What is a Dog Behaviorist and Does My Dog Need to See a Behaviorist?

When you’re dealing with behavior problems in your dog, you might wonder whether you need to see a dog behaviorist or simply a dog trainer. Let’s outline the main differences between a dog behaviorist and a dog trainer so you can decide what you need.

If you’re dealing with aggression, fear, or other behavior issues with your dog and are located in Denver, book a session with Canis Major. We are one of only seven Certified Dog Behavior Consultants located in Denver!

What is a dog behaviorist and how can I find a dog behaviorist in Denver?

Someone who calls themselves a dog behaviorist is generally someone with advanced education in dog behavior, evolution, and cognition. They generally have far more experience working with significant behavior concerns than your average dog trainer.

A dog behaviorist is someone who focuses on science-based training methods to solve significant behavior issues such as fear and aggression in dogs.

There are several ways for someone to become a dog behaviorist or dog behavior specialist. The category of “dog behaviorist” generally includes:

  1. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists. To earn a spot on this list, a dog behaviorist must have at least a PhD in biological or behavioral science from a university as well as at least five years of experience professional experience. They also must present at an Animal Behavior Society before applying. They’re extremely experienced, to say the least!

  2. Veterinary Behaviorists. To become a veterinary behaviorist, a professional must complete the entirety of veterinary school before completing a specialization in behavior. This also includes several years of residency and other rigorous credentials. They are they only dog behaviorists that can also prescribe behavioral medications.

  3. Certified Dog Behavior Consultants. The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants also has a certification body for dog behavior consultants. To become a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, like Canis Major’s head trainer Ursa, a dog behaviorist must demonstrate extensive knowledge in dog behavior, evolution, and cognition via a battery of intense exams and case studies. Certified Dog Behavior Consultants must also have at least 500 hours of working with dogs as a behavior specialist prior to applying. They are technically not behaviorists, but they are behavior consultants.

In short, dog behaviorists in Denver are hard to come by!

Anyone who claims to be a dog behaviorist without one of these certifications is over-exaggerating their skills and certifications.

It’s also important to note that, like driving a car for 40 years doesn’t make you a mechanic, years of experience aren’t enough. To be a dog behaviorist, a professional must dedicate years to continuing education. Years in the dog training industry or anecdotal knowledge doesn’t grandfather someone in as a dog behaviorist.

Do I Need a Dog Behaviorist?

Just because you’re struggling with your dog’s behavior does not mean you need a dog behaviorist. Many trainers are well-equipped to help you with puppy training or basic obedience.

However, if your dog struggles with a serious behavior concern, it’s time to call a dog behaviorist. In general, we recommend speaking to a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, like Ursa, before heading to a Veterinary Behaviorist or Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.

Why, you may ask?

Well, the reality is that the first two types of dog behaviorists often have waitlists that are months long. When you’re struggling with an aggressive dog or other serious behavior concern, you simply don’t have time to wait that long. Getting started with a dog behaviorist in Denver, such as Canis Major’s behavior consultants, will help you get a handle on the situation much more quickly.

Your dog might need to see a behaviorist in Denver if:

  • Your dog is aggressive. Canis Major has years of experience helping train aggressive dogs in Denver.

  • Your dog is reactive. Dogs that bark, lunge, or snap while they’re on walks also benefit from seeing a dog behaviorist.

  • Your dog has phobias. Many dogs with phobias benefit from medications given by a Veterinary Behaviorist but can see significant improvements thanks to help from a dog behaviorist.

  • Your dog’s behavior isn’t getting better with other help. Any time your dog’s behavior isn’t getting better with another trainer, you should speak to a dog behaviorist.

If your dog is dealing with serious behavior concerns, it’s time to call a dog behaviorist. The simple fact is, seeing an obedience trainer or going to group classes is not how to help a dog with behavior issues.

Even if you don’t need to see a dog behaviorist in Denver, it never hurts to get a real expert on board. Canis Major also offers basic obedience training in Denver, puppy socialization in Denver, and basic manners training in Denver. Check out our full list of services for dog training in Denver here. While you might not need a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant, you’ll love the extra knowledge!

Canis Major is proud to be one of Denver’s only Certified Dog Behavior Consultants. We offer a full suite of dog behavior consulting services in Denver for all sorts of behavior issues. If you have an aggressive, reactive, or fearful dog in Denver, please reach out or book a package now.