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Donna Hill's

Service Dog Training Institute


So you have a behavior problem with your Service Dog in training!
Where do you get Help?

Service Dog handler with trainer

The bigger question you need to understand before answering this question is
“What’s the difference between dog training and behavior modification?”
They are two different things.

When their dog is showing behaviors they don’t know how to deal with, many people hire a Dog Trainer or Dog Training Coach when they should be hiring a Behavior Consultant or other person trained to change behavior. Let’s look at the different between the roles and training of 4 common dog-related behaviour titles.

Dog Trainer

A “Dog Trainer” is someone who teaches a dog new behaviors. They might be new behaviors or perhaps a behavior that is incompatible with a behavior the dog is doing that the handler doesn’t want to see. Historically associated with obedience, modern trainers will capture, target or shape new behaviors and the dog finds the process enjoyable. There is no regulation of dog trainers and anyone with little or no training, knowledge or experience can call themselves a dog trainer. Certification is available to people wanting to add credibility to train dogs but it is not necessary. Others may have relevant college or university degrees such as animal behavior, zoology etc. They may have a specific interest such as tricks or a dog sport. Interestingly, “dog trainers” are also usually expected to be able to teach the dog’s people even though they may have no interest or training in that. A teaching credential of some sort if helpful, certificate or degree in child or adult education is helpful.

Behavior Consultant

A “Behavior Consultant” looks a the bigger picture and problem solves behaviors that are unwanted by the handler. This involves changing the dog’s emotional response to a situation. There is a long list of behaviors that humans might want to be modified. Barking, jumping, fear, resource guarding, dog or human aggression to name a few. Behavior Consultants carefully choose environments, and manipulate those environments to help the dog make better choices in trigger situations, teach alternative behaviors, modify how the dog feels about a trigger (changing fear to neutral or even enjoyment or overexcitement to calm) so the dog’s behavioral responses to the triggers changes for the better. They may use desensitization, counter conditioning, operant conditioning, and other principles to solve behavior challenges. They may help a dog with mild to moderate trauma from the environment, other dogs, humans etc, lack of socialization and other issues that dogs commonly experience. Some Behavior Consultants earn certification in specialty programs such as fear, separation anxiety or aggressive behavior.

Veterinarian with a Behavior Specialty

A “Veterinarian with a behavior specialty” is a veterinarian who has completed a veterinary degree and also has a personal interest in animal behavior. This person can write medical prescriptions for behavior issues but may basically be veterinarians who do dog training. Some have earned a PhD in their field like members of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior This is where some people turn when their dog has more extreme behavior issues that cannot be resolved by behavior modification alone. 

Certified Veterinary Behaviourist

A Certified Veterinary Behaviourist is a veterinarian who has completed a veterinary degree and also has completed a board certified behavior practicum. They are certified by a college such as the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists They use behavior modification techniques in conjunction with medication to alter severe and dangerous behaviors, self-mutilating behaviors, OCD, and reactions to severe trauma. A person with this qualification can write medical prescriptions for behavior, in connection with a behavior modification plan for best success.

Ask what their specialties are and find out if they have successful experience with your specific behavior issue.

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