WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR PROBLEM?
A behavior problem in the dog owner’s eyes can range from simply a behavior that is inconvenient to live with to signs that the dog is truly plagued with anxieties, fears, phobias, repetitive sometimes self-injurious behaviors or the grand daddy of all troublesome behavior, aggression.
A training and manners problem is a dog who is rowdy and ill mannered simply because it has not been properly trained and managed. But often, the owner’s inability to effectively deal with manners issues, over time turns into more engrained behavior problems because the dog and owner become increasingly frustrated and confused, taking the joy out of sharing life with a dog.
DOES YOUR DOG NEED A BEHAVIOR CONSULTANT AS OPPOSED TO A TRAINER?
Time was that trainers tried to take care of both training and behavior problems. But times have changed. They usually did this by punishing the bad behavior and training a set of standard obedience commands. Sometimes it worked and sometimes things got worse. But in the last couple of decades a growing interest in dog behavior, normal and not quite so normal, has caught the attention of comparative psychologists and zoologists/ethologists alike. From their scientific studies has come a rich new field of behavior consulting that has opened up to scientifically minded dog professionals. While it is a new field, professional standards have been developed and it is clear that there is a difference between training dogs and solving the behavior problems that are deeper than simply having neglected a dog’s basic manners training. In fact, it has been found that standard training methods do not solve many of our dogs’ behavior issues and a person with advanced education and skills is needed. When your dog has a behavior problem, you should look into getting behavior help in the form of a certified behavior consultant….not just someone who advertises that they deal with behavior, but someone who has credentials.
WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR CONSULTANT? WHAT IS A BEHAVIORIST? There are three levels of behavior consultants who have earned credentials showing that they are equipped with the knowledge to work with you and your dog.
There is the board certified veterinary behaviorist. These veterinarians have done usually the equivalent of a PhD beyond their Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine degree. They are well versed in all behavior modification techniques and can prescribe drugs as well as diagnose health problems that have behavioral symptoms. Normally they only meet the client in their clinical office and usually one visit plus a follow up phone call is what you can expect. The cost of such a visit averages between $300 and $600. Many veterinarians are not accomplished trainers (though a few are) and may recommend that you see a trainer to round out the program they suggest for your dog.
The CAAB or Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist is a person who has a PhD in an animal behavior related field and has met the requirements of the Animal Behavior Society’s standards to be designated a behaviorist. ABS has also added an Associate level designation for those who have a Masters Degree. These people are also well versed in animal behavior and have clearly advanced education. They may or may not also be good at training in addition to behavior modification protocols. The cost to see a CAAB is often $250 to $500 depending upon the length of time of the visit. In person follow ups are often more common with CAAB’s than with vets. The Certified Behavior Consultant
The next level of professional behavior consultant is the Certifed Behavior Consultant who may not necessarily have an advanced degree in animal behavior, but who has made the considerable effort to self educate via college courses, seminars and symposiums, advanced reading, mentorship and years of practice. These people may or may not have advanced degrees in behavior and even some veterinarians who don’t have time to go back for a PhD and board exams have decided to certify in this process of testing and screening.
The two most experienced and comprehensive organizations that provide testing and certification for behavior consultants are The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers or CCPDT and the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants.
The CCPDT requires a certain amount of experience, professional referrals, lack of criminal background and a 4 hour comprehensive written examination covering specific knowledge areas. This organization’s exam is endorsed as being comprehensively correct by a national organization that set standards for professional testing. The exam has less than a 60% pass rate currently and is quite selective. The professional designation earned is CBCC-KA (Certified Behavior Consultant Canine Knowledge Assessed). The organization is currently working on a practical skills exam to test in field procedures as well.
The IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) has four divisions (dog, cat, horse, parrot) and certifies applicants through a rigorous process of written case studies the applicant must defend much like a thesis as well as a written test that requires essay answers. The candidate also must write essays on how they would handle theoretical cases with different types of problems. The candidates practical experience is checked as well as professional references. The candidate must repeat this process for any new species they want to work with. It is rigorous and a more probing process than the formal testing of the other organization. The designations earned are CDBC, CCBC, CPBC, CHBC or Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, etc. The above are the only certifications to my knowledge that are not supplied by an organization that also sells educational courses and simply certifies their own students. Those certifications may be worthwhile depending upon the quality of the education.
Both certifications require continuing education credits to be maintained.