Is there a dog behaviorist near me and if so, what do they typically cost? I’ve heard this question or variations of it quite frequently in my travels as a dog trainer turned pet blogger. The fact is, dogs are great companions but without the right kind of training and supervision, they can be quite a handful. Many people will search desperately for solutions to keeping their dogs from acting out or biting friends and strangers alike.
There are many options out there in regards to training and teaching your dog to become more obedient. One of the more popular options is to hire an outside professional to come in and do the hard work for you. In the next few minutes I’m going to explain why this might not be the most viable option depending on your situation and provide you with some alternatives that may be more manageable. Lets get into it!
The Many Different Types of Dog Trainers
Dog training in general is a very vast field filled with many different specializations and approaches on how to get your new best friend to listen and play well with others. Please keep in mind that the level of education and experience varies greatly. Lets take a look at some of the more well known trainers and their areas of expertise.
This would be your generic dog trainer. Most of their experience comes from hands on training and being around pets most of their lives. They can gain this experience working with other trainers or even volunteering at local animal shelters or hospitals. Some may have also taken courses through local schools or of the online variety. Their talents can fluctuate from “savant” to “clueless”. I tend to think of myself as somewhere in the middle 😁.
Applied Animal Behaviorists
Also known as Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (ACAABs). These trainers have gained an MA,MS or PhD in animal behavior. They tend to be well equipped to deal with all types of companion animals (birds,dogs,cats etc.). I find there are many who will specialize in one type or the other. They are also quite expensive!
Applied behaviorists specialize in what i like to call the “cause and effect method” of training. They know how an animal should react to certain stimulus and can apply various techniques to trigger those responses. Think of Pavlov and his dogs. They tend to work with your vet and you to select medications or training protocols they believe to be most effective with the particular breed and attitude displayed.
Studying animal behavior is not required to become a veterinarian. Some vets will go the extra mile and take specific courses of study to understand their areas of specialty. We refer to these professionals as veterinary behaviorists. Essentially, you get the skills of a vet with the added knowledge of a behaviorist. These vets can also prescribe medication without the intervention of a third party which makes them a boon if dealing with a special needs animal.
Does My Dog Need a Behaviorist?
This can be a difficult question to answer if you are new dog owner or if this is your first pet. Most issues with dogs can be trained away without the use of expensive paid trainers. This works if you as the owner are willing to spend a little time and effort to get your pup on track. I’ll include some links throughout this article with some helpful methods that may be able to solve some particular problems you’ve been experiencing (barking,house breaking, health concerns, etc.).
There are pros and cons to bringing in professional aid but there are also significant costs associated with that help. Most regular, non certified trainers charge anywhere from $60-100 per session. The session length is usually an hour and ideally should be followed up on by you the owner with your pet every day. These Sessions usually take place once or twice a week for a minimum of several months before real progress is shown. The key with most dogs is repetition but more on that later.
When we start looking at Certified dog behaviorists, the prices escalate very quickly. These sessions usually take place in a vets office or at least in conjunction with a vet to make sure that any medications (anti anxiety is the most common) can be administered and followed up on for side effects.
Alternatives to Dog Behaviorist Training
There are several options when discussing training alternatives for dogs. I’d like to share a few with you and which I think go best depending on common dog problems.
Doggy Day Care
These locations offer day care services for your pet during typical working hours. These locations can also be referred to as kennels or dog sitters. They typically cost between $15-$30 per day and can come with some good benefits for puppies and new dog owners. If your dog has socialization issues with other dogs, sometimes it’s because you are with them and they feel like they have to protect you. This is not always the case but taking them to a neutral site where they are allowed supervised interactions with other dogs is generally seen as a good thing. It’s also better then leaving them in a crate for hours or by themselves at home. As a dog gets older, this is easier for them to handle. When they are young, let them socialize!
As an added bonus, some caretakers that run these facilities will throw in some basic training for your dog at little to no extra cost. I took my dog to a day care years ago that taught him all sorts of little tricks. It was quite enjoyable to behold my dog playing dead or rolling over on command.
