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Dog Trainer or Dog Behaviourist? What's the difference?

Sometimes our beloved dogs can display behaviours that we find to be a problem, and in spite of our best efforts, we're not sure how to help them. Ranging from jumping up or stealing food to aggressive behaviour, sometimes our dogs do things we don't like and want to nip in the bud. It’s not unusual at all for owners to need a little extra support & guidance at some point during their dog’s life, so don’t worry if you’d like some help.

But do I need to see a behaviourist or a trainer: what’s the difference? Although they sound as though they do a similar job, trainers and behaviourists have particular expertise in different areas.

Dog trainers specialise in teaching you how to use rewards that your dog enjoys in order to teach them what you would like them to do. This could include walking nicely on lead, teaching your dog not to jump up on people, teaching them not to beg for food, or to settle down quietly when you need them to. Dog trainers can also specialise in specific types of activity, such as agility, obedience, trick training or nose-work (teaching your dog to find hidden items by smell), any of which you might choose to do just for fun or even for competition. A trainer will help you to improve your own training skills when it comes to teaching your dog.

Dog behaviourists specialise in problems that are much more emotional for dogs, for example when they become anxious, frightened, or frustrated. Feeling like this can lead dogs to behave in ways that may be dangerous for themselves and others, such as chasing traffic, panicking when left alone, worrying about noises and causing damage to themselves or the home, or behaving aggressively towards people or other animals. These types of behaviours can’t be resolved simply through training, because as well as learning to behave in a different way, the dog also needs to learn to feel differently about things. Behaviourists will show you how to help your dog feel better and resolve the problem by identifying and removing the underlying emotional distress involved, and then creating a tailor-made plan for you to follow that teaches your dog an alternative, more positive way of behaving instead.

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