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Dog Trainer vs. Canine Behaviourist: Understanding the Differences

When it comes to working with dogs, two terms are commonly used interchangeably: dog trainer and canine behaviourist. While there may be some overlap in the skills and expertise of these professionals, there are significant differences between them. Understanding these differences can help dog owners determine which type of professional they need to work with and what they can expect from the experience.



Dog Trainer:

A dog trainer is a professional who focuses on teaching dogs to perform specific behaviors or tasks. They work with dogs of all ages and can help with anything from basic obedience training to complex competition-level agility training. Dog trainers often work with puppies, teaching them the basic commands like sit, stay, come, and heel. They also work with adult dogs, teaching them new skills, tricks, or even service tasks.


Dog trainers use a variety of positive reinforcement techniques to train dogs, such as rewarding them with treats, toys, or praise. They may also use negative reinforcement techniques, such as a quick leash pull, to discourage negative behaviors. Dog trainers focus on teaching new behaviors, so they often work with dogs that have no existing behavioral problems.


Canine Behaviourist:

A canine behaviourist is a professional who specializes in modifying or changing a dog's existing behavior. They often work with dogs that have behavioral issues, such as aggression, anxiety, or fearfulness. They use a variety of techniques to identify the root cause of the problem and create a customized intervention plan to modify the behavior.


Canine behaviourists have advanced training and education in dog behavior and psychology. They use a variety of techniques to modify behavior, including positive reinforcement, counter-conditioning, and desensitization. They work with dogs that may have a history of aggression or have difficulty interacting with other dogs or people.


The Difference:

The key difference between a dog trainer and a canine behaviourist is that trainers focus on teaching new behaviors, while behaviorists focus on modifying existing behaviors. Dog trainers work with dogs of all ages and can teach anything from basic obedience to advanced agility. In contrast, canine behaviorists typically work with adult dogs that have existing behavioral problems.


Additionally, canine behaviorists have more advanced education and training in dog behavior and psychology, allowing them to develop customized intervention plans to modify behavior. They often work with dogs that have a history of aggression or have difficulty interacting with other dogs or people.

It is important to note that there is no hierarchy between these two professions, and some professionals may straddle both worlds. The principles and theories used by both trainers and behaviorists often overlap, and some people may have expertise in both areas.


When considering whether to work with a dog trainer or a canine behaviorist, it is important to ask yourself what you want to achieve with your dog. If you are looking to teach your dog new skills or compete in high-level competitions, a dog trainer may be the best choice. If your dog has existing behavioral problems, such as aggression or anxiety, you may want to consider working with a canine behaviorist.


In conclusion, understanding the difference between a dog trainer and a canine behaviorist can help you make an informed decision about who to work with when it comes to your furry friend. Ultimately, it's important to choose a professional whose skills and expertise align with your goals and needs.

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