removing a behaviour can be much harder than adding a new one simply because the unwanted behaviour is serving a purpose to the dog, he's doing it for a reason and therefore may not want to give it up. If a dog is rewarded in some way (and this can be self reward for instance a dog growls and the thing it growls at backs off) for either good or bad behaviour he'll naturally want to repeat it, it's logical.
I specialise in behaviourist work and am not a trainer but I work hand in hand with various trainers depending on the needs of the individual dog and the individual skill set of each trainer. If a Springer Spaniel is exhibiting signs of frustration and boredom then as part of his rehabilitation I may suggest gun dog style training to fulfil his natural breed needs, or a Border Collie may benefit from agility work. Very different training regimes with different specialist trainers but which suit the different dogs. Beware of trainers with no qualifications or who are "jacks of all trades" or mix up behaviour work with training. As mentioned above, their work is very different. A good trainer is worth their weight in gold!
I hope I have provided clear info in the above but if you have any questions please feel free to contact me :)