What Is a Canine Behaviourist + 5 Tips for Finding the Best

canine behaviourist

Your dog’s behaviour can have a significant impact on your life. In some cases, pet parents even have to consider parting ways with their dogs when everyday life becomes impossible due to their dogs’ behaviour. This is where a canine behaviourist can help.

So, what exactly does a canine behaviourist do and how do you find the best one? This guide answers those questions and more!

dog trainer
The best canine behaviourists have a deep understanding of the ABC’s of animal behaviour – antecedents, behaviour and consequences.

What Does a Behaviourist do for a Dog? (The Short Answer)

dog behaviourist training
Dog behaviourists are able to create a behaviour modification plan to suit the individual dog and owner in front of them.

A canine behaviourist, also known as a dog behaviourist, can help dogs and their owners live fulfilling lives by addressing behavioural issues in the dogs and fostering positive and nurturing interactions between pet parents and their dogs.

What Does a Dog Behaviourist Do? (The Details)

dog training
Dog behaviourists can work out why a dog is performing a behaviour. Addressing what happens before and after the behaviour occurs, can transform the struggle into a strength.

1.   Evaluates The Dog’s Behaviour

A dog behaviourist observes the dog and its interactions with people, the environment and other animals. As a part of the dog’s behavioural assessment, the expert may also note down the dog’s complete history, background, health, and environment.

2.   Identifies Issues

After a thorough assessment of the dog’s behaviours, the canine behaviourist helps identify the issues in the dog which could range from anxiety, fear, timidity, aggression, barking, reactivity, obsessive behaviours, abnormal repetitive behaviours etc.

3.   Prepares a Custom Plan for Behaviour Modification

The dog behaviourist then prepares a customised plan to help modify the dog’s behaviour based on the dog’s exact needs. This may involve teaching new behaviours, modifying existing behaviours, and addressing underlying issues that may be physiological, emotional, or psychological in nature.

4.   Trains Dog Owners to Train Their Dogs

A major part of a canine behaviourist’s role is to train dog owners to deal with their dog’s issues. They do so by educating owners about the right nutrition, exercise, and, most importantly, training techniques to help modify their dog’s behaviours.

This can help pet owners effectively communicate with their dogs and understand them better.

canine behaviorist

5.   Performs Ongoing Evaluation

Canine behaviourists continuously assess their training plans and make changes based on the results. They continuously monitor the pets as well as the pet owners and provide support throughout the process.

They also provide ongoing guidance to their clients to help ensure that their dogs’ behaviours are managed over the long term.

What Is the Difference Between a Dog Trainer and Behaviourist?

dog behaviourist near me
Dog trainers are experts in how dogs learn while dog behaviourists are the dog whisperers of the training world.

There are several differences between a canine behaviourist and a dog trainer. The main ones are:

1.   Different Goals and Scope of Work

Dog trainers train dogs and their owners to teach commands or to assist people with disabilities. Canine behaviourists, on the other hand, help modify a dog’s behaviour. Behaviourists are trained to treat issues like resource guarding, aggression, anxieties, fears, excessive barking, etc. in dogs.

Dog Trainers usually work with dogs of all ages and temperaments, whereas dog behaviourists typically work with dogs that display behavioural issues like anxiety, fear, obsessive behaviour, aggression, etc.

2.   Different Degrees and Education

Dog trainers and canine behaviourists have different qualifications. Trainers may be self-taught or certified by various professional training organisations such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC).

Behaviourists usually have advanced degrees in animal psychology. They undergo special training to understand dog behaviours and canine behavioural modification.

3.   Different Techniques

Dog trainers use different operant conditioning training methods like positive reinforcement (the use of treats, toys, praise, or rewards), clicker training, classical conditioning, relationship-based training, etc. to teach dogs new behaviours and respond to commands. Other ‘balanced trainers’ also use negative reinforcement and punishment-based training to coerce dogs to stop certain behaviours.

Canine behaviourists use techniques like desensitisation, habituation, counter-conditioning, response substitution, and shaping to change a dog’s behaviour.

