THERE’S NO STANDARD CERTIFICATION FOR DOG BEHAVIOURISTS

The experts tell you the right questions to ask, so you get the real deal.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The experts tell you the right questions to ask, so you get the real deal.

<b>PHOTO</b> EVERETT COLLECTION & 123RF
<b>PHOTO</b> EVERETT COLLECTION & 123RF

How many dogs have you rehabilitated?

Ask it because: Real-life experience matters. “Dogs are like little kids, so the more [types of ] behaviour the person is exposed to, the easier it is to spot trends and understand how the dogs think,” says Ricky. Look for someone with at least three years’ experience, who handles at least three cases a week, he adds. 

The toughest cases you’ve handled?

Ask it because: Thumbs up if he tells you he works with rescued dogs. They can be way more challenging to help. Ricky says some people skirt the difficult cases so that they can tell customers they have a high success rate.

Do you use electric shock collars or muzzles?

Ask it because: If he uses either, be concerned. Because these don’t get to the root of the problem. “Some use [such devices] when they don’t know what to do to override a dog’s aggressive instinct,” Ricky adds. 

Is punishment most effective?

Ask it because: The answer is no. A dog behaviourist relies on four key concepts – positive reinforcement (rewarding the pup with a treat when it behaves), negative reinforcement (removing an action it doesn’t like, for example, tugging a leash, as a reward for good behaviour), positive punishment (giving it a smack when it misbehaves), and negative punishment (for example, taking away its favourite chew toy).