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Dog behaviorist is a term that is used by professional academics, veterinarians and experienced trainers who may or not be formally certified.
In general, a dog behaviorist is a professional who either studies dog behavior, or works towards modifying and managing the behavior of particular dogs, with emphasis on problems such as aggression, separation anxiety, fears, timidity, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
Most dog behaviorists are experienced dog handlers who have developed their skills over many years and studied behavior either formally or through personal research. Some have backgrounds in veterinary science, animal science, psychology, zoology, sociology, biology, or animal behavior, and have applied their experience and knowledge to the interaction between humans and dogs.
To help establish and further this form of training, associations dedicated to the development of behavioral dog training have been established, these may offer trainers and practicing behaviorists a route to further their development. Different associations have different standards, goals, and requirements for membership.
These are a cross section of the more well known Associations.
- American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
- Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists
- Professional Association of Applied Canine Trainers (UK)
- International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP)
- International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
- Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (UK)
There are currently not many legal requirements for any kind of certification or accreditation to call oneself a behaviorist. Board-certified veterinary behaviorists have to pass a credentialling application and exam to be recognized as "board-certified" in the view of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). However, most behaviorists work and study towards formal acreditation with one of the many colleges providing training. Some associations might require accreditation to join, others may require a declaration of intent for continuing personal development. For behaviorists who seek accreditation, there are many colleges and institutions that provide training.
The theory or doctrine that human or animal psychology can be accurately studied only through the examination and analysis of objectively observable and quantifiable behavioral events, in contrast with subjective mental states. --- Dictionary.com
Typically behaviorists work one-on-one with the dog and its owner. This is often carried out in the home or the area where the dog is showing behavioral problems. Many dogs are cautious or nervous in neutral territory making it difficult to establish the root cause of some common behavioral problems. To this end office bound behaviorists may be disadvantaged when it comes to assessing behavioral modification. As the dog may act very differently when in strange territory
The methods and tools of the behaviorist will depend on several factors including the dog's temperament, the trainer's personal philosophy on training, the trainer's experience, and the behavioral problems being addressed. At one end of the spectrum some behaviorists attempt to train dogs without any aversive or coercive methods at all, relying solely on food treats or praise. Other behaviorists believe that the use of verbal corrections, head collars, correction collars, electric collars etc., are necessary or useful when treating particular dogs or particular behavioral problems. However, the general philosophy in use is to avoid methods that could cause confusion, fear, pain and anything other than mild stressors.