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What’s the difference between a dog trainer and dog behaviorist?

Understanding the difference between a dog trainer and a behaviorist can help you select the right professional to meet your dog's needs. Both professionals are skilled in working with dogs, but they have different areas of expertise and focus.

Dog trainers have experience in teaching dogs basic obedience skills such as sit, stay, and come. They may also teach more advanced tasks like agility or hunting. Trainers may use different methods to achieve results, including positive reinforcement, clicker training, and other non-aversive techniques. Some trainers may also use aversive tools such as shock collars or prong collars and when utilized correctly can be very beneficial in fixing behavior problems.

Behaviorists specialize in modifying unwanted behaviors in dogs. They focus on identifying the root cause of a dog's behavior and developing a plan to modify it. Behaviorists use a range of techniques such as positive reinforcement, counter-conditioning, and desensitization to help dogs overcome fear, anxiety, aggression, and other behavioral issues. Many behaviorists have a background in psychology, animal behavior, or veterinary medicine, and may be certified by organizations such as the Animal Behavior Society or the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.

It's worth noting that many dog trainers are also behaviorists and can support your dog's behavioral modification plan. However, not all behaviorists are dog trainers, and they may not be skilled in teaching basic obedience skills or addressing behavior problems due to the fact that some behavior issues are best addressed through obedience. When selecting a professional, it's essential to consider the specific needs of your dog but we do always recommend seeking out a professional dog trainer with behavior modification experience over a behaviorist.

In summary, dog trainers and behaviorists have different areas of expertise and focus. While some professionals may have experience in both areas, it's important to choose a professional who is skilled in addressing your dog's specific needs. By understanding the differences between dog trainers and behaviorists, you can make an informed decision and ensure your dog receives the care and attention they need.

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