How can I find out if a trainer is qualified?
If a trainer states they have a full membership or qualification you will be able to find their name listed in that organisation's website. Not all who profess to hold qualifications do so so it is indeed worth checking.
What sort of training should a behaviourist have to be "qualified"?
The government study group CAWC (Companion Animal Welfare Council) suggested a body be set up to regulate the industry. This body is the ABTC (Animal Behaviourists and Trainers Council). They have recommended that animal behaviourists should aim to gain a minimum of foundation degree standard in the short term but the long term goal is that all animal behaviourists will have to hold minimum of B.Sc standard education specifically in animal behaviour and that all practitioners should become Clinical Animal Behaviourists registered with the ABTC.
If someone describes themselves as "qualified" they should hold formal recognised/accredited qualifications in the subject. A good guide is to see if your insurance company will accept them. Again, if qualified you should see that they are listed with a recognised membership such as APBC, TCBTS or CCABs. There are many "paper" memberships which have been set up for those who pay to become members but there is no complaints procedure and no formal entry requirement so it is best to check out if the so called membership is a valid one. If it is valid, it will be listed on the ABTC website. Professional behaviourists who hold a degree tend to join memberships such as APBC or TCBTS. It is difficult to check if someone holds a genuine degree. However, the APBC or TCBTS will not allow membership without proof. So looking for a member of a credible professional organisation is the safest option. Plus if you are not happy with the service you can complain to the membership who will investiage for you.
How long will it take to rehabilitate my dog?
There is no simple answer here and no magic wand sadly. It can take many months to resolve behaviour problems. Some cases can be quickly resolved and others can take many months. I have had some cases resolved in a few weeks and I have some which have taken more than a year. It depends on the problem, the dog and how much time you, the client have to work on it. The cases that take the longest tend to be noise phobias.
I have seen other behaviourists saying they can cure 99% of cases, surely they are better than you then?
If you see someone make this promise, walk away as they are not being truthful. I have many years experience and am quite scientific in my approach and yet I still have not managed to work out a % of improvement. How can you measure this? Also, I am sure that no-one follows up on all their cases constantly after they have seen a case, especailly if they are not offering an all inclusive follow up service which is documented. Therefore how do they know the problem has not re surfaced days, weeks or months later? I have seen clients who have already seen "behaviourists" who have made this promise, so clearly these statements are not true. Sorry, I just can't say that I can guarantee to fully solve your problem. After all, how many people with depression/anxieties, OCD, aggression are 99% cured? If we can't do it with people who are fully able to communicate their feelings how could we possibly do this for dogs? So, in answer to the above question, it does not mean they are better, only that they are not truthful.
Do you do cats?
No. Whilst I did study cat behaviour at B.Sc level, I have specialised in dogs. But I can refer you on to someone who does, so please feel free to ask.
I have tried everything and already seen other behaviourists and trainers. How do I know you can help me?
Most behaviourists in this area do not meet the ABTC requirements for a qualified animal behaviourist. To my knowledge I am one of just three in this part of Dorset and there is another in North Dorset. The chances are you have not seen someone who has the skills to be able to help you. Of course I cannot guarantee that I can help you but most people I see do get significant improvements and I can only think of a few who may not have benefitted much. This was either because I lacked the experience at the time, or because they were not consistent with the plan. If you follow the treatment plan and update me WEEKLY with your progress, this enables me to monitor your progress and I can pick up where things are going wrong if you are not seeing the progress you hope for. Even if you have seen another properly qualified behaviourist I would discuss the case with you, review their plan and then decide if I feel I have anything new to offer. If not then I will tell you I don't feel I have any further value to add, but mostly I do see areas in which I could provide further useful treatment. There are cases that I will not see as I feel that it would be a waste of the client's money. For example, dogs which have killed someone (in which case euthenasia is the best option, or lifelong leash and muzzle control in which case I may still be able to help you to set a sensible management plan). Or if a highly aggressive large/powerful dog is living with young vulnerable children I will not help as I feel it is too risky and I would urge re-homing of this dog if possible for the welfare of all concerned. At this time I have only ever recommended euthenasia for a small number of dogs in 16 years of working as a behaviourist and I know that in each case, sad as it was, it was the right decision, not only for the family but also for the dog's welfare. I have not counted how many dogs I have worked with but it is in the thousands now through working in a variety of classes and behaviour counselling over 16 years. You have nothing to lose by giving me a call to dicsuss your case.