What is a dog behaviourist?

Many clients that contact me, a dog behaviourist and trainer, have already sought the help of a sole dog trainer; they have contacted a dog trainer to help with a behaviour problem. The fact that they then contact me shows that there is a real different between a trainer and a behaviourist. Luckily I have the skillset to recognise when the issue is for a trainer or a behaviourist, and I can help when either is the answer.

Behavioural problems in dogs are much like those in humans; they are usually caused by something around them or something in their nature. Behavioural problems relate more to emotional disturbances for a dog such as: separation distress, generalised anxiety, aggression, barking etc. Some behaviours however, develop from instinct such as chasing livestock or predation. There is of course some overlap, for example barking could indication an underlying emotional issue or it could be that the dog enjoys barking. The first would need a dog behaviourist and the latter would respond to training.

On top of this. Some trainers who believe they are only using positive reinforcement are actually using punishment. For example, if a dog barks because it doesn’t like being around other dogs, and then is forced to be in a class with other dogs, this is punishment for the dog.

So what might a behaviourist do differently? We try to understand the emotional state which may be behind this behaviour, evaluate the motivation for it, and how the dog is being reinforced for it. The emphasis for a behaviourist would be to address why the dog feels the need to bark, and to work on that.

Destructive dogs can benefit from a professional behaviourist. There isn’t a pet in the world that truly wants to do things to annoy the heck out of their owners. An experienced behaviourist can help you find out why your pooch is destroying your home. Most of the time, dogs become destructive because they are bored when they are left alone; however, some dogs suffer from separation anxiety and the only thing that soothes them is to chew on your things.

Problematic pups can be difficult to live with, and in all honesty they aren’t very happy pooches. A skilled behaviourist can help transform your mutt from a monster into the perfect pooch. A behaviourist will be able to make your dog realize that you will always come back home or show you how to keep your pup busy when you are away from home.

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