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Animal Behaviourist Qualifications


Finding a qualified, experienced, professional animal behaviour counsellor has been as difficult as finding the proverbial needle in a very large hay stack. Individuals with little knowledge or skill in the area may make the behavioural problem of the animal they are trying to help worse, increase the danger to humans and other animals, and undermine public confidence in those who work in this field. Individuals have been able to practice with little regard for their actual qualifications and experience. One of the most worrying aspects over the last few years, is the forming of franchise practices whereby anybody can ‘buy’ a practice, go on a short non regulated course and set up immediately to practice pet behaviour counselling. US TV has also influenced the general public into a false sense of security of dog behaviour problems and many owners get themselves into difficult situations after trying to implement ‘treatments’ themselves after they have seen a programme on TV presented by unqualified behaviourists/trainers/dog whisperers etc.



Just as a teacher differs from a psychologist, the work of a qualified pet behaviour counsellor stretches beyond that of a qualified dog trainer. ALL HONS DEGREE LEVEL QUALIFIED AND EXPERIENCED BEHAVIOUIRISTS ARE DOG TRAINERS BUT NOT ALL DOG TRAINERS ARE BEHAVIOURISTS and this issue is often misunderstood. An Hons degree level knowledge of evolution, the science of learning theory and animal cognition are all vital as well as a practical and sympathetic understand of the relationship between pet and owner. Individuals practicing without this knowledge are a major concern for both animal welfare and handler safety.


Over the years there have been several attempts to remedy this issue with organisations including the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Recommendations have been issued that the very minimum standard of education that is required to treat behavioural problems should be an Hons degree, or equivalent, in a relevant subject (with the appropriate practical experience). Unfortunately these recommendations have been largely ignored and the proliferation of self styled behaviourists has increased.


The Animal Behaviour and Training Council:

The Animal Behaviour and Training Council is the regulatory body that represents animal trainers and animal behaviour therapists to both the public and to legislative bodies.


It sets and maintains the standards of knowledge and practical skills needed to be an animal trainer or animal behaviour therapist, and it will maintain the national register of appropriately qualified animal trainers and animal behaviourists. It will organise and oversee the self-regulation of the sector in accordance with a number of calls for such a body in recent years

The Veterinary Legislation Group report dated 4th June 2009.


Appendix B of that report states that …..“A fundamental requirement for the regulation of para-professionals must be that they are suitably trained and that their competence is assured.”


In addition, the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Sixth Report of Session 2007–08 on the Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 stated: the balance of opinion, which we support, is in favour of some form of regulation to protect animals and their owners against the depredations of the wholly unqualified practitioners and potentially harmful treatments.


The formation of the ABTC is a huge step forward in the attempts to regulate the sector and prevent unqualified behaviourists from causing untold damage. It still has some way to go and the pet owning public can help by simply asking their perspective pet behaviour councillor if they have a RECOGNISED HONS DEGREE LEVEL (or equivalent) STANDARD education IN A RELEVANT SUBJECT and experience. Hopefully the public will not be duped much longer into parting with their money and risking their pets and they will not be fooled by the ‘letters after name’ syndrome, many of which are not relevant and are obtained by unsuitable, unrecognised, non accredited sources.



Naturally Pets have been at the forefront of trying to get qualifications regulated for some years, as it is qualified animal behaviourists that usually, if it is not too late, pick up the pieces that have been left from inadequately qualified and experienced ‘behaviourists’. Natalie Lagstrom, our head behaviourist, has written many articles on the subject that have been published nationally. We welcome the forming of the ABTC and will do all we can to support its aims.


If you have questions or concerns about qualifications for animal behaviourists please give us a ring or e-mail us on

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Pet Partnership the Natural Way


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