A combination of theoretical knowledge and experience. There are many experienced dog trainers who are basically self-trained and have massive amounts of experience. Some of these trainers may not have the neccessary academic knowledge of dog psychology to make them fully-rounded behaviourists. In contrast, there are many modern behaviourists who are qualified to the hilt in terms of academic studies but lack any real experience of working with dogs and their owners. Some of them have never even owned a dog!

There are large numbers of establishments giving out dog training qualifications and many of them don’t require practical experience. This has given rise to large numbers of dog behaviourists who can talk the talk, but can’t walk the walk. Beware of the trainer/behaviourist who appears reluctant to carry out practical work in environmental training scenarios. It’s usually because they don’t know how. Be even more wary if they simply like you to visit them in their office, almost like a visit to a therapist! If it was as simple as that, there would just be a detailed text-book to cover all eventualities and there would be no need for dog trainers and behaviourists!

When it comes right down to it, the vast majority of problem dog behavioural issues are down to the dogs environment and the way it has been brought up, either by the current owner or a previous one. Of course, there are also some dogs who are born with certain genetic or inherited problems which are destined to show themselves, no matter how experienced the owner. The classic nature versus nurture contest.
The good dog trainer/behaviourist will identify those issues quite quickly and will then set about devising a training programme which will bring about a change in the dogs behaviour and at the same time, bring about a proportionate increase in the owner’s confidence and handling skills. Like my slogan says – ‘Dogs and their owners trained’.
If you are still seeing your dog behaviourist months down the line and despite all your efforts, financial and otherwise you are seeing little or no improvement – see another behaviourist!

Whilst I certainly regard myself as being a specialist in dealing with the larger, more powerful guarding breeds I am equally at home in working with toy breeds, terriers, gundogs etc. At the end of the day, dogs are dogs and if any dog has a problem I am confident I can not only improve its behaviour but also vastly improve its owners confidence and leadership skills.

All dogs present different training issues. Some guarding breeds can be over protective, some terriers have very high prey instincts, but at the end of the day they are all dogs and any good dog behaviourist and trainer should be able to competently deal with their problems. Of course the larger breeds often require enhanced handling skills, but dog training is about having a broad-based experience of many different breeds. A visit to my client testimonial page will show I certainly don’t just deal with Rottweilers and German Shepherds!

