If your vet recommends that you see an animal behavior specialist, but does not make a referral to someone specific, here are some suggestions for finding someone qualified to help you:
There are no state or federal licensing or experience requirements for working with animals. Anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a dog trainer or animal behaviorist. It’s important to ask any dog trainer or animal behavior consultant about their credentials, education, and experience.
Find someone who uses scientifically sound and humane techniques for modifying animal behavior. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has published a Punishment Position Statement paper about how dangerous and counter-productive it can be to use force, fear, or pain in modifying an animal’s behavior. A qualified professional can teach you how to use food to effectively modify behavior and fade out the use of food over time as behavior improves.
Find someone who is qualified to use scientific, safe, and effective methods. Trying to be a “pack leader” is an outdated way of thinking about dog behavior. In fact, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has publish a position statement on Dominance Theory and how harmful it can be for your dog’s behavior and your family’s safety.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions of any prospective dog trainer or animal behavior consultant. They should be prepared to explain how they have successfully approached a case similar to yours.
Pay attention to how any prospective dog trainer or animal behavior consultant communicates with you. All communication should be friendly and respectful.
Be wary of any person or company that guarantees success. Animals are not mathematical equations or chemicals in a test tube. The prognosis for any case is a combination of the genetic envelop of the animal, the animal’s learning history, owner compliance, and the teamwork you achieve with the Animal Behavior Consultant that you hire.
Many animal behavior cases favor hiring a professional willing to come to your home. Prescribing the most effective behavior modification and training techniques requires that an animal behavior consultant see the environment in which the animal lives and how the animal interacts with other animals and people in the home.
Hopefully, the tips that I’ve provided will help you to choose a qualified professional to help you solve a serious behavior issue with your companion animal, whether it is a dog, a cat, a parrot, or something even more exotic. If you have questions or would like to speak with someone directly, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 206-953-0703.