Pets In Practice


Telephone: 07843 559441

Myths About Pet Behaviour Counsellors / Behaviourists

MYTH: Anyone can become a Pet Behaviour Counsellor, there is no need for proper work experience and relevant qualifications.

FACT: This is much like saying a teacher should be able to teach at a school without any formal training or someone can become a dentist just because they have an interest in teeth. The truth is behaviour rehabilitation and training is based on science and without academic knowledge a Pet Behaviour Counsellor can only give advice based on their own experiences. Although personal experiences are essential in order to help pets and their owners we all know that one person's experience is going to be different to another person's experience. Which is why it is absolutely essential that those practising as Pet Behaviour Counsellors / Behaviourists should have at least a degree in either Animal Behaviour or Human Psychology. A teacher would not be able to teach on practical experience alone, a child psychologist certainly wouldn't be allowed to practise after 2 or 3 weeks of training so why allow a Pet Behaviour Counsellor to treat your pet who has no academic qualifications to backup their personal experiences.

MYTH: The Pet Behaviour Counsellor / Pet Psychologist / Pet Behaviourist I contacted said they were qualified

FACT: Of course they will say this as they are already advertising as a Pet Behaviour specialist and wouldn't want anyone to know that they don't actually have any qualifications in Pet Behaviour. So always ask what they mean by being "qualified" and be sure to write down what they say so you can check out the courses they have completed before booking a behaviour consultation with them. If they don't state the courses they have done on their website it is a sure bet they haven't actually done any formal courses, so always remember to call and check before committing to a costly consultation with someone who could be much less qualified to rehabilitate your pet than you.

MYTH: The Pet Behaviour Counsellor / Pet Psychologist / Pet Behaviourist has letters after their name or have stated the courses they have done

FACT: Anyone can put letters after their name. Letters after someone’s name gives the impression this person is much more qualified than they actually are. So ask what these letters mean or indeed search for their existence on the internet. Unfortunately you will often find that someone has given themselves a title e.g. Psychologist or letters after their name to indicate they are much more qualified than they actually are. If they have stated the courses they have done please check these courses out as many courses offered only provide 4-5 days of actual training, which is less time than most owners would have spent at puppy and dog training classes. This again highlights the fact that some behaviourists might be less able to resolve the pet's behaviour than the pet's owner, and the owner is the one who is paying. I have done a degree and Master’s Degree in Companion Animal Behaviour Management which equates to 6 years / 72 months  / 2190 days of behaviour training and would view this as being completely necessary to offer you and your pet a first class service.

MYTH: The Pet Behaviour Counsellor resolves my pets problem

FACT: No, we work with you to resolve your pet's problem. Behaviour rehabilitation will not occur overnight and therefore any decent Pet Behaviour Counsellor will inform you of this. The Pet Behaviour Counsellor will assess your pet and provide a treatment programme based on the reason behind your pet's behaviour problem. Unless the reason for the behaviour can be determined and treated, any methods or devices used to subdue the symptoms (i.e. anti-bark collar, training disks, squirting water, rattle bottle, punishing the act etc) are not only cruel (especially when used on a fearful pet) but also are likely to only work short term, if at all, leaving you with a far worse problem long term. Which is why "boot camps" or places where the dog goes away to be trained often do not resolve the dog's behaviour, it might initially but typically the dog reverts back once it has settled back home with it's owners. Why? Well dogs react to a situation and environment so unless the owner is taught how to change the situation or dog's environment, or indeed how to respond to the dog's behaviour the dog's behaviour will remain the same.

MYTH: Behaviour changes can occur in days

FACT: Problem behaviour did not occur overnight so will certainly not resolve over night either! Unfortunately unless punishment methods are used, which are not only unethical but could de deemed illegal too, behaviour rehabilitation takes weeks if not months to occur. This is another reason why "boot camps" achieve behaviour changes, within 2-4 weeks, as they often use aversive / punishment methods. Behaviour modification in pets is the same as in humans it will take lots of owner effort and time before improvements are seen. I always tell my clients that during the initial 4-6 weeks of behaviour modification they will put in an enormous amount of effort for not a lot of gain, this is very normal and I like my clients to be prepared for this. Rewards for their hard work will occur anytime after 4 weeks, dependant on effort put in, behaviour condition being treated and the pet's behaviour and response to the rehabilitation. As humans we like quick fixes which is why fast weight loss diets are often chosen by those wanting to lose weight. Reality is this weight loss is often difficult to maintain and the weight is put back on almost as quick as it was lost. I look at quick fix ways to treat pet behaviour as the same; the quicker it is resolved the more likely it is to reoccur weeks or maybe months down the line. A good Pet Behaviour Counsellor will make you aware of the time taken for proper rehabilitation and will also offer you "lifetime" aftercare. So be aware that those offering just a few months are unlikely to be around long enough to ensure your pet's problem is properly resolved.

MYTH: There are no bad dogs, just bad owners!

FACT: I don't believe the owners I personally deal with in a behavioural and training capacity are bad owners or indeed own bad dogs. I just think sometimes there are dogs that are with the wrong owner and an owner with the wrong dog and therefore it is the combination of dog and owner that is causing the problem behaviour. People love their pets and therefore most have no intention in causing a behaviour problem in their dog or cat which is why I think it is totally wrong to blame the owner for all behaviour problems. Of course some owners must be held responsible for their dog's behaviour, especially those who allow their dog off lead with no ability to be able to call them back. But most owners are just trying to do the best for their pet and, as a properly qualified Pet Behaviour Counsellor, I want to be able to do the same for them.

Looking for help?


Are you looking for a pet behaviourist to help with your pet's problem behaviour?

If yes please click here to read how to ensure you get the best possible behaviour help you and your pet deserves.

Also click here to read what can tragically happen if you allow an unqualified and/or inexperienced person help you with your pet's behaviour or training
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Nicole Crooks RVN, BSc(Hons), DipCABT, NCert(AnBeh)

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