When we struggle with our dog’s behavior, it can be a daunting frustration that sometimes seems like it will never end.
That’s where finding a certified behaviorist comes in! And I don’t mean a trainer, either.
So, that brings up the question: what is a certified behaviorist and how are they different from a dog trainer?
Well, let’s get into it!
By Allison Salonko.
Allison is a Veterinary Technician in the state of Indiana. She graduated from International Business College and Vet Tech Institute of Indianapolis with a degree in Animal Science and Technology in 2011.
This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a commission from qualifying purchases made through these links. This is at no extra cost to you.
What Is A Canine Behaviorist?
A canine behaviorist is a veterinarian that has been through and completed specialized training in veterinary behavior and they have achieved a board certification for their work and experience.
This particular speciality in veterinary medicine is rather small, as there are only 89 board certified veterinary behaviorists in the WORLD.
How Does A Dog Behaviorist Differ From A Dog Trainer?
To be frank, there is a VERY big difference between someone who is a dog trainer and someone who is a veterinary behaviorist.
A behaviorist has completed veterinary school, passed their boards and then spent several years of residency to complete their specialty degree.
A dog trainer is someone who has undergone some training to teach basic obedience and minor behavioral issues.
Now, the big thing here is that a trainer can certainly tackle some more minor issues and be a great resource for simple obedience.
However, many dogs with behavioral issues would benefit more from seeing a behaviorist that has spent their career understanding canine aggression, anxiety, compulsive disorders and other challenges.
To sum it up, a veterinary behaviorist has dedicated at least 8-10 years of their lives to proper schooling and education.
A dog trainer might not have any training or credentials to support their title.
#1 Dr Amanda Rigterink
We might as well make Dr Rigterink #1, 2 and 3 because she’s the only DACVB (Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists) in Indianapolis.
Or Indiana for that matter.
She is well-known in the area for not only Indiana residents but for pet owners in the surrounding states as well.
She has been a practicing Veterinarian since 2005 and decided that she wanted to dive into the world of behavior some time later.
She eventually completed her residency at the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine in 2017 for Animal Behavior and was even published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior.
Dr Rigterink is proud to be a Fear Free Certified Professional, a very important qualification when dealing with animal behavior.
She is also actively involved as a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Indiana Veterinary Behavior Medical Association (IVMA) and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB).
Dr Rigterink has a practice in Carmel, Indiana, called Veterinary Behavior of Indiana.
Do You Need A Dog Behaviorist?
Canine behavior can escalate quickly if the unwanted action isn’t addressed in a timely manner.
If you’ve already worked with a dog trainer and the behavioral issue still persists, that’s when it’s time to see a veterinary behaviorist.
A veterinary behaviorist is a Veterinarian that is specially trained to treat conditions that are purely behavioral as well as the underlying conditions causing them.
Fear-based and anxiety driven behavioral issues can be quite complex and very difficult to manage.
Therefore, if the behavioral problem at hand hasn’t been properly addressed, or is even mismanaged, the issue can progress or worsen.
Sometimes working with a trainer at first is warranted, but if the issue doesn’t resolve, it is necessary to seek out the help of a Veterinary Behaviorist.
Dog Behaviorists Have Your Back
Our canine companions are meant to fill our lives with fun and happiness, but sometimes behavioral issues can get in the way.
That’s where understanding your dog, your situation and whether or not your dog’s problem is serious enough to require a behaviorist is so important.