List of Roles: Puppy Behaviour Assessor

The Puppy Behaviour Assessor has acquired on the job vocational training in training puppies and as a Dog Training Behaviour Assessor on a one to one basis, whether this is as a part time club trainer or a full/part-time professional dog trainer.

They will already be an experienced Puppy Instructor and will have all of the skills required for Dog Training Instructor and Dog Training Behaviour Assessor.

The emphasis on the Puppy Behaviour Assessor is one of identifying early problematic behaviour problems in a puppy within the class situation or one to one training and socialisation settings.

This is separate to puppy training and obedience actions and education. Many puppy trainers/instructors will be skilled in basic behaviour advice and meet the criteria listed below.

Identifying early problems like fear and aggression and dealing with it at a critical stage probably has more influence on the dog’s future temperament development than dealing with the problem when fully embedded as a young adult. The Puppy Behaviour Assessor will have sessions / lessons to ameliorate the problem behaviour which needs to show rapid change. They will also know, through experience, when to identify a behaviour that needs instant referral to a Canine Behaviour Practitioner for assessment and detailed time specific behaviour programme implementation.

They will have extensive handling skills and experience not only for puppies but with adult dogs of varying ages also. A detailed knowledge of puppy and dog psychology is imperative.

Minimum vocational training requirements As a puppy trainer As a dog trainer As a dog training instructor As a puppy behaviour assessor As a dog behaviour assessor Dogs handled Hours required
Theory / academic knowledge
Reading for interest 150 150 300
Watching videos 50 50 100
Coursework (Inc two items below) 100 250 350
1. Puppy specific reading 50
2. Puppy specific videos 30
Practical experience / courses attended
Courses attended 100 100 100 300
Individual puppies trained 200 (200 dogs)
Individual  dogs trained 50 (50 dogs)
Breeds handled - minimum 20 (20 breeds)
Mentored Learning
Observation of / attending training / classes 100 150 250
Instructed learning (being mentored / taught whilst training) 50 200 250
Teaching
Teaching assistant: adult dog classes 50 50
Teaching assistant: puppy classes 100 100
Adult dog classes 50 50 100
Puppy classes 50 50
Totals 550 900 250 100 50 250 1850

Overview of minimum skills and experience required

The Puppy Behaviour Assessor will already be an experienced Puppy Training Instructor and, at the very minimum, a Dog Trainer. The Puppy Behaviour Assessor needs to be able to assess adult dog’s behaviour as well as the need to be able to make the link between the way that a puppy is behaving at the minute and what, if not corrected, it will potentially turn into.

There is behaviour advice to be proffered in the training arena, but more importantly there is the one to one session whereby the Puppy Behaviour Assessor takes the owner and puppy to a one to one private area/room for advice. This may be in the form of having other family members present or simply showing the owner how to understand the puppies learning process by explanation.

It may be as simple as selecting written pamphlets and guiding the owner through the information before they return to the class or one to one instruction for obedience training.

Where a puppy is fearful the Puppy Behaviour Assessor may have to go into detail whilst explaining how puppies learn and what special habituation and socialisation training is required.

Owners understanding their puppy’s actions and reactions will without doubt help solve the problems presented. They can then return to the class environment with that specialised information.

The role of the Puppy Behaviour Assessor includes monitoring any puppies where the owners have received advice ensuring that the owners seek a professional Canine Behaviour Practitioner if matters don’t improve swiftly.

Prior to referring to a Canine Behaviour Practitioner however, it is important that Puppy Behaviour Assessor evaluates whether the owner has pet insurance that covers behaviour or that the person can afford to pay for a behaviour consultation.

Thousands of people simply cannot afford pet insurance or the fees for a Canine Behaviour Practitioner and therefore referring is pointless as the owners will generally agree and then go away and do nothing due to their current economic situation. These behaviours can then become critical long term, resulting in the dog being euthanised or leading to a miserable existence.

The PETbc Educational Advisers feel that all members of society, whatever their income or their circumstances, should be given help with the behaviour needs of their dogs should they require it. As such, the Puppy Behaviour Assessor should use their knowledge of the situation to facilitate a programme that will see the puppy, and the owner, getting the help they need.

The Work Based Learning Path to being a Puppy Behaviour Assessor
More often than not, we start training to be a Puppy Behaviour Assessor without actually realising we’re doing it. Through experience we learn the nuances of normal behaviour and by default can begin to spot any unusual or problematic behaviour.

With practical hands on experience one learns the development of certain behavioural traits and characteristics of an individual or breed of dogs as well as how those behavioural traits in puppies manifest and develop in the adult dog.

An alternative route is via Dog Training. Many clubs won’t allow a new trainer to take on the puppy class until they have shown competency at training, and teaching others to train, adult dogs.

Casual observation / formal observation
Owning and training own puppy
Dog Training

Ancillary Work Based Learning Skills
As well as being an established Puppy Trainer, 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 puppy and dog training arena that contribute to their competence, confidence and skill as a Puppy Behaviour Assessor 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.