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How to find a qualified trainer/behaviourist?

So you’ve decided you and your dog need some support but where do you start to look for it? Selecting a dog trainer or behaviourist is a huge minefield and unfortunately, there is no regulation within the industry meaning you could set up as a dog trainer and market yourself today if you wanted!

First of all, you need to decide if you need a trainer or behaviourist, so what’s the difference?

Dog Trainer

  • Focuses on teaching behaviours like sit, loose lead walking, recall, jumping up

  • Preparing and socialising your puppy

  • Group classes for general obedience, scentwork, dog sports etc.

  • Finding fun ways to keep your dog engaged and mentally stimulated

Dog Behaviourist

  • Focuses on behaviours with a stronger emotional response to certain triggers that need a deep assessment and tailored plan to change your dog’s perceptions

  • These might include separation issues, aggression, repetitive behaviours, reactivity, traffic chasing

What is the difference between reward based and balanced training?

This is a huge topic of debate within the dog training industry and everyone has their opinions on

what is most effective and ethical. Reward based or positive reinforcement training focuses on rewarding the dog for the right behaviours which in turn increases the likelihood of them occurring again. Not only does this motivate your dog more but this also strengthens your trust. Balanced training is the combination of reward based and aversive techniques. These aversives could be mild (however what constitutes as mild is down to your individual dog) but could stretch all the way up to e-collars, prong collars and physical abuse. 

Both methods of training have consequences. The difference between the two is balanced methods place more emphasis on the consequence for the wrong/undesirable behaviour whereas reward based training focuses on setting your dog up to succeed so the chances of getting it wrong are slim. The decision for you is to decide the extent to which you wish to apply these consequences to your dog training and the effect this might have on your dog or your relationship. 

So what qualifications should I look for?

Many trainers offer behaviour work however should always work within their competency and refer on if they feel the dog requires further support. 

Any behaviourist working with behavioural issues should work off veterinary referral. The link between underlying medical conditions and behaviour problems is huge and it is vital that this is ruled in or out before conducting a behaviour modification plan. 

They should also have some qualifications that prove they understand the theory behind dog behaviour. Given the dog training industry isn’t regulated, trainers can purchase a £30 online qualification and pass this off as being a ‘behaviourist’ so it’s important you know what you’re looking for. The best organisations include

Dog Trainers

Dog Behaviourists

Top behaviourists are Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourists (CCAB). This certification ensures members are required to have a qualification at a degree level or higher and have undertaken an extensive period of supervised training.

Some behaviour support might be covered by your pet insurance so this is worth checking.

The Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) is a great resource for finding qualified trainers and behaviourists in your area who below to an approved membership body. When you feel you have found a trainer/behaviourist, its always worth checking their qualifications, methods and experiences. It is important that you feel comfortable with whoever you choose and that you are not made to do anything you don’t feel sure of.


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