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Understanding the Difference Between a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and a Dog Trainer

Are you a pet guardian facing unforeseen behavior problems with your pet? Or are you a new pet owner trying to learn the “alphabet soup” of different credentials animal behavior professionals may have? When it comes to addressing behavioral concerns in companion animals, it's essential to understand the differences between a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) and a dog trainer. While both professionals work with dogs and their owners, their qualifications, approach, and scope of practice vary tremendously.

Qualifications and Training


It is important to understand that currently, there are no regulations surrounding the field of dog training. This means that anyone can become a dog trainer without receiving additional training. Therefore, pet guardians must be prepared to do research on any professional they may hire to ensure that they have appropriate credentials for their needs.


CAAB: A Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist typically holds a graduate degree in animal behavior or a related field. They undergo rigorous academic and practical training, often working under the supervision of experienced behaviorists. Their specialization is understanding animal behavior and its underlying causes, including emotional, environmental, and physiological factors.


Dog Trainer: Dog trainers may have varying levels of education and experience. While some hold certifications from reputable organizations like the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), others may have learned through apprenticeships or self-study. Their focus is primarily on teaching dogs specific behaviors or skills through training techniques and methods.


Scope of Practice


CAAB: CAABs assess and address complex behavior issues, including aggression, fear, and anxiety. They work with individual animals, considering their unique history, genetics, and environment, and develop behavior modification plans tailored to each case. They often collaborate with veterinarians to rule out underlying medical conditions.


Dog Trainer: Dog trainers typically work on teaching obedience commands and addressing basic behavior problems.


Approach and Methods


CAAB: CAABs use evidence-based techniques rooted in scientific principles of animal behavior and learning theory. They emphasize understanding the function of the animal's behavior and employ positive reinforcement, desensitization, counterconditioning, and other behavior modification strategies to address problem behaviors.


Dog Trainer: Dog trainers may use a variety of training methods, ranging from traditional, dominance-based techniques to more modern, positive reinforcement-based approaches. While positive reinforcement methods are widely recommended for their effectiveness and ethical considerations, the specific techniques used may vary among trainers.

At Canine Behavioral Blueprints, LLC, I provide consultative services to assess and evaluate behavior problems and employ training solutions using rewards-based, scientifically derived methods to ensure that guardians understand why problem behavior occurs and have the training tools to address those concerns. For the best treatment outcomes, it is important to know why a behavior is happening – this allows us to modify the behavior in the most efficient and ethical ways. In addition to my CAAB certification, I have extensive training experience and hold multiple credentials in dog training through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. In this way, I provide tailored programs for my clients and help provide them with training to change behavior.

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