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Differences between dog trainers and dog behaviorists

Updated on May 10, 2012

Dog trainers teaches dogs manners

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The difference between a dog trainer and a dog behaviorist may in some way resemble the difference between a classroom teacher and a psychologist. Dog training is the dog's education, it is how dogs learn manners, respect and composure. Dog trainers of course, must have a basic knowledge about dog psychology but if the dog is exhibiting behavioral problems it is a dog behaviorist the one you want to consult with. Following is a more in depth definition of these two different professions.

Dog Trainers

Dog trainers teach dog's the ABC's of obedience. A dog will be taught to sit, stay, lay down and other basic commands. A lot of focus is tended to teaching dogs to not pull on the leash and to practice self control even under situations full of distractions. Training may be simply as teaching puppies to come to their owners when they are called to advanced training involving off leash exercises or agility.

Dog trainers rely on voice, body postures and body gestures to train commands. Attention is given as well to dog owners in providing tips and advice on how to effectively handle their dogs.

Dog trainers however, as mentioned earlier, must have a basic understanding of how dog psychology works. They must understand how they learn and what works best to tell them what is the right behavior and what is the wrong behavior. They also apply various psychological methods such as operant and classical condition, positive reinforcement and so on.

Dog trainers may be certified or self taught through job experience. As knowledgeable as dog trainers may be, behavioral problems are not entirely in the scope of their duties.

Where to look for a good dog trainer? CCPDT and APDT lists certified trainers on their websites.

Dog Behaviorists

Dog Behaviorists have a profound knowledge about dog psychology and behaviors. They are able to assess and treat various conditions in dogs due to fear, anxiety, dominance and aggression. They carefully evaluate each case and provide methods to solve the underlying issues. They work one on one versus dog trainers that work in a class. Dog behaviorists therefore, offer consultations either over the phone or they may come to the client's home to assess the dog's behavior.

Common cases where dog behaviorists are called to assist are cases of aggression, separation anxiety, fearfulness, lack of confidence,obsessive compulsive disorders and so forth. Some may have a degree while other may not. However, a lack of degree does not always mean they are to discard, rather a look into experience and referals may be better things to look into.

Where to look for a good behaviorist? IAABC

So who do you call if Rover is pulling you when he sees a squirrel? A dog trainer. An who will you call when Fluffy starts howling and ruining your home when you go to work each day? A dog behaviorist. The difference as seen are quite remarkable, yet often, dog owners confuse the two.


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