Finding a dog behaviourist or trainer


Problem behaviour is really any behaviour shown by a dog that people find a problem, so can range from jumping up or stealing food to aggressive behaviour. It’s really not unusual at all for owners to need a little extra guidance and support at some point during their dog’s life, so don’t worry if you’d like some help.

Do I need to see a behaviourist or a trainer? What’s the difference?

Although they sound as though they do a similar job, trainers and behaviourists have particular expertise in different areas.

Dog Trainers specialise in teaching you how to how to use rewards that your dog enjoys in order to teach them what you would like them to do, such as walking nicely on lead,  not jumping up on people, not begging for food and settling down quietly when you need them to. Trainers can also specialise in specific types of activity, such as agility, obedience, trick-training or nose-work (teaching your dog to find hidden items by smell), any of which you might choose to do just for fun or even for competition. A trainer will help you to improve your own training skills when it comes to teaching your dog.

Dog Behaviourists specialise in problems that are much more emotional for dogs, for example when they become anxious, frightened or frustrated. Feeling like this can lead dogs to behave in ways that may be dangerous for themselves and anyone involved, such as chasing traffic, panicking when left alone or worrying about noises and causing damage to themselves or the home, or behaving aggressively towards people or other animals. These types of problem behaviours aren’t able to be resolved simply through training, because as well as learning to behave in a different way, the dog also needs to learn to feel differently about things. Behaviourists will show you how to help your dog to feel better and resolve the problem through identifying and removing the underlying emotional distress involved, and then creating a tailor-made plan for you to follow that teaches your dog an alternative, more positive way of behaving instead.

  1. Dogs Trust’s Dog School is our very own nationwide network of experienced dog trainers, providing high quality, welfare-friendly dog training instruction during our fun, educational classes. Our knowledgeable Dog School Coaches deliver short courses for puppies, adolescents, rescue dogs and adults, teaching valuable skills that enable dogs and owners to live together happily, such as walking nicely on lead, coming back when called, settling at quiet times, being polite around people and food and being examined when necessary. Find your nearest Dog School Team by visiting

    The Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) is a regulatory body that represents and maintains registers of animal trainers throughout the UK fulfilling accreditation criteria and belonging to approved member associations  

  2. The first thing to do whenever you see any changes in your dog’s behaviour, or behaviour that concerns you, is to have your dog examined by a vet.

  3. A range of different medical conditions might affect the way a dog behaves, so sometimes a change in behaviour can actually be a sign that your dog is unwell or is in pain or discomfort even though you might not be able to find anything obviously wrong. Because medical factors might either cause problematic behaviour or contribute to it, it’s important to rule these out or to ensure your dog is being treated for any illness or injury, as sometimes treatment results in a difference to their behaviour right away.

    Your vet can then refer you to a behaviourist and provide them with your dog’s medical history so they can take any medical factors into account when investigating your dog’s worrying behaviour. For example, suffering with sore ears in the past might be an important consideration for a dog who has recently started to growl when being stroked on the head or having a lead clipped onto their collar by their ears.

    Behaviourists will investigate all the relevant aspects of your dog’s life in order to decide the most suitable approach to helping them feel and behave better.

  4. Inappropriate or outdated advice or methods might adversely affect your dog’s welfare and might even make the problem behaviour worse in the long term. Because anybody can use the title ‘behaviourist’, even without qualifications or experience, it’s important to check that they belong to an organisation where members are required to have good standards of education, qualification and experience. This will ensure that they will have the right up-to-date knowledge, skills and ability to help your dog.

    The Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) is a regulatory body that represents and maintains registers of animal trainers and behaviourists fulfilling accreditation criteria and belonging to approved member associations

    In addition, the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) is an independent organisation which accredits Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourists (CCAB), a standard identical to the certification mentioned above

    Behaviourists registered with these organisations at the level of Certified or Clinical Animal Behaviourist will hold an approved qualification at degree level of higher and have undertaken an extensive period of supervised training in order to build up a portfolio of casework. They will only work on veterinary referral, ensuring that any underlying illness, injury or pain is being treated in conjunction with the behavioural support being given.

    Similarly, veterinarians who hold Advanced Practitioner or Specialist Status in Animal Behaviour can be found via the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons

    When you have located a behaviourist in your local area, it’s always worth checking what their qualifications mean as well as the types of methods they use to address behavioural problems. It’s important to feel comfortable working with your behaviourist and be confident that your dog’s welfare is always prioritised.

    Some behavioural support might be covered by pet insurance, so if your dog is insured it is worth checking the terms and conditions of your policy.