What Does a Dog Behaviorist Do?

Lainie Petersen

A dog behaviorist is someone who has a strong understanding of dog behaviors and who is able to work with dogs and their owners to correct undesirable behavior, such as difficulty with house training or barking at strangers. The title of “dog behaviorist” is not restricted or protected in all jurisdictions, so it is important for consumers to find out the credentials of any dog behaviorist that they are considering hiring to work with their dog. In the United States, some certification bodies for animal behaviorists require members to hold a postgraduate degree in zoology or another relevant discipline and to complete additional training before they can receive their credentials.

A dog behaviorist can help with problems like tail chasing.
A dog behaviorist can help with problems like tail chasing.

Many dog owners find that their dogs regularly display behaviors that are disruptive, unpleasant, or in some cases even dangerous to other pets and family members. Local ordinances may also hold dog owners responsible for the behavior of their pet, making it even more crucial that negative behaviors be identified and addressed promptly. While it is a good idea for pet owners to take up concerns about pet behavior with their veterinarian, as some behaviors may be caused by medical issues, not all veterinarians have the training or expertise to help manage and change a pet's behaviors. A dog behaviorist can work with a pet owner and help him understand why his pet is misbehaving and what the owner can do to address the problem.

A dog behaviorist problems such as barking at strangers.
A dog behaviorist problems such as barking at strangers.

Experts in dog behavior may work in a variety of settings, although some experts believe that it is best for a dog behaviorist to work with dogs in their own homes so that the behaviorist can observe the context in which the dog lives and identify any issues that may be triggering negative behaviors. The dog may also be more comfortable in his own home, making it easier for the dog behaviorist to distinguish between ongoing behavior problems and normal discomfort with being in a new environment. After spending time with the dog and the dog's owner, the dog behaviorist can develop a plan of action that can assist the pet owner in living in harmony with his pet. In addition to expertise in dog behavior and training, a dog behaviorist must typically have strong counseling and educational skills for working with human owners. In some cases, a dog owner may be contributing to his dog's behavior issues, and a good behaviorist will need to tactfully address these behaviors while supporting the owner in making needed changes.

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