What is the difference between a dog Trainer and a dog Behaviourist?

The main difference between a dog Trainer and a dog Behaviourist is knowledge. A Behaviourist must hold, at the minimum, a Bachelor’s degree, and to qualify as an accredited Animal Behaviourist, an academic background coupled with practical hands-on experience is required, while a Trainer does not require a degree.

A dog Behaviourist is a trained expert in the field of animal behaviour and animal learning who loves animals and studies them to learn about their behaviour.  When you consult a Dog Behaviourist for concerns about your dog’s behaviour, they will try to find explanations for the dog’s behaviour by examining his environment. In most cases, dog owners will seek out the help of dog Behaviourists who are experienced dog Trainers that also specialise in behavioural issues.

If you’re not sure whether to consult a Dog Behaviourist or not, this is a good guideline:
“Any type of aggression, including, but not limited to, resource-guarding, growling, biting in the home and at other dogs or any people, especially children, should be referred to a Behaviourist”

The sooner behavioural issues are addressed, the sooner they can be dealt with. The job of the Behaviourist is to root out the emotional basis for the physical manifestation being displayed in the behaviour that needs to be addressed. They will often even work with veterinarians in order to be able to deal with certain problems with medication if this is the only solution.

Dog Trainers combine knowledge of animal behaviour with practical teaching skills. Patience, consistency, and excellent communication skills (both verbal and nonverbal) help a Trainer to effectively work with and teach both their canine and human clients. Dog Trainers have varying levels knowledge and experience including formal and informal education and while many dog Trainers are self-taught through reading and research, others attend professional classes or learn by apprenticing with experienced Trainers.

A dog Behaviourist will work to modify a dog’s behaviour, rather than teaching the dog to do something new or to do things a certain way and needs to have extensive experience with dogs (and other animals) in order to be able to identify and address behavioural problems.

Your Vet is always a good “go-to” for initial advice and then further recommendations if a Behaviourist is recommended. Your Vet will know the dog Behaviourists and Trainers in your area and will be able to suggest which would be most suited to assist with your specific problem, and which will work best for your dog – and for you.

If you feel that your dog may have, or is developing behavioural issues, it is advisable to seek out the opinion of your veterinarian in order to determine a course of action, which may include getting help from a dog Behaviourist.