Pet owners should begin addressing their pet’s behavior issues by accessing recommended reading, contacting a behavior helpline, attending force-free obedience classes. If your pet’s behavioral issues persist, one-on-one hands-on assistance likely needed. In these cases, you should first consult with a certified pet trainer or behavior counselor, who will let you know if additional assistance is needed from a certified applied animal behaviorist or board-certified veterinary behaviorist.
A behavior counselor is often a certified pet trainer, but he or she should also have more experience and knowledge, including a background in learning theory, awareness of the latest scientific knowledge and hands-on training. A behavior counselor should be able to analyze and diagnose the problem, devise and explain a possible solution and do necessary follow-up. Like trainers, some counselors are species-specific. There is no certification for behavior counselors, but you can ask your veterinarian for a recommendation. Behavior counselors are generally listed as trainers who work on behavioral issues.
Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist
These are people who have been certified by the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) as either an applied or an associate applied animal behaviorist. Certification by ABS means that an individual meets certain educational, experiential and ethical standards required by the society. For help in finding a certified animal behaviorist, visit the website of the Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists.
Board-Certified Animal Behaviorist
A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian who has completed an approved residency training program in veterinary animal behavior and passed a board exam. Veterinary behaviorists can rule out health problems and dispense medications, which are sometimes used to help change behavior in pets. You can think of animal behaviorists as the equivalent of psychologists, while veterinary behaviorists are the equivalent of psychiatrists. For help in finding a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, talk to your veterinarian or visit the website of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.