By Joan Hunter Mayer
Did you recently bring home a new dog? Or is your current canine companion exhibiting a concerning behavior? You might find yourself searching for a well-trained, reliable canine behavior consultant. As mentioned in our previous post, there are no gold standard professional requirements when it comes to training or behavior consultation for dogs. However, the person’s title, or what they refer to themselves as, will likely tell you a lot about their qualifications and/or their transparency. And it’s up to you to ask the important questions.
A person who is a certified dog trainer and/or professional canine behavior consultant, will usually use one or both of those titles.
An inquisitive pet guardian searching for help might ask what professional groups or organizations this person belongs to. Keep in mind that not all dog training organizations are created equal – there are some that anyone can join, whether they are a trainer or not. Others, such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, literally certify people in areas of both training and behavior. They require exams and letters of recommendation, along with continuing education credits, to maintain certification.
Another important question is, “What schools or programs has the prospective behavior consultant attended?”
Certified applied animal behaviorists hold a full-fledged graduate degree in that field. The Animal Behavior Society website describes the requirements for professional animal behavior certification in detail. The level of education in the science of animal behavior is an important distinction to make. If your pet requires sincere behavioral modification, you want to be sure that the person you are hiring to work with him or her has the education and experience necessary to truly help your pet.
Veterinary Behaviorists are Doctors of Veterinary Medicine (DVMs) who have achieved board-certification in the specialty of Veterinary Behavior. That is a very different scenario from a person who ‘learned’ dog training from watching reality TV programs or simply grew up with dogs!
An Unregulated Industry
It’s important to state once again that the dog training industry is unregulated; anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, “dog behaviorist” or “behavioralist.”
So, let’s examine the titles of “behaviorist” and “behavioralist.” The answer to the question, “What is a dog behaviorist?” might surprise you. Because the correct answer is that “dog behaviorist/behavioralist” is not a recognized certified or credentialed professional designation. These terms can be very good for marketing, but also very misleading. It is hard to say what a self-titled “dog behaviorist” is. The term does not tell a prospective client anything about professional affiliation, education or certification.
Transparency and Integrity
When it comes down to it, trust and honesty are important in any relationship. Trustworthy dog trainers and behavior consultants will use transparent, clear, honest and consistent language. On the other hand, subjective jargon can be misleading and could be a red flag.
Armed with knowledge of some of the different dog training and consulting titles you might come across, our advice is: when looking to hire a pet professional, stay inquisitive and aware. Do your best to be well-informed when making decisions that will impact your family and your inquisitive canine.
The Inquisitive Canine was founded by Santa Barbara canine behavior consultant and certified professional dog trainer Joan Hunter Mayer. Joan and her team are devoted to offering humane, pawsitive, practical solutions that work for the challenges dogs and their humans face in everyday life. Here’s to barking with the dogs, cheering for the humans, and having fun!