Finding Professional Help for Pet Behavior Problems
What’s in a Name? continued...
Although CCPDT certification means that a trainer has met the minimum educational, experiential and ethical standards required of the pet-behavior profession, it does not guarantee that she or he meets a specified level of professional competence. Even if a trainer has earned a CPDT title, it’s important to ask for recommendations and conduct a careful interview before employing her or him. We’ll discuss how to evaluate a trainer or behavior expert to the best of your ability below.
Applied Animal Behaviorists, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (ACAABs)
An applied animal behaviorist has earned an MS, MA or PhD in animal behavior. They are experts in dog and cat behavior and often in the behavior of other companion animal species as well, such as horses and birds. Some applied animal behaviorists are veterinarians who have completed a residency in animal behavior. Some behaviorists have also met the requirements for certification by the Board of Professional Certification of the Animal Behavior Society (ABS). Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs, those with a doctoral degree) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (ACAABs, those with a master’s degree) received supervised graduate or post-graduate training in animal behavior, biology, zoology and learning theory at accredited universities. They possess the relevant education, research and practical experience according to specified academic and ethical standards. They are an exclusive group, numbering only about 50 in all of North America.
Effective applied animal behaviorists will have expertise in (a) behavior modification, so they know the techniques that produce changes in behavior, (b) the normal behavior of the species they’re treating, so they can recognize how and why your pet’s behavior is abnormal, and (c) teaching and counseling people, so they can effectively teach you how to understand and work with your pet. Many applied animal behaviorists know basic common medical conditions that can impact an animal’s behavior. Most are also familiar with psychotropic medications, such as tranquilizers and antidepressants, which can enhance the effectiveness of a treatment program. Most CAABs work through veterinary referrals, and they work closely with veterinarians to select the best behavioral medications for pets. You can find a list of CAABs and ACAABs at www.certifiedanimalbehaviorist.com.