Referral guidelines—Does this dog need a behaviorist or a trainer? (Proceedings)

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Referral guidelines—Does this dog need a behaviorist or a trainer? (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2010

There are many professionals available to work with behavior problems in dogs. Each has a role, but sometimes, boundaries may seem less than clear.

What is a dog trainer?

Any person that has trained a dog may call himself a dog trainer. In fact a trainer may even call himself a behaviorist. Skills and experience may only be evaluated subjectively. There are no uniform standards and no state or federal legislation governing these professionals.

Why refer to a trainer?

A referral to a trainer would be indicated for all of the following:
      1. Teaching basic commands and manners
      2. Helping owners manage normal but undesirable canine behaviors.
      3. Teaching specific tasks including fun tricks and skills required to participate in dog sports
      4. Helping owners implement the behavioral treatment plan that has been designed by a veterinarian

What is a certified trainer?

Recently, there has been a movement to standardize training methods. There has been concern that many trainers continue to select methods that are not humane and may even be dangerous to the dog or its owner. Through the Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers, trainers may earn the title of Certified Pet Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). A CPDT-KA has attended CE, taught obedience classes, and passed a written examination.

How do I choose a trainer?

If a dog or puppy needs basic training, hiring a CPDT trainer is a good place to start. That said, there are many excellent trainers that have not had the opportunity to pursue formal education. A staff member should observe the trainer prior to referring clients to him or her. You might even enroll in a class with your own dog. Be sure that the class atmosphere is calm, and that the trainer insures that owners are comfortable controlling their dogs. Reward based training should be the method of choice. Dogs should be wearing harnesses or flat collars or head halters. Harsh training methods should not be employed.

What is a board certified veterinary behaviorist?

A Diplomate of The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists is a veterinarian that has completed an advanced training program. As with other veterinary specialties, an internship is followed by an approved residency program. Candidates must then pass a written examination before earning Diplomate status.