Are Dog Behaviourists Worth It?

dog behaviourist
Dog behaviour problems can be stressful for dogs and their owners. Seeking the help of a professional behaviourist can be invaluable for your relationship.

Dog behaviourists can be totally worth it if your dog’s behaviour is impacting your day-to-day life or affecting your relationships with your dog, other people, or family members.

These experts have the knowledge and expertise that can help you understand why your dog behaves the way it does. They can guide you into changing your dog’s behaviour response to situations and also provide a customised training plan to address specific behavioural issues in your pet.

By working with an expert dog behaviourist, you can greatly minimise fears and anxiety in your dog and strengthen the bond with your pet.

Naturally, it is important to understand that a canine behaviourist can be expensive and the cost can depend on your dog’s needs and the time required to change its behaviour.

How to Find the Best Canine Behaviourist

canine behaviourist near me

Finding the best canine behaviorist for your dog can be an important step towards addressing their behavioral issues. Here are our top 5 tips for finding the best canine behaviorist:

  1. Research: Conduct an online search for local canine behaviorists in your area. Check out their websites and read reviews from past clients to get an idea of their experience and success rates.
  2. Credentials: Look for behaviorists who have formal education and certification in animal behavior. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB), Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT), and Veterinary Behaviorists are examples of professionals who have obtained formal education and training in animal behavior.
  3. Referrals: Ask your veterinarian or other pet professionals, such as dog trainers, other owners or groomers, if they can recommend a reputable canine behaviourist.
  4. Interview: Once you have a list of potential behaviorists, schedule an interview with each one to ask about their experience, training, and approach to dog behavior. This can also be an opportunity to get a sense of their personality and how well they might work with you and your dog.
  5. Observation: Attend a training session or consultation with the behaviorist to observe how they work with dogs and their owners. This can help you assess if their approach is compatible with your needs and your dog’s temperament.
canine behaviourist sydney
Aggressive dog behaviour can quickly escalate to bite injuries to humans and other animals.

Remember that finding the best canine behaviourist is like finding a great dog trainer; it takes time, patience and research. By taking the time to find the right k9 professional, you can help ensure that your dog receives the best possible care and attention for their behaviour problem/s.

Conclusion – When Should You Take Your Dog to a Canine Behaviourist?

aggressive dog behaviourist
Aggressive dog behaviour shouldn’t be ignored – consult a dog behaviourist to help resolve the problem.

You should consider taking your dog to a canine behaviourist if it is showing signs of common dog behaviour problems such as aggression (biting, snapping, growling, etc), fear or anxiety (trembling, hiding, indoor defecation, excessive barking), destructive behaviours, separation anxiety, or obsessive behaviours (licking, tail-biting) etc.

You may also consider consulting a reputable dog behaviourist near you if your dog’s behaviours are impacting your day-to-day life and/or affecting your relationship with your pet. Don’t limit your search for a registered dog behaviourist to “dog behaviourist near me”, many of the best dog behaviourists will not be local to you. The best dog behaviourists will be able to gather information about your dog’s behaviour and customise a behaviour modification plan for you, over a zoom consult.

canine behaviourist course

If your dog or puppy is behaving badly, consult a professional Dog Behaviourist, online dog training course or a dog trainer to guide you further.


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Hi! I’m Tres! I’m passionate about dog behaviour and training. My dog training methods are effective for all breeds and goals. I have trained dogs for protection, obedience, manners, loose leash walking, crate training and have solved common behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking, separation anxiety and more. Let’s connect, sign up to my free newsletter (above) for helpful tips and upcoming training events.
dog trainer Sydney

Hi! I’m Tres! I’m passionate about dog behaviour and training. My dog training methods are effective for all breeds and goals. I have trained dogs for protection, obedience, manners, loose leash walking, crate training and have solved common behaviour problems such as reactivity, barking, separation anxiety and more. Let’s connect, sign up to my free newsletter (above) for helpful tips and upcoming training events.
dog trainer Sydney

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