Dog behaviourist is a term that is used by professional academics, veterinarians and experienced trainers who may or not be formally certified.
In general, a dog behaviourist is a professional who either studies dog behaviour, or works towards modifying and managing the behaviour of particular dogs, with emphasis on problems such as aggression, separation anxiety, fears, timidity, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive behaviours.
Most dog behaviourists are experienced dog handlers who have developed their skills over many years and studied behaviour either formally or through personal research. Some have backgrounds in veterinary science, animal science, psychology, zoology, sociology, biology, or animal behaviour, and have applied their experience and knowledge to the interaction between humans and dogs.
To help establish and further this form of training, associations dedicated to the development of behavioural dog training have been established, these may offer trainers and practising behaviourists a route to further their development. Different associations have different standards, goals, and requirements for membership.
These are a cross section of the more well known Associations.
- Canine and Feline Behaviour Association (UK)
- American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
- Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists
- Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers (UK)
- International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP)
- International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
- Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (UK)
There are currently not many legal requirements for any kind of certification or accreditation to call oneself a behaviourist. Board-certified veterinary behaviourists have to pass a credentialling application and exam to be recognized as "board-certified" in the view of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). However, most behaviourists work and study towards formal accreditation with one of the many colleges providing training. Some associations might require accreditation to join, others may require a declaration of intent for continuing personal development. For behaviourists who seek accreditation, there are many colleges and institutions that provide training.
The theory or doctrine that human or animal psychology can be accurately studied only through the examination and analysis of objectively observable and quantifiable behavioural events, in contrast with subjective mental states. --- Dictionary.com
Typically behaviourists work one-on-one with the dog and its owner. This is often carried out in the home or the area where the dog is showing behavioural problems. Many dogs are cautious or nervous in neutral territory making it difficult to establish the root cause of some common behavioural problems. To this end office bound behaviourists may be disadvantaged when it comes to assessing behavioural modification. As the dog may act very differently when in strange territory
The methods and tools of the behaviourist will depend on several factors including the dog's temperament, the trainer's personal philosophy on training, the trainer's experience, and the behavioural problems being addressed. At one end of the spectrum some behaviourists attempt to train dogs without any aversive or coersive methods at all, relying solely on food treats or praise. Other behaviourists believe that the use of verbal corrections, headcollars, correction collars, electric collars etc., are necessary or useful when treating particular dogs or particular behavioural problems. However, the general philosophy in use is to avoid methods that could cause confusion, fear, pain and anything other than mild stressors. The use of electric collars (e-collars) is already banned in Wales, and the ban may be set to spread throughout the UK.
- B.F. Skinner
- John Broadus Watson
- Felix Ho
- Cesar Millan (The Dog Whisperer)
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