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Old 10-01-2011, 11:05 AM
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Default What's a behaviorist?

People keep saying Cesar Milan is a behaviorist, and I want to argue,

Isn't "animal behaviorist" an earned title? I mean I know if you are a vet you can specialize in behavior and it's like an extra 3 years, but not all behaviorists are vets. So go they do the same 3 year training? Are they certified? Through what program?

Thanks guys!
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Old 10-01-2011, 11:36 AM
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"I'm the Queen of England!"

It's that simple. You call yourself something, so that makes it true.

In my opinion, a true behaviorist is certified (may not be a DVM, but has had training through an accredited agency/institution). With that said, I feel I have a very strong understanding of canine behavior, but I'm not going to tout myself as a behaviorist.
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Old 10-01-2011, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by colliewog View Post
"I'm the Queen of England!"

It's that simple. You call yourself something, so that makes it true.

In my opinion, a true behaviorist is certified (may not be a DVM, but has had training through an accredited agency/institution). With that said, I feel I have a very strong understanding of canine behavior, but I'm not going to tout myself as a behaviorist.
Same- I mean, I don't know as much as other people on here know about animal behavior but I'm hoping on becoming a vet, and I want my specialty to be animal behavior. Until then, I wouldn't/couldn't call myself a behaviorist. The more flippantly we (general) use the term the less meaning it has and the harder it becomes to find a qualified behaviorist.
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Old 10-01-2011, 12:25 PM
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I just want to see two things in a behaviorist (1) credentials and (2) proof. CM has neither. I wouldn't discount a person without a degree/certificate if he/she could show me what he/she has done.
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Old 10-01-2011, 12:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colliewog View Post
I just want to see two things in a behaviorist (1) credentials and (2) proof. CM has neither. I wouldn't discount a person without a degree/certificate if he/she could show me what he/she has done.
Victoria Stilwell didn't own a dog before she called herself a dog trainer. I mean is it possible to know enough about a dog to train one without owning one? Yes, but it also is greatly limiting on your scope of understanding both of the dogs and the people who live with them. It's probably why her stuff on it's me or the dog has operationally conditioned me to change the channel.

A behaviorist as applied to dogs isn't a anything more than a trainer with a specialised scope. There are a few accredited schools that have training programs/educators and general animal behavior courses but by in large most people are judged upon their results either in the ring or among clients.
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Old 10-01-2011, 05:56 PM
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There are several certifications for behaviorists; if I were looking for a behaviorist, I'd only hire one with such certification.

That said, I think most people define behaviorists and trainers like this:

Trainers teach dogs to do cues, like sit, down, stay; and basic house manners, like potty training, not mouthing, etc. They can also train specialized skills, like agility, tracking, service dog training, etc., but these are still just cues and "tricks."

Behaviorists work more with dog behaviors, not tricks. They deal with aggressive dogs, dogs with true separation anxiety, dogs with neuroses, etc.

Trainers are like teachers; behaviorists are like psychologists.
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Old 10-01-2011, 06:40 PM
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I am a certified dog trainer, and I do call myself a Dog Behaviouralist because that is my area of expertise. It makes me a better trainer. I never attended school for being a behaviouralist - it's something I am naturally good at. So, I took the appropriate steps to get documented proof because most people look for that. To me, it's not about the paperwork though - it's about the person's ability with the dogs. (CM has NEITHER LOL)
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Old 10-01-2011, 08:36 PM
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From another forum:

Quote:
Many dog owners are unsure of who they should contact in case of significant behavioral problems and because there is a difference in what individuals can offer, depending on their qualifications, knowledge and experience, it is important to know what that difference is. The following is just a brief explanation of who is what and how they can help you and your dog. These are not only trainers, although some are as well, and donít put a band aid on symptoms of something that is an indicator of much bigger underlying problems.

BOARD CERTIFIED VETERINARY BEHAVIORISTS are specialist in behavior medicine. They have graduated from veterinary school (have a DVM degree or equivalent) and went through more years of specialized studies in residency programs, they are versed in neurology, neuropharmacology , ethology, the principle of learning and behavior, normal and abnormal behavior and so on. They have a medical background that can help your dog where your average dog trainer can't. These the people you also look for when your dog is displaying specific behaviors that are caused by flaws in the system such as chemical imbalances in the brain.

Once you contact a veterinary behaviorist there is a questionnaire to fill up, in which questions are carefully planned to get an overall idea of what is going on with the animal, including a medical history. The veterinary behaviorist looks it over and prepares other questions if he/she believes they are needed. After that there is the consultation in person, usually about 1 hour and half, and the dog is observed. The problem behavior is never elicited. If the dog has aggression issues at home the veterinary behaviorist will believe you, even if the behavior is not directly observed during the consultation. No point in creating situations in which problem behaviors are reinforced once again.
If you have videos make sure you offer them to the vet as they are valuable tools. If aggression is the problem don't put the dog in situations in which a behavior escalates, in order to take videos. It is not necessary, but if you happen to have videos prior contacting the veterinary behaviorist then let him/her know.