Good question. I am both dog trainer and dog behaviourist. Most of my work involves dealing with problem behaviour rather than simply training dog obedience. However, any good behaviourist should in my opinion have dog training skills because control skills are essential when rehabilitating problem dogs. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the most common dog behavioural problem presenting itself today is aggression either towards other dogs or people. As well as dealing with the psychological aspects of such behaviour, the trainer/behaviourist has to be able to teach reasonable standards of control to the dog and owner, as part of the rehabilitation process.
I only conduct one-to-one dog training and behaviour sessions with individual owners and their dogs. Firstly, I have great concerns about the potential for creating unstable young adults by conducting puppy classes. As I discussed recently on my blog page and on the puppy training page, puppies are inherently lacking in canine social skills at first, so putting all of that instability into one class and expecting great results is rather naive. Puppies are better off being socialised in carefully controlled situations, with stable adult dogs and not with lots of hyper-active young puppies.
Puppy owners often consult us to carry out one to one training with their valued young pets and in my opinion this is by far the best way to get your young puppy off to the best possible start in life, particularly if you lack experience. Jayne works with most of the puppies and you can read some great client reviews of her work.
Dog training classes for adolescent and older dogs are fine so long as all the participants are well-behaved and the dog:instructor ratio is appropriate. However, dog training classes are no place for dogs with behavioural problems as they simply have an adverse affect on many of the other dogs present. If your dog has a behavioural problem, then you need to consult a behavioural trainer for one to one work to have any real hope of rectifying the situation. If you simply wish to teach your dog the rudiments of obedience, then some dog training classes are excellent, but I would always recommend that you observe before you enrol.
I will not conduct security or protection work for any client, whether for sporting or any other purpose.
I consider this to be essential for all breeders, particularly of the guarding breeds. I discuss this at length on the puppy pages. Unfortunately, not enough breeders invest in the opportunity to have their litter assessed by a suitably qualified practitioner at the age of seven weeks.
I will travel anywhere in England, Scotland and Wales to visit a client. I have many clients outside of my base area of Devon and Cornwall. Clearly, there are cost implications for the client, but some clients who have heard of my reputation with problem dogs ask me to visit them much further afield and I am always happy to do so. Jayne tends to work closer to home with the puppy training and will generally cover most of the south west.
If your dog has a behavioural problem, it is highly desireable that I see him in his home environment. Not all behaviourists insist on this but I believe it is essential for me to assess the dog in its normal surroundings and observe his interactions with family members. After all, many of the problem behaviours have their roots in the dogs day to day environment and in my opinion it would be unprofessional not to see the dog in that environment first-hand. I actually don’t see how a behaviourist can do his or her job properly without seeing the dog in its home environment.
I claim that I have never met a dog I couldn’t improve and in most cases I prove this to the client by doing exactly that. Of course, it’s not just about how good I am, there are other factors at play. For instance, the owner has to be committed to what we are doing. Nothing is more frustrating for me than to realise that the owner has put in little or no work between training sessions. This type of owner is rare as most people who consult me know that they will be required to show self-motivation and committment.
Every now and then, usually in aggression cases, one meets a dog that is just beyond complete rehabilitation due to the severity of its problem. These are the serious biters, of either humans or other dogs. With a very small number of these dogs, one has to fall back on appropriate standards of management of the behaviour and in an even smaller number, it is fairer to do the kind thing with some very unhappy dogs and get the vet to end their misery. If asked to put a figure on these cases, I would say that they are significantly less than 1% of aggression cases.
There is no clear answer to this question. All dogs and their problems are different and present varying degrees of challenge. However, I have dealt with many dogs with very serious aggression problems for instance and it is rare for me to need to be actively involved for much more than a month to six weeks. Of course, some owners are themselves lacking in confidence and I will work with them until they are confident and competent to continue without my hands-on assistance. That is not to say that the dogs problems are over after that period. I liken many problem dogs to a recovering alcoholic. The potential for regression is always there, particularly if the owner is inconsistent in their approach.
Our fees are broadly the same as most of the UK’s other top behaviourists. It is difficult to give overall prices here, as it depends on your location, the nature of your dog’s problems, the number of dogs etc. Our prices always include travel costs to and from your home. Like most skills, if one is looking for a quallity service then it is safe to say that cheap, too good to be true prices, will probably be just that. We work with many clients who have already employed the services of other behaviourists before discovering the best!
No, I would rather provide a service which I can realistically and honestly offer to the client without letting them down in the future. There is no way any trainer or behaviourist can seriously offer unlimited call-out facilities and honour it in my opinion. Most of my clients book their assessment and several environmental sessions which are conducted in public areas as previously mentioned. My success rate with problem dogs is so high that I rarely have to see them for longer than that. All my clients have the benefit of lifetime free telephone and email support from me, after we have finished working together.
No, all of my training sessions after the initial assessment in the client’s home are conducted in public areas, usually where there are plenty of other dog walkers. I will also conduct socialisation programmes in town centres, railway stations, bus stations etc. This is another reason why dog training classes can lack the realism required. In the real world, dogs are exercised and (sometimes) trained by their owners in public areas, not the village hall. That is why my training sessions are called ‘environmental sessions’. to reflect the real-world scenarios they take place in.

Of course, when I am dealing with aggression cases for instance, I have to use my judgement and expertise to decide if and when your dog is able to be allowed off-lead amongst other dogs and their owners. The good dog behaviour trainer bears a heavy responsibility in this respect and it is not one to be taken lightly.

Yes, in certain circumstances I will do this. However, when dealing with behavioural problems I always point out to the owner that it is better that they take part in the training sessions if at all possible. Sometimes, owners are unable to do this and I am happy to board the dog locally and conduct intensive work with it on a daily basis over a period of up to two weeks. Please note that when I do this, I focus my efforts on one dog and your dog will not spend extended periods of time in a kennel whilst I train other dogs. See more details on the what we do pages.
No, certainly not. I use strong leadership in tandem with reward/praise based training, including ball-reward where appropriate. Whilst I accept the need for a certain level of treat-based rewards, I am not a believer in training methods which require me to set out with so much food that I need a small ruck-sack to carry it. The modern-day approach of extreme levels of food-reward has in my view, much to answer for. Not least of which is the contribution it is undoubtedly making to record levels of dog obesity and the risk also of rewarding bad behaviour when used inappropriately.

Dealing with problem behaviour invariably means that the subject dog lacks a balanced approach to certain problems and in my experience, particularly where aggression is concerned, food reward is hardly ever successful. Food reward is fine for teaching well-balanced dogs obedience and tricks, but I am afraid it goes out of the window with most dogs when the red-mist descends. So for me, it’s about ignoring certain low-level inappropriate behaviours, rewarding good behaviour and interrupting higher level inappropriate behaviours.

Electric shock collars (or E-collars as their exponents like to call them) were banned in the Police service at least 25 years ago. They have also been banned in Wales and whilst still legal in the rest of the UK, it is only a matter of time before they are banned across the country. To my mind, if the Police can train their dogs to the high standards they do, without resorting to electric shock collars, then the least we can do as dog behaviourists and trainers is to emulate that. It is my personal opinion that the type of client I see, who clearly love their dogs as part of the family, would simply ask me to leave if I proposed using a shock collar on their pet.

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