Dog behaviourist

A Dog Behaviourist works with dogs, solving a variety of problem behaviours from aggression to shyness. A Dog Behaviourist will also teach owners to understand what their dog is communicating to them and how they may be reinforcing or creating unwanted behaviour.


Problems can occur for a variety of reasons, which can range from boredom to diet to breeding and breed specific traits. If your dog seems unhappy or distressed and is displaying problem behaviours you must address it as soon as possible. It will make for a happier dog and owner in the long term.

Owners also need to be trained on how to treat their dog, as an owners behaviour can also be the cause of the problem. Owners can complicate matters by giving unclear and inconsistent messages to their dogs, making it difficult for the dog to understand what the owner wants from them.

Proper training, based around positive reinforcement, will improve your relationship and you will learn how to communicate better with your dog. This can also be important for your dog’s safety.


There is no regulation of Behaviourists, so choose carefully.

Most qualified Behaviourists will work via veterinary referral. Choose a Behaviourist with the advice of your vet.

Your vet should be happy with the methods used by your Behaviourist. Check with your vet and discuss treatment. Depending on the problem, your vet and Behaviourist may need to work together if medication is required.

If you have adopted a dog, some rehoming centres will offer advice and support on training and behaviour.

A skilled Behaviourist should not need to use punishment or dominance reduction techniques. They should not follow “dominant” pack theories or use aversive training methods such as jabs to the side, shock collars or alpha rolling. They will not use potentially harmful and damaging equipment, such as prong, choke and electric collars. This sort of approach can be extremely detrimental and can damage your relationship with your dog. Look for Behaviourists who promote positive reinforcement techniques - this is kinder and more effective and will be far better for your relationship with your dog. There is often no “quick fix” to behaviour problems.


Check qualifications and references. You can find a complete list of trainer certifications on the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website. If you see CAAB after a trainer's name, this means he or she is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. This title is given by the Animal Behavior Society. Only trainers who have done graduate work in the field of animal behavior are able to use it. You may also see CPDT following the name of a number of trainers. CPDT stands for Certified Pet Dog Trainer. The title is granted to trainers by the Certification Council of Pet Dog Trainers. Trainers must pass an exam which tests their knowledge of dog training.

Going to a Behaviourist can be quite expensive so find a reputable one. If you have pet insurance remember to check the policy details, as you may be able to claim for the cost of consultations.

Ask if you can observe a lesson or class. Remember a good Behaviourist will be proud of the service they offer and will let you observe. They will also be glad you are taking the time to research your dog’s welfare. By watching your Behaviourist in action you should be able to see how effective they are.


A professional Behaviourist will never give advice without properly observing your dog and spending time watching and learning.

You (and your dog) should undertake a personal consultation with the Behaviourist so they can accurately diagnose the problem and recommend a treatment plan for you to follow.

Your dog’s Behaviourist will take detailed notes about your dog’s character and history - and day to day routine. They will watch how your dog interacts with you and towards visitors.

A behavioural modification programme and report will be set for you and a copy should be sent to your vet.

You may need to attend follow-up consultations, or keep in contact by phone if any difficulties occur.

Do not break your dog’s trust and do not take on board ill-informed advice. Seek professional and quality help.

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