After the consultation a prognosis is made and the owner receives a behavior modification protocol to utilize, in writing. If medications are in order they are prescribed and the veterinary behaviorist will work with your regular vet by sending in a report of the consultation. Follow ups through the phone or e-mail are the next step and the dog should be seen again after the behavior modification program has been practiced for some time.

More info here:
ACVB
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior - AVSAB - Home
Qualifications of our Animal Behaviorists : Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine


CERTIFIED APPLIED ANIMAL BEHAVIORISTS have graduate degrees in the science of animal behavior, by an accredited college or university, they completed post-graduate education receiving a Masterís (2-year full time) or Ph.D.(4-year full time) degree in a behavioral science, or DVM or VMD degree with a behavioral residency, have passed rigorous oral and written examinations given by their faculty committees, published articles in scientific journals, supervised hands-on experience with animals and meet the course work and experience requirements for certification as set forth by the Animal Behavior Society. Often animal behaviorists are members of the IADBC (International Association of Dog Behavior Counselors), the ABMA (Animal Behavior Management Alliance), the ABS (Animal Behavior Society) or the ACABC (Association of Companion Animal Behavior Counselors). The owner fill up a questionnaire, there is a consultation in person and a behavior modification protocols is given. More info:

About the Program for Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists — Animal Behavior Society: Applied Animal Behavior

Animal Behavior Society Site has moved

If you visit a website while seeking help, or consult someone who claims to be a dog behaviorist, you want to check for credentials. Unfortunately there arenít government licensing requirements for applied animal behavior professionals, which have allowed individuals to call themselves animal behaviorists, canine behaviorists, dog psychologists and and so forth. This results in many people having little knowledge of the use of the scientific method to modify behaviors and failure to apply appropriate methods. A few titles put on their own dogs does not entitle any person or trainer to claim they are dog behaviorists. Not even TV shows, but that is another can of worms.

DOG BEHAVIOR CONSULTANTS (I use a general term) specialize in dog behavior and they can be certified trough different associations. They can be members of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants or similar associations, in which they are required to follow certain ethic standards and apply scientific methods. Overall a consultantís education can include accredited university coursework, diplomas and certifications from a reliable institute with internship programs (IAABC approved course providers, for example) , extensive reading, writing, working under a mentor, independent study and hands-on experience working with animals. These people are continuously keeping updated, though seminars and workshops, courses, text books and articles in animal behavior journals. A reliable behavior consultant does not make promises and guarantee results within a certain amount of time. If someone tells you that they can "fix" any behavioral problem in a month or 3 sessions, aggression in particular, find someone else who has realistic views of how much time it actually takes to modify behaviors.

These people come to your home, especially if that is the environment in which problems are more significant, and will explain what you need to know and do in order to see improvements. Techniques are shown, as well as management suggestions when this is lacking. Depending on how advanced the owner is the homework might target only one thing to work with at a time, and then move farther. A good behavior consultant will ask for the dogís medical history and depending on what behaviors are observed or learned a thyroid panel or farther blood work and health related tests as well. He/she might also refer you to a veterinary behaviorist. This is not done to bother the owner and add more expenses. Often there is a health problem that is directly responsible for changes in the behavior or behavior patterns that have been there for a long time. My worse case of fear aggression improved dramatically once the owner finally agreed to travel to a very valuable vet and get a full thyroid panel done. While there have been improvements with behavior modification there was only so much to do when the dog needed medications for his health problem.
Truth be told, most who claim to be behaviorists do not qualify. It's sad.
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Old 10-02-2011, 07:55 AM
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I like Adrienne's post, and that's generally how I think of it. If you're calling yourself a behaviorist, you better have gone to school for a **** long time to earn that.

I don't know that much about veterinary behaviorists, but I know I'm going to school for Animal Behavior (Ethology)....I'm getting an undergrad degree in psychology and then going for my master's in Ethology. It's not just studying how to deal with an aggressive dog....I don't know if there are programs like that. I study brain chemistry, psychopharmacology, evolutionary theory, neurology, etc. I'm learning how to tell exactly why, biologically speaking, a dog may react aggressively, like what is happening chemically in their brain to cause that, and ways to actually change the neurological processes that happen through behavioral therapies (things like classical conditioning and so on).

So, I kind of consider a trainer to be someone who knows "give the dog a treat to get him to do X" or "remove the dog from the situation because he's too stimulated"...whether they're training tasks and tricks or fixing a dog's behavior. I consider someone a behaviorist when they say "the dog is reacting this way because his adrenaline is spiking and his dopamine levels are dropping right at this threshold, and giving him positive reinforcement here is going to help negate that"

I'm not sure if I'll finish the degree, but it's what I'm working towards right now.
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