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    Finding Professional Help for Pet Behavior Problems

    What Kind of Training Does My Pet Need? continued...


    Some trainers offer board-and-train services, which involve leaving your pet in their kennels for a specified period of time. Although this option and day training can be ideal for those who don’t have the time to devote to training their pets, they are more expensive than group classes. Another potential disadvantage is that training sessions are conducted without your supervision. For this reason, you want to be sure that you know and agree with the methods that your board-and-train or day training professional plans to use. Also be sure that your training package includes instruction for you. Board-and-train and day training programs are only effective if the trainer teaches you some skills so that you can maintain (continue to use and reinforce) your pet’s new behaviors after her training is done.

    How Do I Decide Which Professional to Choose?

    After you’ve decided between group classes, one-on-one private help and board-and-train, how do you figure out which professional is right for you and your pet? Your decision will be based on a number of factors, including the type of problem your pet has, the professional’s education and experience, and the availability of behaviorists and trainers in your area.

    Ask the Right Questions

    Not all trainers and behaviorists are created equal. Don’t hire any professional without first thoroughly interviewing her or him and asking for a couple of references from former clients or veterinarians. We advise contacting more than one professional in your area so that you can compare their methods, credentials and experience before making a choice.

    Unlike the established ways to prepare for work in other fields, like law or medicine, individuals who choose to pursue careers in animal behavior don’t necessarily follow a standard academic and professional path to gain education and experience. Some have no formal education at all but lots of experience working in the field. Others have excellent credentials in terms of education but little practical experience applying their specialized knowledge. The most competent professionals embody the best of both worlds.
    When you contact a pet-behavior professional, ask about anything and everything. A good behaviorist or trainer will be happy to speak with you about her or his qualifications, background and treatment or training methods. A few important topics to discuss and questions to ask include the following:

    • Ask about the behavior consultant’s education in the science of animal behavior, as well as his or her hands-on experience. How did she learn what she knows about animal behavior?
    • Ask about the consultant’s or trainer’s certifications or other credentials. These indicate that the individual has met strict requirements in terms of academic or professional training, experience and professional ethics.
    • Look for behavior experts and trainers who emphasize rewarding good behaviors and use the least aversive, and most gentle and effective methods. Does she or he seem knowledgeable about behavior modification techniques like counter conditioning and desensitization, and how to use food and humane training equipment? Discuss which training methods the person will suggest or use to treat your pet’s problem. Do you feel comfortable with her or his training philosophy?
    • Avoid a consultant or trainer who guarantees specific results. Such a professional either ignores or doesn’t understand the complexity of animal behavior.
    • Look for a consultant or trainer who treats you with respect, is not abrupt or abrasive, and won’t intimidate you into doing something that you don’t believe is in your dog’s best interest.
    • If you’re interested in a group class, ask the trainer if you can watch a class or two before enrolling. Are the people and dogs having a good time and experiencing some success in learning? Take note of the trainer’s ability to work with people as well as animals.
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