Most local pet shops can be a great resource for classes like this. A local trainer, dog kennel or even the pet store themselves may hold weekly training courses available to the public. These courses can be hit or miss as the person leading them will either be able to get results or not. The upside is that they are usually very cheap ($10 or less in some cases) and a great way to connect with the local dog owner community. It’s also a nice way for your dog to socialize in a neutral setting.
These classes are usually themed around the more common dog issues. Basic commands, barking cessation, house training, etc. are the most popular lessons. These classes can also be a good way to find up and coming trainers that aren’t super expensive yet but still get great results.
One on One Home Sessions
These tend to be the most expensive of the bunch. Ideally, you can find a newer trainer or someone looking to establish themselves in the area to take on your pet. This method is very similar to traditional dog behaviorist training. One of the more notable differences is that this type of training would be performed in your home or apartment with you present. Every trainer’s methods are going to be different but I find that most will start by asking some basic questions while they assess the dogs attitude and intelligence.
Once they have completed an interview with you and the dog they will either schedule a follow up appointment to allow them time to come up with a training regimen or begin on the spot. Prices here tend to range in the $25-50/hr mark. They can also require you to buy specific training items (special leashes, treats, toys, etc.). This can be a great option if your dog has problems with distractions or just needs that extra attention a 1 on 1 session gives.
Be Your Own Dog Behaviorist!
I saved the best option for last. Getting a dog requires a fairly heavy commitment at first but gets easier over time as both you and the pup settle in to your new lives together. With a little extra effort in the first few months, you can train your dog and get just as good if not better results doing so.
You possess one thing that makes dog training easier for you than it would most trainers. Love! I know it sounds cheesy but its true. You and your dog should begin to develop a strong bond very quickly and you can utilize this bond to keep your pup on the straight and narrow. How you may ask? Lets talk about the tether method.
The Tether Method
Learn to channel the inner dog behaviorist in you with this method. You will need a few basic supplies to make this work effectively. 1 leash (at least 12 ft in length), 1 dog mat or bed and one bag of your dogs favorite treats. Ideally these treats should be something that your dog will only get when working with you on this method. You want to make sure they are rare and thus deeply enjoyed whenever received. The last thing you need and perhaps the most critical is your awareness and praise.
Let me run you through a typical day using the tether method. upon waking, hook your dog up to the leash and take them out for their first walk of the day. Let them do their business and give them a little exercise to help them focus up. A game of fetch can be a great way to do this.
Once you are done with the exercise, bring the dog back inside and place the dog mat in an area that you would like your pup to know as their safe zone. Once you have done this, call the dog over to the mat and guide them to a sitting position. Take a few steps back and see how your dog reacts. If they try to follow you, gently pick up the leash, guide them back to the mat and put them in a sitting position again. Continue to do this until you are able to take several steps away without them moving.
The objective with this particular exercise in the tether method is to get them to understand that the mat is their safe space and that this is where they can go to relax. After working with them for a while (a few days or so) Assign this mat a name (call it bed or home its up to you). Eventually, you will be able to say the command word and get them to perform the action associated with the mat. Don’t forget to periodically give the dog treats and praise when they do what you ask. These positive cues from you will help increase the training speed. As I mentioned before, your dog loves you and if it can understand things that make you happy with it, these things will happen more often.
When not tethering the dog to his mat, you should keep the dog with you on the leash. This will work in a few good ways:
- It will let you know their body language. This is helpful to understand when they may need to go out or are getting hungry, tired etc.
- it will allow you to discourage. One of the main reasons dogs get into bad habits is because we aren’t there to actively discourage something when the habit is forming.
- You can also use it to Praise. Using this method to reward good habits as well is particularly powerful with repetition
There are many other reasons to keep your dog close but these are some great ones to get started with.
Dog Behaviorist Training Summarized
One key take away from this article should be that repetition and reinforcement are very powerful tools when it comes to dog training. Most of the training that you would pay a behaviorist for still has to be followed up on by your own repetition and reinforcement to make the corrective actions stick. I say cut out the middle man, save a ton of money and do the training yourself.
If you’d like to learn some more fantastic dog training methods and don’t want to pay thousands of dollars for professional dog training, check out this guide and see the results for yourself!