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 What is the difference between a Dog trainer & Dog Behaviourist

Often used interchangeably, understanding the ways in which a dog trainer differs from a dog behaviourist will help you pick the right professional to help you with your dog. 

Focus On Dog Training has put together the below guide to help you understand each of these titles and what they mean for you and your dog. We will also explore the similarities between the two professions and assist to debunk myths associated with both dog trainers and dog behaviourists.

So are there actually differences? 

Truthfully, any differences between the two are subtle and come down to experience as opposed to qualifications.

Dog Trainers

What can a dog trainer work on?

A Dog Trainer works on obedience, such as teaching your dog to sit, down, walk on the leash and to come back to you when called (recall). Whilst these skills may be considered basic obedience, a dog trainer can also teach advanced skills such as agility, and scent work.

Dog Behaviourist

What can a behaviourist work on?

Will do the above whilst also working on major (and minor) behavioural issues your dog may have which sit outside basic training needs. They will assist to modify your dog’s behaviour. Some examples of things they could work on are; reactivity, aggression, separation anxiety, a dog that does not listen, in-home dog fighting etc.

Do you need specific qualifications for either profession?

No. However, when looking for a Dog Behaviourist or Dog Trainer. A reputable one should hold a relevant qualification such as National Dog Trainers Federation which Focus On Dog Training’s trainer holds.

Can someone be both a Dog trainer and a Dog Behaviourist?

Yes. If the professional has experience in training dogs and assisting to modify their behaviour, they can give themselves either title. 

What should I look for when making the choice for my dog? 

Whilst we have covered that neither a dog trainer or dog behaviourist requires a specific qualification. Finding one that has taken the time to further their education with formal training is advised. 

Experience and recommendations and / or positive Google or other third party reviews will also provide you with information on the dog trainer or dog behaviourist. 

What is a Veterinary Behaviourist?

A Veterinary Behaviourist is a qualified Vet who has some knowledge in the behaviour of animals (not always just dogs). The level of dog specific knowledge varies from one veterinary behaviourist to the other. They are qualified and legally allowed to prescribe medication to dogs. A dog Trainer or Dog Behaviourist is not.

It is important to note that Veterinary behaviourist consults attract a significantly higher price tag and they are often not specialised in dog behaviour exclusively and rarely offer ongoing training.

There are no technical differences between a Dog Trainer and Dog Behaviourist, allowing professionals to market themselves as both. When looking for the right choice for your dog, ensure you pick someone with relevant experience in both dog training and dog beahaviour modification.