What Is a Dog Behavior Counselor

The field of dog training as such has grown so much in the past ten years:  new organizations and new certifications have blossomed.  The general public seems to be much more aware in many ways of what to expect and of varying options for their dogs. However, still not aware enough.....


When I read various lists and see the questions that so many "dog behavior counselors" are asking of their peers I find myself wondering again how we can be fair to the public, and mostly to the dogs, that we intend to service.    What should a Dog Behavior Counselor/Trainer be able to do?

Well, in my opinion, in order to allow yourself to actually take money with the guarantee that you are skilled enough to positively change problem behavior, one should first humbly try to objectively evaluate whether one has the experience and the skills to do it:

a) knowledge of solutions to at least basic and common behavioral issues, which would include such things as housetraining problems; teaching basic commands; loose-leash walking; "running away"; and good manners training.  *Every* trainer should and must be able to achieve success with these. Knowledge of all the available tools, how and when to use them, why or why not to use them.

b) hopefully, knowledge of when to refer to a veterinarian for possible physiological issues or medication; hwo to resolve basic anxiety problems as well as basic resource guarding; basic dog-dog aggression situations.  How to handle themselves around an edgy dog, and importantly:  knowing when to refer to someone more skilled than themselves if it is a difficult situation.

c) and even more hopefully, knowledge of how to transition a dog into off-leash reliability at least to the point of a great recall around distractions and long Downs around distractions.  A knack long lost or never known to too many trainers these days.

How many aspiring or even working consultants/trainers test themselves for a high level of abilties pertaining to the above?  How many take money for training and yet still ask the most inane questions on various chat lists?  

Don't get me wrong, everyone should ask questions, everyone needs to learn - but there is a difference between acting in front of clients as if you know all the answers, and then going home and frantically typing out a question such as, "How do I get the dog to stop urinating on the floor when the owner isn't home?" on the computer......

Once again my blog is brought about by an influx of such questions by "professional behavior counselors/trainers" - and I want to point it out for two reasons:  so that owners can question a potential trainer regarding some of the above skills before hiring them, and so that new trainers can think twice about their own experience and knowledge before hanging out that shingle.