Who do you call? Simple advice for choosing a dog behaviourist

So, you have a dog with problems. Who do you call? Certainly not ghostbusters!

During my work over the past few years, I have met quite a few dog owners with worrying tales to tell of their experiences with dog trainers and behaviourists.

Some of the advice they are given is staggeringly bad, from keeping dogs indoors for weeks at a time or physically punishing them in one way or another or, just being told that they, the ‘professionals’ cannot help their dog.

One, unfortunate, soul has had the experience of three ‘professional’ behaviourists:

One visited and sat in a room, apart from the dog, and gave her opinions to the owner at the cost of over £100, without, ever, evaluating the dog.

Another told the owner to keep her dog ‘quiet’ for a year!

The other took one look, from a car, and told the owner to return the dog to the rescue centre.

Frankly, all of these examples are staggering.

It is not surprising, that with the shoddy advice, that the poor dog has not been helped over the past three years. The poor owner has struggled over this time and continues to do so.

Unfortunately, there are many courses out there all purporting to give people the skills required to be a behaviourist or trainer. Many of these courses are of very low quality. The problem is then made worse by the number of ‘professional bodies’ that impart the veneer of professionalism to people with limited knowledge and skills, making them an extremely poor choice to help dogs and their owners.

Research is vitally important when choosing someone to help you with your dog. Ask your vet for recommendations and then research these people to find out their level of training and experience. Don’t be wowed with fancy certificates and membership of impressive-sounding professional bodies. People who have studied a few courses at level three — providing basic training — are unlikely to possess the depth of knowledge required to deal with the complex behavioural issues that dogs may present.

Any behaviourist worth their salt will refer you to your vet, initially — the vet should be aware of the behaviourist and be prepared to refer you to them. All behaviourists should take a full history of your pet and discuss with you how to progress. They should also be prepared to visit for followup and to observe the dog in the situations were behavioural issues present.

Ultimately, be very careful who you engage to help you with your dog.