List of Roles: Canine Behaviour Practitioner

The Canine Behaviour Practitioner (CBP) has acquired on the job vocational training in rehabilitating dogs with behaviour problems and will have extensive training and handling skills experience with dogs of varying ages.

A crucial part of the CBP role is to be able to communicate with dog owners and educate them in the behaviour of their dog and help them understand which behaviour is natural, natural but unacceptable in our society (for example killing sheep), unnatural therefore indicating stress (for example chasing its tail) or just unacceptable.

The CBP needs to able to assess a dog’s behaviour accurately and then teach the owner, sometimes with words (spoken and written) and sometimes with demonstration, how to go about modifying the behaviour in the dog. Report writing skills are essential as a written report should be provided to give the owner information they can refer to following your visit, it is also used to document the advice given, as during the consultation owners are quite often stressed and don’t retain information given or distort it.

The CBP needs to have in-depth knowledge of how dogs develop from birth to old age, how dogs communicate with other dogs and other species, how the pack hierarchy is established within a dog pack and a mixed-species pack and how that effects the dog’s behaviour when it meets with others of its own species.

A detailed knowledge of puppy and dog psychology is imperative as the CBP may be called upon to go to people’s homes to work with their dogs is when they have a new puppy and require advice on how to look after and train them. Having experience of owning a dog is absolutely essential for the Canine Behaviour Practitioner.

Minimum vocational training requirements As a dog trainer As a dog training instructor As a professional trainer As a canine practitioner Dogs handled Hours required
Theory / academic knowledge
Reading for interest 150 200 350
Watching videos 50 50 100
Coursework 250 500 750
Practical experience / courses attended
Courses attended 100 100 100 200 500
Individual dogs trained 150 150 (dogs)
Breeds handled - minimum 20 20 (breeds)
Behaviour modification consultations 200 200 (consultations)
Teaching
Adult dog classes 100 100
Puppy classes 50 50
On-to-one training sessions 100 100
Mentored learning
Observation of / attending training / classes 150 150
Observations of consultations 50 (50 consultations)
Instructed learning one-to-one 100 100
Teaching assistant: adult dog classes 50 50
Teaching assistant: puppy classes 100 100
Totals 900 250 350 950 150 2450

Overview of minimum skills and experience required:

Theoretical

How people learn / different learning styles
Indicators of stress in people
Human body language
Motivational skills
Teaching skills on an individual basis
Communication skills
    Verbally (in person and over the phone)
    Written
    Active listening
Presentation skills
Report writing skills
Man management skills
Time management skills
Administration skills
Aggression in all forms (over 70% of problems a CBP will deal with)
Aggression and the law
Temperament testing
    With people
    With dogs
Safety equipment
Scenarios triggering behaviour

Practical

How people learn
Indicators of stress in people
Human body language
How to motivate the client
Teaching skills on an individual basis
Communication skills
    Verbally (in person and over the phone)
    Written
    Active listening
Presentation skills
Report writing skills
Man management skills
Time management skills
Administration skills
Aggression in all forms
Knowing when to and when not to intervene
Aggression and the law
Temperament testing
Use of safety equipment
Planning possible scenarios

Operational

Use of test dogs: monitoring reactions of client’s dog and test dog
Awareness of environment
    People
    Traffic
    Animals
    Bicycles
Awareness of distance of above at all times
People management for safety and stress

The Work Based Learning Path to being a Canine Behaviour Practitioner
More often than not, we start training to be a CBP without actually realising we’re doing it. Gradually dealing with more behaviour problems rather than ‘straight’ training of sit, down, come for example, some CBPs make a conscious decision to train as a behaviourist, others continue down the learning as they go taking the opportunities that present themselves.

Another way that we ‘fall’ into dog behaviour is by owning a dog with behaviour problems and learning about how to deal with via a CBP.

Dog Training

Ancillary Work Based Learning Skills
As well as being an experienced Canine Behaviour Practitioner, the candidate may also have a plethora of other dog training skills, attended many courses and achieved many awards on a personal basis with their own dogs.

They may have qualifications outside of the Dog Behaviour and Training arena that contribute to their competence, confidence and skill as a Canine Behaviour Practitioner and, under the Work Based Learning ethos, these should be acknowledged and recognised as achievements to date within the profession.

Accomplishments and Qualifications

Theoretical

Cambridge Institute for Dog Behaviour & Training
Animal Care College
Guide dog training
National Association of Security Dog Users
Home Office police dog training
The British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers
Other courses are also available

Personal (Work Based) Achievements

KC Competition obedience

KC Beginner
KC Novice
KC A B C comp-C

KC Agility
KC Working Trials

UD/UDX
CD/CDX
WD/WDX

KC Field Trials
KC Bloodhound Trials
KC Herding Tests
Search & Rescue Cert
KC Accredited Instructor

The Kennel Club (KC) standards are some of the best in the world and to compete and win is an acknowledgement comparable with other high standards of training knowledge as in the horse world and international competitive events.

Reflective Learning

As a Dog Trainer, of any kind whether that’s club or professional, adult dogs or puppies, we are constantly evaluating what we are doing when we are doing it.

We start training an exercise and modify what we are doing depending upon the response we get from the dog we are training. Sometimes we change our position, the dog’s position, the motivating force (us, toy, food etc.,) or the equipment we use. As a dog trainer we just call that dog training, however, in the work based learning arena it’s called being a “reflective practitioner”.

It is imperative that Dog Trainers realise that they are reflecting back; not only with the dog they have in front of them but of past cases and dogs they’ve worked with. A Dog Trainer cannot progress without this aspect of experiential learning, it would be impossible as no two dogs are the same and no two will react in the same manner.

Although we do it automatically, the importance of reflection in learning at work and awareness of the process, needs to be acknowledged for an individual to be able to carry out any kind of self-accreditation via the work based learning scheme.

Technical and textbook knowledge, though important, is insufficient to prepare individuals to be practising professionals. Knowing how or “knowing-in-action” must also be recognised as important. Knowing-in-action is referred to tacit and intuitive, rather than explicit knowledge, learned through doing rather than in the classroom. It is the kind of knowledge that underpins much everyday activity, whether at work or not.

Knowing-in-action is vital for Dog Trainers, as, as we all know, ‘real’ world problems tend to be “messy” rather than well formed. Problems with dogs tend to come along in rapid succession depending upon our reaction rather than nicely organised “first solve this problem, then solve that” as is often written in dog training books. Also some problems may well be unique to that situation, in the sense that they do not fit theoretical categories and therefore do not lend themselves to the applications of rules from the profession’s theoretical knowledge base.

When something untoward does happen it is likely to reflect on what’s going on in the midst of the activity itself. It is a consequence of this process that is known as “reflection-in-action” i.e., thinking about what we’re doing while we’re doing it and changing the process as we go along.

To be able to put into practice these reflective skills, both during and after the action, is what makes you a truly reflective practitioner.
Donald Schon (1983, 1987)

Comparative Assessment elements:
In general an Animal Behaviour Degree will average 1800 hrs study time on wild animals and some domestic species. Dog specific theory is generally taught at less than 5% of the entire degree and rarely by a dog expert but by a teacher who has no practical experience. Animal behaviour degrees are not an expertise level in dog behaviour, training, theory or otherwise.

All vocational learning in canine work-based roles should be taught by highly skilled people with extensive hands-on experience. Degrees obtained, therefore, provide targeted theory learning in canine behaviour and training as well as extensive hands-on work to prepare the student for their chosen vocation.