A dog trainer or a dog behaviorist: what to chose?
When I realized that I needed help solving Argos’ behavioral problems, I also realized that I had no idea of the right professional to do the job. That moment also made me realize that I made another big mistake: failing to ask advice to a behaviorist before my dog started to show behavioral problems. But at the time I didn’t know that: now I know better and I want to share my learnings with you.
Better later than ever, but what’s the difference between a dog behaviorist and a dog trainer?
Dog behaviorist: Educates the dog and supports their growth
First of all, let’s see what a dog Behaviorist does: he/she works educating dogs behavior. The dictionary definition of educate is… “promote with teaching and models the development of intellectual skills”. A professional who is a dog behaviorist or a dog educator, should guide you to the discovery of your dog’s, of his potentiality, and help you learn what you need to do in order to develop his cognitive skills. A dog that has been educated by a dog behaviorist will be more efficient in using his skills to integrate into our world – because our world is completely unknown to the dog! This means that any behavioral problems your dog may have will be reduced or will disappear.
However, I need to point out something: a good dog behaviorist (or dog educator) can’t do all the work alone. His job is to guide to understand your dog better, resulting in a stronger bond between you and your dog
A dog’s education is highly tailored by the dog behaviorist, because the approach can’t be the same for all dogs. All dogs have unique personalities and behavior problems to be addressed. For sure, there are general guidelines, but a good dog behaviorist will drive you through every specific case.
Dog trainer, to train skills and to make uniform
There is a common misconception that dog trainers and dog behaviorists are the same, but the distinction is clear. A dog trainer is responsible for training a dog to do tricks or tasks. A good analogy would be to compare a dog with an agent, while a trainer is the police: the agents need to be trained in the same way to behave in the same way. The same thing happens when you want to train a dog.
Trained dogs are mechanical: their individuality is suppressed in favor of uniformity. This is absolutely indispensable for working dogs, because we rely on these skills to save people or detect drugs. But do you really think that is better for your puppy to sit on command (without knowing why he’s doing it) or to walk near to you like a little soldier obediently? Don’t you think that it would be better to discover his individual characteristics, enjoy them, and have your dog walk near you because he wants to, not because he has to?
For the first time, I decided to ask a dog behaviorist for help: with Argos’ problems I did not want to use coercive methods – and to say truthfully, I don’t think that any dog should be exposed to coercive training methods – because I felt that this would make the situation worse. Luckily, my sixth sense was helpful.