Risks of hiring a dog behaviourist

The Dangers of booking a dog behaviourist!
Dog behaviourists are, sadly, unregulated. Anyone can call themselves a dog behaviourist, charge you good money and give you bad advice. In order to try to resolve this problem the government set up a study group called Companion Animal Welfare Council to investigate and make recommendations for standards for dog behaviourists. The group recommended a voluntary code as it recognised that dog welfare can be compromised through some techniques used by dog behaviourists. As a result the ABTC (Animal Behaviour and Training Council) was established to act as a regulator for the industry.


This group requires set standards for people to become members. The ABTC recommends that dog behaviourists are educated to a minimum of a Level 6 degree standard (Batchelor's level). It will not accept individual members but it will accept members who are already accredited and assessed by other organisations with high intake criteria such as the APBC (Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors).

Denise holds a B.Sc (Hons) in Applied Animal Behaviour as well as a Masters degree in Research Science (with distinction) in Dog Cognition and Forensic Psychology. She is a member of the APBC (Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors) and TCBTS (The Canine Behaviour and Training Society). Through her membership of the APBC, Denise is listed as a clinical animal behaviourist on the ABTC website

Denise works on veterinary referral which should reassure you that she is a bona (sorry for the pun) fide dog behaviourist. Through training more than 120 dogs per week in classes for the last 16 years plus handling complicated dog behaviour problems for the same amount of time, not only is she qualified but she also has a great deal of experience in helping people to overcome their dog behaviour problems. If you would like to find out if someone really is a qualified behaviourist please see FAQs.

There is a difference between dog training problems and dog behaviour problems. Beneath is a rough guide to help you decide if you need a trainer or a behaviourist.

The following behaviours generally require a bit of input with some basic training and a good sense of humour! A professional dog trainer or behaviourist can help you with this.

  • Jumping up (but also see behaviour)
  • House training (unless related to separation distress)
  • Barking (boredom related, attention seeking)
  • Pulling on the lead
  • Not coming back when asked!!
  • Hyperactivity! (sometimes a bigger problem underneath the surface though)
  • Unruly behaviour
  • Toileting

The following behaviours generally require some professional support from a qualified dog behaviourist and I would recommend a behaviour consultation.

  • Biting/snapping/growling
  • Jumping up and pushing people away
  • Guarding
  • Barking (aggressive, distress barking)
  • Aggression towards other people
  • Aggression towards other dogs
  • Separation related problems, including house soiling
  • Destructiveness (could be training if  boredom related)
  • Self mutilation
  • Anxieties
  • Phobias
  • Chasing (predatory and other)
  • Repetitive or compulsive behaviours
  • Hyperactivity/ manic behaviours
  • Travel sickness/car phobias

If your dog does any of these, you need the help of a proper behaviourist, a trainer won't be able to help you.  Please don't think the problem will improve with time. In fact, it is more likely that they will get worse. You should try to get professional help with these problems. But in the short term, if your dog is aggressive, PLEASE GET HIM TO WEAR A MUZZLE! This is a very simple precaution which should ensure the safety of those around you.

Please also bear in mind that you NEED TO ENSURE CHILDREN ARE SAFE AT ALL TIMES. If you have a large dog a muzzle will not be sufficient to protect a child or a small dog, you should make sure that you never leave your child alone with him and segregate by dog gate as well as ensure adult supervision. Also, be aware you need to gently introduce your dog to a muzzle, not just put it on. Without sensitive introduction most dogs just rip them off their face and then they are free to bite! You will be given a really good muzzle training plan when you make an appointment. Sorry to get so serious but it is better to be safe than sorry!

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