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Ten tips for finding a good canine behaviourist
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Ten tips for finding a good canine behaviourist

Dogs
Breed Facts

A canine behaviourist is a dog training expert whose skills go above and beyond the everyday training norms and help to address unusual, problematic or aggressive dog behaviour with a view to resolving it. Canine behaviourists can provide a valuable service in helping the caring dog owner get to the bottom of any problems they might be having with their dog, as well as being able to suggest a range of different approaches that can help to address them. All dogs are different, and even if the origins of any given problem are clear, knowing how to decode your dog’s responses and reactions as a result of it and change them to acceptable norms can be difficult to put into practice. This is where canine behaviourists come into their own.In order to give you and your dog the best opportunity to resolve any issues you might be having, choosing the right behaviourist to assist you is vitally important. Just as with regular dog training techniques and schools of thought, there are many different methods of training and viewpoints as to what works best in canine behaviourism principles, and not all behaviourists will tackle a problem with a dog in the same way. If you are considering calling in an expert to help to deal with a problem that has arisen with your dog or your interaction with them, selecting the right behaviourist is important. Follow our ten top tips for finding a good canine behaviourist, to give you the best possible chance of resolving a problem with your dog.1. Check qualifications and experienceWhile there are various different qualifications available to canine behaviourists (such as the Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour Management) and a UK umbrella organisation that offers membership to behaviourists who fulfil their membership criteria, there is no legal requirement to hold any formal qualifications or professional affiliations before a person can set themselves up offering their services as a behaviourist. There is a lot to be said for hiring a behaviourist who is affiliated with the UK Registry of Canine Behaviourists although a lack of membership or formal qualifications does not mean you should rule an experienced behaviourist with a good reputation either.2. Find a behaviourist who is willing to work on a per-session basisCanine behaviourists work in various different ways, and will generally need to spend several sessions with your dog over a course of weeks or even months in order to resolve or deal with the problem at hand. For this reason, many behaviourists offer discounts and incentives to take out a course of sessions, which may be a good idea once you have established that you are happy with how things are progressing. But for the initial assessment and the first couple of sessions, look for a behaviourist who is happy to work on a per-session basis so that you can assess how you are finding things before committing a significant amount of money to carrying on.3. Find a behaviourist who has previously successfully tackled the exact problem you are havingRegardless of the issue or problem that you are having with your dog, an experienced behaviourist should have seen it all before and be able to talk about the issue from an authority viewpoint, explaining exactly how they would go about addressing things and why this will be effective.4. Establish what guarantees or caveats are placed on the behaviourist’s workBehaviourists do not generally offer firm guarantees of success as there are so many variables involved, not least of which is your involvement as the owner and how you help or inadvertently hinder the process. But if a behaviourist agrees that they can help your dog and feel that they are able to, they should have reasonable expectations of being able to succeed. Ensure that you establish clearly from the start what your behaviourist needs and plans to do to succeed, and find out what they will do if for some reason their process is unsuccessful.5. Find out what type of approach the behaviourist will useNegative reinforcement has been ‘out of fashion’ in the dog world for over a decade now, but nevertheless there still remain some trainers and possibly behaviourists who prefer this system. Establish with your behaviourist before you even get to the point of an initial assessment what training methods they subscribe to, and what their views are on how to discipline and how to reward.6. Does the behaviourist have access to all of the equipment and training aids that they will need, and if appropriate, a safe venue for trainingSpecial leads, harnesses and various types of props may be used as part of training, and a competent and professional behaviourist will already be in possession of these in a wide variety of sizes and have them available for use during sessions. Unless your dog is unusually large or small, you should not be asked to buy or provide any equipment for use during the sessions themselves, although you may need or chose to buy your own for use outside of the sessions, if this is useful.**7. How does your dog get on with the behaviourist?**During the initial assessment, the behaviourist should be able to firmly establish themselves as the leader to your dog, and gain your dog’s respect and attention. Make sure that this is the case, and also that your dog is reasonably accepting of the behaviourist and happy to work with them, even if they may not enjoy the training itself.**8. Is the behaviourist courteous and helpful to you in your interactions with them?**Even if you find the best behaviourist in the world, you are unlikely to be able to support your dog’s sessions or get the best out of them if you find it hard to communicate with your behaviourist. It is important to ensure that your behaviourist is both willing and able to explain what is going on with your dog’s progress in clear terms that you can understand, and provides progress reports and feedback at every stage of the process.**9. Can you observe them at work and/or get references?**It may not be possible to observe a behaviourist at work with someone else’s dogs, as this might hinder their own training. But you should be able to get a range of independent references from previous clients, and be able to talk to them about how they feel the whole process went.10. The cost of sessionsHow much sessions with a behaviourist cost can vary greatly across the country, and even between different services in the same area. Try to find a mid-priced behaviourist rather than going for the cheapest one available, and if a certain behaviourist is significantly cheaper or more expensive than most others, try to establish why!

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