As owners experience difficulty with their dog’s behavioral issues, many turn to professional trainers or animal behavior consultants in order to resolve problems and enhance his life. If this is your situation, however, it is crucial that the individual you hire possesses all necessary credentials – canine behavior certification is one such credential; but does this guarantee Least-Intrusive Minimally-Aversive training (LIMA) best practices will be employed or that someone with such credentials should help your pup?
While certificates from schools or online programs can be helpful as a first step, experts caution against solely relying on this type of credential for behavior modification purposes. There are too many “dog behaviorists” who don’t fully grasp learning science, evolution and ethology-the foundation of behavior modification-who may also be influenced by popular television shows that influence behavior modification rather than having real world experience training pets themselves. Instead, experts advise finding trainers with degrees from accredited college and university programs.
One such university program in California is Moorpark College’s Animal Training and Management Degree program, which offers animal training and management to exotic and domestic animal students alike. Accredited by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, students learn theory, evolution and ethology – among many other subjects!
International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants provides two canine-centric credentials, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant Canine Knowledge Assessed (CBDCC-KA) and Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC). To become a CDBC, applicants must complete coursework and case studies to demonstrate their ability to counsel pet owners as well as possess knowledge and skills required for solving complex canine behavior problems. In addition, CDBCs must keep abreast of new research techniques.
Veterinary behaviorists are trained professionals with an in-depth knowledge of how the mind and body interact, making them adept at helping solve issues such as aggression and biting, inappropriate housetraining methods, food/object guarding behaviors, compulsive behaviors, phobias or compulsive behaviors. Furthermore, they may identify possible medical causes of behavior problems which they could prescribe medication to address them.
No matter the level of dog behavior certification someone possesses, pet owners should find someone they trust who will take the time necessary to train their pup safely and humanely. Also important for pet owners to remember: any trainer using aversive methods – physical punishment, intimidation or fear tactics – should be avoided at all costs. Expert advice suggests starting by working with a trainer to learn positive reinforcement shaping techniques before joining an obedience or agility sport to expand training abilities further.