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The Differences Between Dog Trainers and Dog Behaviourists

When it comes to training and handling dogs, there are two professions you may come across that can help with your pet: dog trainers and dog behaviourists. While both of these professionals can help dog owners teach their furry friends how to behave, they have distinct differences in terms of their expertise and the services they provide. Whether you need someone to teach your dog how to sit still and behave, or you are concerned about how stressed and frightened your dog gets when strangers approach, there are options for you to choose from. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages are necessary just as getting your furry animal companion registered and vaccinated.

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What Is a Dog Trainer?

A dog trainer is someone who specialises in teaching dogs basic obedience skills, such as sit, stay, come when called, walking on a leash and more. Dog trainers focus on positive reinforcement methods such as clicker training or reward-based systems. They typically do not address any underlying behaviour issues that a dog may have; rather, they focus on teaching basic commands that will make it easier for a dog owner to manage their pet’s behaviour. Dog trainers usually offer group classes which enable multiple pets and pet owners to learn together in an environment where everyone can benefit from each other’s experiences. 

When Should I Get Help from a Dog Trainer?

If you’re having trouble teaching your pooch basic commands such as “sit” and “stay” then it may be beneficial to enlist the help of a professional. A good dog trainer can demonstrate the correct way to use verbal commands with consistency in order to ensure that your pup learns them quickly and correctly. They can also offer advice on how to effectively reward your dog when they do something right so that they are more likely to repeat the behaviour in the future. 

Another situation where you may want to consider reaching out for professional help is if you have recently adopted an adult dog which has not received any prior training. In this case, a certified trainer can work with both you and your pet in order to establish rules and boundaries in order to ensure that everyone in the house feels safe and comfortable around each other. 

Dog trainers are also responsible for training specialised working dogs – service dogs, search and rescue dogs and even therapy dogs all go through months or even years of training to be able to do their jobs. In some cases, you will need proof that your dog has completed certain training courses before your dog can be considered a working dog in their field. 

Finally, if you are planning on competing with your pup at dog shows or agility courses then it would be beneficial for both of you to receive instruction from a qualified trainer who specialises in canine sportsmanship training. Such trainers will have experience teaching dogs the specific tricks and techniques that are used in these sports, allowing your dog to compete on an equal footing with other dogs. 

What Is a Dog Behaviorist?

A dog behaviourist is someone who specialises in understanding why dogs act certain ways and helping them modify behaviours so they become less destructive or aggressive. Unlike a trainer, a behaviourist looks at the whole picture – including health factors like nutrition and exercise – when it comes to a pup’s overall wellbeing and undesirable behaviours. They use techniques such as desensitisation or counter-conditioning and environmental management (e.g., removing triggers) to work through an issue while avoiding punishment-based methods that can cause fear or aggression in animals. 

When Do You Need to See a Dog Behaviorist? 

The most common reason for seeking out a dog behaviourist is when your pup has started exhibiting signs of aggression or other unwanted behaviours. Aggression can often be caused by fear or frustration due to lack of training or socialisation. Other signs that may indicate your pup needs help from a professional include excessive barking, chewing on items in the house, potty accidents in the house or escape attempts from the yard or home. If you have noticed any of these behaviours it’s best to contact an experienced dog behaviourist as soon as possible so they can help you understand why your pup is behaving this way and how to stop it. 

When working with an experienced dog behaviourist they will first assess your pup’s problem in order to develop an appropriate treatment plan. This assessment may involve observing your dog at home or taking them on walks around the neighbourhood so the behaviourist can observe their reactions in different environments. The next step will involve discussing potential solutions with you such as changing their diet or implementing new rules and routines into their daily lives. Your dog behaviourist may also suggest implementing certain training exercises specific to the type of behavioural problem present, such as obedience classes for aggressive pups or playdates and agility training classes for those who struggle with socialisation issues.  

Finally, when working with an experienced dog behaviourist they may also suggest medications if needed depending on the severity of your pup’s behavioural issues. This could involve anti-anxiety medications if your pup suffers from separation anxiety or calming aids such as Adaptil collars if they are overly anxious. 

While both dog trainers and behaviourists can be incredibly helpful in teaching your dog new skills or helping them overcome unwanted behaviours, it is important for dog owners to understand the difference between these two types of professionals. Getting in touch with the right one will allow you to make sure your pet gets the best possible care for their particular needs.

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