Clinical Animal Behaviourist

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How dog behaviour problems are treated


Behavioural problems in dogs arise for many different reasons, and many different factors may be involved. Gaining a good understanding the impact of these factors and why they cause your dog to behave in certain ways is crucial to successful long-term behavioural change. Merely trying to stop an undesirable behaviour by trying to coerce your dog into suppressing it is unlikely to be successful in the long-term, and may actually worsen many behavioural problems. Therefore, it is important to obtain the right kind of professional help from an appropriately qualified and experienced behaviourist. 

Helen Taylor is a qualified, accredited and highly experienced animal behavioural therapist and has been treating dog behaviour problems throughout most of Dorset, and parts of South Somerset, South Wiltshire and West Hampshire since 2004. Helen is a full member of the APBC (the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors) and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT - 881). She is also a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB/ASAB) and she is on the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) Register of Clinical Animal Behaviourists. She is recommended by vets throughout the area and recognised by insurance companies and animal charities for the treatment of all types of behavioural problems in dogs. Until the end of 2011, she also ran puppy and dog training classes in the area but now concentrates mainly on treatment of dog behavioural problems. Helen helps dog owners solve their dogs' behaviour problems using entirely force-free, reward-based methods. Aversive or punishment-based methods are never used. To understand why, see Why using punishment can make matters worse. The once popular "pack leadership" or "dominance" models are also unlikely to help you solve your dog's behaviour problems.

Choosing a behaviourist

Under UK law as it stands at present, technically anyone can call themselves a dog behaviourist, dog behavioural therapist, dog behavioural counsellor or dog behavioural specialist. To add to this problem, as in many industries there are some organisations that allow members to use letters after their names, but are actually just "paper" organsitations where membership is simply a matter of paying a fee and completing an application - no supporting evidence is requested (meaning that anyone can join if they are prepared to lie). If a training or behaviour organisation is not recognised by the ABTC, this means that the organisations membership requirements did not meet the ABTC's requirements at any of the levels of professional competence.

In an attempt to address this problem the government study group Companion Animal Welfare Council (CAWC) suggested that a regulatory body be set up, and the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) was formed. The ABTC is the "umbrella" organisation for all recognised/regulated animal behaviour and training organisations and includes (among others) all the major charities and veterinary organisations, ASAB, the APBC, UKRCB and APDT.

In practice, when looking for a behaviourist for a dog this means looking for someone who is a member of the APBC or UKRCB and, ideally, also a CCAB (and members will have these letters after their name). 

It is also worth checking whether a behaviourist is actually a member of the organisations they claim to be by checking on the organisation's list of members (which will be on their website). 

The role of dog trainer and professional behaviourist are entirely different, and require completely different levels of education and certification, roughly equivalent to the difference between a vet and a veterinary nurse. In practice, many if not most behaviourists are also dog trainers, but the reverse is not usually true. Dog trainers (unless they are also qualified behaviourists) do not require any formal education and dog trainers are not qualified to treat behavioural problems. This does not mean that they are not good dog trainers. A few veterinary surgeons are also fully-qualified behaviourists ("Veterinary Behaviourists") in their own right. If looking for a pet dog trainer, look for someone who is a member of the APDT UK. Note there is also a US organisation of the same name that lacks any formal entry requirements - UK APDT members always have a registration number quoted along with their members - eg Member APDT (881) and will be on the APDT's list of members. 

A dog that jumps up, pulls on the lead, runs away on walks, doesn't come back when called or has no manners with people or other dogs is hard work, can be an embarrassment and is no fun to own! A dog that shows aggression towards its owners, other people or other animals is a liability and can be the cause of a great deal of stress - and even legal problems - for its owners. When a dog uses any level of aggression it is almost always because it thinks it (or something it values) is under some sort of threat, and is - to the dog - a normal and reasonable response to that threat! in some cases this may be appropriate (ie the dog is actually being threatened) but in many cases the dog is seeing threat where there is none. The vast majority of aggression-related problems cannot be solved without professional help, and may easily be made worse by doing the wrong thing, such as punishing the dog for being aggressive. 
Attendance at a well-run puppy class can provide an excellent start to a puppy's first year but, for clients wanting more focused help on one or two problem areas, a "start-right" visit with a new puppy can be very helpful, and can occur before puppy has had all his vaccinations. 

Helen Taylor Dog Training & Behaviour operates throughout Dorset, South Somerset, North Hampshire and West Wiltshire, including Blandford Forum, Gillingham, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Sturminster Newton, and Wimborne. Other services are available throughout the region, including the following areas: Blandford Forum, Bournemouth, Castle Cary, Dorchester, Ferndown, Frome, Gillingham, Martock, Mere, Poole, Ringwood, Salisbury, Shaftesbury, Shepton Mallet, Sherborne, Sturminster Newton, Verwood, Warminster, Wilton, Wimborne,