Dog Behaviour Training

Do I need a behaviourist or a dog trainer?

This is one of the most common questions we get asked so we thought we’d run through some examples to clear it up for you.

In the general public, and because the dog training and behaviour worlds are not currently regulated, the terms “dog trainer” and “behaviourist” are often used interchangeably. Whereas they are actually two distinct roles serving two very different groups.

Unfortunately because the whole area is unregulated it means anyone can call themselves either of these titles without any education, training or experience. All our trainers and behaviourists at Positive Pet Training are fully qualified and part of regulatory bodies ensuring we stay up to date with current science and training methods. When trying to find either a trainer or behaviourist we recommend looking at the ABTC which is the best regulatory group we currently have. And check out our other blog about finding a dog trainer here too.

  • Dog trainers: teach you and your dog new behaviours. These can range from life skills such as recall, not pulling on the lead or jumping up, to fun tricks like Agility, Gundog Training, Scent Work or Hoopers. We can offer dog training in Group or Individual Training options.

  • Behaviourists work to change how a dog feels. So behaviours which are driven through emotions (e.g. fear/anxiety or frustration) can be treated by changing their emotions which then results in a change in behaviour. Common behaviours can include reactivity towards people or other dogs, guarding behaviours, separation related problems, noise sensitivities, obsessive repetitive behaviours and generalised anxiety.

  • Veterinary behaviourists are behaviourists who are also veterinary surgeons. They treat all the things a behaviourist can treat but also diagnose and treat any medical influences on the behaviour. Studies have shown a huge percentage (over 80% in one study) of behavioural problems have a medical condition underlying it. If this medical influence isn’t treated then even with the best behavioural modification it is unlikely to resolve the behavioural concern. Veterinary behaviourist can also prescribe medication to help with behavioural change if required although this is not necessary in all cases. Dr Katie Friel-Russell is our veterinary behaviourist here at Positive Pet Training and can help with any behavioural concerns you are having. This is the most comprehensive approach to changing a dog’s behaviour.

So another way to think of it is if you’d like to teach your dog a new skill, just like you might join a group or go to a lesson you should see a trainer. These are comparable to teachers and coaches. Whereas if you needed support or you had poor mental health you would seek the help of a therapist or psychiatrist this is the human equivalent of a behaviourist.

There are many fantastic trainers out there but unless they have studied behaviour and been examined by a reputable organisation then they should refer you on to a qualified behaviourist if you are seeking help for an emotional problem. Equally many behaviourists are great at what they do but may not be so good at teaching tricks or even know the first thing about some dog sports. Some people can do both and support you in different ways depending on what your goals are with your dog. And frustratingly still many, many people still use both terms, trainer and behaviourist, whilst not being qualified as either.

So think about what it is that your dog needs so that you’re seeking the correct support, and then ensure anyone you do contact can show their qualifications and that all training is science based and force-free. We hope you get all the help that you and your dog need.


Professional Pet Care

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Get the best from your dog whilst building on your relationship with love and trust.

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