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Should you hire an obedience dog trainer, a behaviourist dog trainer or a veterinary behaviourist?

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

Should you hire an obedience dog trainer, a behaviourist dog trainer or a veterinary behaviourist?

French bulldog in blue sweater sitting on the table at the vets office waiting for a check up.
French Bulldog at the vet waiting for help

Obedience Dog Trainer?

An obedience dog trainer teaches commands/cues like sit, down, come when called and trick training. This is what you would experience at a typical puppy class with a set curriculum and is great to teach and practice new commands/cues.

What is a dog behaviourist?

A behaviourist dog trainer is like a therapist in the human world. They have knowledge of what is needed to raise and turn a healthy, happy well-adjusted puppy into a mature dog. They can problem-solve a puppy or dog over-excitement, reactivity (lunging and barking on leash) fear, destructive behaviour problems and anxiety. A behaviourist dog trainer will look at all aspects of the dog’s life, sleep, exercise, diet, routine, handling and husbandry. They use behaviour modification (conditioning, counter-conditioning, desensitizing methods) combined with obedience and canine enrichment. A behaviourist dog trainer may also request a vet check-up to ensure that the dog is in good health but cannot offer medical advice or diagnosis.

When to hire a veterinary behaviourist and what is a veterinary behaviourist?

Veterinary behaviourists are veterinarians trained to advance the behavioural health of animals through clinical practice, research, and science-based behaviour education. They are trained to address the relationships between an animal’s health, environment, experiences and its behaviour. They can request blood work and further tests in order to diagnose conditions that may be affecting your dog’s behaviour. They have extensive knowledge of psychotropic medications, their uses, potential side effects and interactions with other medications, and are licensed to prescribe them when needed.

When to hire a veterinary behaviourist?

A veterinary behaviourist will be recommended by a veterinarian or trainer. If your trainer or veterinarian recommends a veterinary behaviourist it is critical for your dog’s health and quality of life that you hire one. When to hire a veterinary behaviourist - if your dog or puppy is in a prolonged fearful or stressed state and is not able to learn or calm, your dog is too stressful to eat or drink, your dog is showing extreme fears, phobias, aggression (charging, growling, snapping, biting, chasing, reactivity (barking and lunging). If you have children in your home and you have a fearful dog showing aggressive behaviours – hire a veterinary behaviourist.

Different Types of Trainers

Obedience – common commands/cues like sit, down, come when called (recall). Obedience is a wonderful method to build confidence by conditioning dog to present behaviours of what you want them to do vs correcting them when they do what you do not want to do.

Behavioural – Behavioural training addresses issues like chewing, barking and potty training for puppies or new rescues. Behavioural training can also address excitement on leash, fear, phobias and anxieties. Behavioural training can be a combination of conditioning, counter conditioning as well as desensitizing.

Group classes - Puppy kindergarten, puppy socialization and obedience training classes are a fun social way to train and work your dog around excitement and distractions. Classes are not meant for every puppy/dog. There are growl classes that specialized for reactive dogs (dogs that lunge and bark at other dogs). Shy and fearful dog classes are also available.

Rally Obedience or Rally-O is a sport obedience class where obedience exercises are performed in a sequence format. It is made up of a compilation of many of the traditional obedience exercises, including heeling, sit, down, stand, and stay. It is great fun and encourages engagement with the dog.

Agility – Agility training is high-energy/paced obedience training on a course indoors or outdoors. Agility training teaches dogs to participate in sports, obstacle courses and jumping. Agility trainers recommend that your dog is over one year old before you start training high-impact jumping and leaping.

Vocational – Dogs who are meant to herd, hunt or do rescue work all must go through vocational training. Scent detection, pointing and retrieving. You will need to find a trainer who specializes in this particular activity.

Protection – Protection/bite work dog training this type of training is meant to pursue, restrain or contain a person or animal on command. This type of training is not recommended for pet dog owners, or for dogs under two years of age.

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