What Is a Dog Behaviorist?
Behaviorists specialize in the study of animal behavior. Every trainer at Chill Out Dog Training specializes in solving misbehavior issues, including biting, nipping, fighting, snarling, playing too rough, jumping up, whining, excessive barking, demand barking, territorial aggression, resource guarding/aggression, extreme avoidance, anchoring (refusing to move), leash pulling, disobedience of known commands. Dog behaviorists can teach tricks but tend to spend time addressing more severe problems, like the misbehaviors listed above. Chill Out Dog Training is on a mission to improve the lives of owners and dogs by improving dog behavior.
What about certifications?
There are many canine behaviorist certifying organizations. No government agency licenses or certifies dog trainers or behaviorists in the United States. All certifying organizations are private. They solicit membership from trainers for an annual fee to bolster their credibility in the market through affiliation. Members may submit records of their time spent training behavior issues, and take an exam of the organization’s own making, to earn a designation that signifies a level of knowledge attainment and adherence to organization principles. Many organizations have methodological preferences that they require their members to adhere to both in examination and in practice. While this is fine in theory, it can often lead to restrictions on practical tools and methods that are highly effective at resolving behavior problems and producing well-adjusted, happy dogs. Some organizations are more open to helpful tools and techniques than others, so do your homework.
One can specialize in behaviorism at universities at the graduate level. Typically these behaviorists focus on research rather than hands-on clinical training/interventions.
Veterinarians can also focus on behavior, though it’s a rare specialization. Most veterinarian behaviorists use psychiatric medications to address behavioral issues because 1) prescribing medications is a differentiator from non-veterinary behaviorists, and 2) they tend to subscribe to the chemical imbalance theory of misbehavior. We are not stating that stress, anxiety, and excitement don’t contribute to poor behavior choices and can never be the primary factor; they are often significant but manageable with guidance and feedback. Furthermore, dogs reduce stress, anxiety, and overexcitement by mastering their behavior in the face of those intense feelings. In our experience, medicine alone resolving behavior issues is rare. Veterinarians who don’t adhere to the chemical imbalance theory often refer patients to trainer behaviorists (like Chill Out Dog Training) since training behaviorists are skilled in non-medical interventions.
How should behaviorists’ qualifications be measured?
Ultimately, every behaviorist has to stand on their results which are easily documented and shared through video footage and client reviews. Regular people who live with their dogs know better than any third-party expert if their dog’s behavior has significantly improved after a behaviorist’s intervention. Results build reputations. Fortunately, it is easier than ever to identify trainers with a long list of satisfied clients by simply checking their online reviews on a neutral platform (i.e., Google Listings).
Chill Out Dog Training has a 5-Star average rating across all platforms and has 171 5-star Google reviews and counting.
How are we different from other behaviorists?
First, our ratings are second to none, and we have built a rock-solid reputation for resolving challenging behavior issues.
Second, while we understand classic behaviorism – behavior related to external physical stimuli, responses, learning histories, and reinforcements – we know that the dog’s mental/emotional state strongly influences (or suggests) those behaviors. Our deep category and breed knowledge helps us understand where those internal influences come from.
Third, our behavior training approach is not “dominance” based. While a more dominant dog can pose specific challenges, interpersonal conflict with that dog is not part of the solution. We focus on setting boundaries on misbehavior in a way that minimizes conflict between dog and handler.
Lastly, Chill Out Dog Training has looked at the standard training models and taken them further. Primarily, we start working on the most necessary behavior change and accommodate as needed to find traction, often allowing us to make headway where other behaviorists have stalled out. Secondarily, we have identified training tools that reduce the learning time for clients; many other behavior trainers are married to means that they are comfortable with but are difficult for their clients to master. Finally, we work fast compared to the industry standard. We often see a dramatic improvement in behavior within the first session and typically have resolved the behavior within three sessions (90-minute private lessons). Our fast results are achieved in part thanks to the above, but also for two additional reasons 1) we can identify effective approaches quickly, and 2) we are experts at ensuring our clients maintain momentum after each session. The way we approach training is unique within the industry, and the results speak for themselves.