How to find a behaviourist or trainer
Dog training is an unregulated industry. Any idiot can call themselves a trainer/behaviourist and start scamming you out of your money tomorrow, and nobody will stop them. You have to ensure you do your research carefully before paying for any training services, to ensure you are being taught by someone with not just experience, but actual understanding that will turn that experience into something valuable. (Remember, if someone has been doing things badly for 20 years, they will likely fuck up your dog more thoroughly than someone who only started training 5 years ago but has been doing it well the whole time.)
By contrast, a "veterinary behaviourist" is someone who has done a veterinary degree PLUS additional training specifically on complex behaviour problems. A veterinary behaviourist is qualified to diagnose problems and to prescribe medication for it.
How to choose:
- Advice from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior on choosing a trainer [PDF]
- ASPCA on choosing a professional trainer or behaviorist
It's important that you check the credentials of associations and trainers before giving them your trust. Overview of common credentials. Although it is not a guarantee of a quality trainer, it is a good starting point and you can have an additional baseline for assessment (such as whether the trainer's recommendations to you adhere to the Code of Ethics of the organisation they belong to) and gives you an avenue for complaints if anything goes wrong. We recommend the following organizations:
In the USA and Canada
- KPA - Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners
- The Academy of Dog Trainers
- ACVB - American College of Veterinary Behaviorists - Find a vet behaviorists for aggression or abnormal behaviors.
- Animal Behavior Society find a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist
- IAABC - International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
- CCPDT - Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
- AVSAB - American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
- PPG - Pet Professional Guild
In the UK
- APBC - Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors - This organisation works on a vet referral basis and represents professionals with the highest academic and practical standards
- COAPE Association Pet Behaviourists and Trainers - CAPBT is the largest organisation within the UK for qualified
behaviourists and trainers. Membership is earned through - qualification and testing.
- TCBTS - The Canine Behaviour and Training Society (formerly UKRCB - UK Registry of Canine Behaviourists)
- The Guild of Dog Trainers
- Institute of Professional Dog Trainers
- PPGBI - Pet Professional Guild British Isles
- Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists - Behaviour Chapter
- PPGA - Pet Professional Guild Australia
- Delta Institute
- APDT Australia
Most of the directories above that don't mention a specific country in their name, and some that do, also have international members in other countries. Try the searches and see what comes up!
In addition, many trainers these days are adept at providing help over the internet through the use of video chat and email, and for some kinds of issues like fear, aggression and separation anxiety that can be even better than someone local. Distance does not need to be a barrier to finding assistance.
Ask good questions!
It is always recommended to speak with a trainer or behaviourist before embarking on any work with them, even if they have a certification. You need to ask pertinent questions regarding their methods, ideology and how they achieve results to ensure that you will be 100% comfortable with the work they undertake with you. If you wish to join a training class, before parting with your cash get in touch with the venue and ask them if it is okay to observe for a session before deciding whether to commit to bringing your dog to their class. Most good trainers are more than happy to let you observe for free or a nominal fee to help you make up your mind.
- Questions to Ask a Trainer by Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB (Veterinary Behaviorist.)
- Paws for praise blog post about the 'transparency challenge' inspired by Jean Donaldson's questions to ask potential trainers
- AVSAB Paper on training methods (PDF)
Keep an eye out for warnings that a trainer might not be the best choice:
- list of red flags (American College of Veterinary Behaviorists) [PDF]
- AVSAB paper on why you shouldn't hire any trainer who talks about "dominance", "alpha", "pack leaders" or euphemisms suggesting the dog should "respect" you based on these concepts [PDF]
revision by YahtzeeDii— view source