Monday, December 10, 2012

Do I need a trainer or a behavior expert?

A dog trainer can be anyone.  Sadly the dog training industry is not regulated and there are no governing bodies to qualify a person under a blanket title of "dog trainer".  There are no degrees or the like for a dog trainer.  Anyone can become a dog trainer.  Anyone.  And yes, there are many "schools" out there with their own type of "certification", heck I even attended one.  However, this still isn't a green light that one should immediately say, "Oh then he must be a qualified trainer..."  Sadly that may or may not hold true.  The best way to find a good trainer is by referral and observation.   

Always seek a trainer that uses modern and up-to-date training methods.  Outdated methods are still very, very widely used and those more "current" trainers out there find that dogs trained with these methods are suffering from long term problems due to lack of correct education on dog behavior and training.  Never choose a trainer that puts a "I can fix your dog in X amount of lessons" or a "guarantee" on their training. There is no such thing when it comes to dog training, and especially with behavior modification.Here is an excellent read on how to find a good trainer.
Then a question often asked by many dog owners is: Do I need a dog trainer or behavior expert? How do I know?

If your dog is exhibiting any form of aggression or "reactivity" (it may look like aggression but be more "talk" than anything), fears, phobias, anxiety or extreme shy or timidness then you should seek the help of a behavior expert that knows canine behavior and body language very well.  Most box-store trainers cannot help dogs with the above listed problems and many trainers will also attempt to help but cannot get far as they don't have the proper education or experience to do so.  

Dog training is great for all dogs, regardless of their issues.  However, just teaching a dog the basics of obedience and how to "obey" will not help behavior problems that may go beyond that.   Many dog owners get the advice of "join a class" in the hopes that this will "fix" their dog's issues.  If your dog doesn't know how to sit, or walk nicely on a leash (due to pulling) then yes, a class would be a good option. However if your dog barks incessantly at other dogs when on leash or likes to growl and snap at others or dislike people coming into your home (these are just a few of many examples) then a group class is not the answer to start your dog's behavior modification program.

B -Mod is the abbreviation professionals often use that stands for "Behavior Modification".  Some trainers use the term "Rehabilitation" or maybe even some other terms.  It's all about the same thing: working with a training and canine behavior consultant (or even an Animal Behaviorist) in order to change your dog's behavior for the better.  That's a simple way  to put it.  

What dog owners need to know is that b-mod isn't a quick fix, if done properly by a qualified and highly educated dog professional.  B-mod Programs, as I call them, are just that "programs". Which means it's not a 2-lesson deal.  A training professional doesn't just come to the home, put a leash on your dog and show you a few little tips and then tell you your dog is going to be "fixed" within X amount of time.  If a professional does do that then they are not a professional I'd recommend you work with.  

If a dog has some behavior issues and requires a B-Mod Program laid out by a qualified professional then you need to know what you have to prepare for.  Do not expect instant results. Do not expect your dog to just be taught obedience and that solves your dog's issues.  Expect a commitment.  Expect to have all household members to participate, fully.  Expect to change your dog's current environment. Expect to learn about dog body language and how to read and use it.  Expect to never put your dog in a situation that sets him up to fail again.  Expect to lay out rules for any person that comes into your home or in contact with your dog.  Expect to possibly have a full medical check that involves blood panel and a thyroid panel to rule out medical components to the behavior issues.  Expect homework and dedication.

If you have a dog with behavior issues there are many great professionals who have very successfully changed the dog's behavior with a great Behavior Modification Program, coupled with the dog owners' compliance and dedication.  However, the biggest problem is people who don't commit, who fail to follow all the trainers' instructions and/or who expect more than what is realistic.

Sadly the internet and television have made it appear that dog behavior problems can be fixed quick and easy with certain methods.  This is not true and any qualified, educated and well-versed canine professional knows this.  So, if your dog has the need for a behavior modification program then please seek the help of a qualified professional and be prepared to do some work.  Do not be discouraged, these programs work and they work well, but they are not quick fixes.  All you need is a great canine professional and readiness to really do what it takes to change your dog's behavior, regardless of what that may be.

Understand what a Behaviorist is, as well. Many dog trainers call themselves "behaviorists" when in fact they are not.  That doesn't mean they don't understand behavior, and they could very well be absolutely amazing but they are misrepresenting what a true "Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist" is.  Read more here to know how to find a behaviorist, should you want a "real" certified animal behaviorist.
Note: You do not have to hire a genuine "Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist" to accomplish goals with behavior problems.  I simply wanted to have people understand what a behaviorist actually is and isn't.  There are many, many qualified trainers and behavior consultants (like myself!) that are not certified but are quite versed in dog behavior, training and behavior modification.

Here are a couple of organizations that I recommend to use to find a qualified trainer/behavior consultant:
Pet Professional Guild
Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT)
Truly Dog Friendly
Karen Pryor Academy

----- *** ----- *** -----

1 comment: