Accreditation of Behaviour Professionals
What do the acronyms mean, and who should I trust?
In short, dog trainers teach dogs new skills or behaviours, working within the realm of 'normal' healthy pet behaviour. If your pet's problem is severe or nonresponsive to training, a behaviourist helps you address it.
In the UK, there is little regulation around who can call themselves an animal 'trainer' or 'behaviourist', or what experience and qualifications they need to do so. This can mean individuals with little or questional experience, or who use harmful, outdated training methods can affect your pet's behaviour. Punishment based training methods can cause harm and exacerbate problems. How can you select a professional?
In 2010, the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) was set up to co-ordinate regulation of trainers and behaviourists in the UK. The ABTC is a professional body which sets out educational and experience requirements professionals must meet to be accredited trainers or behaviourists. However, it doesn't accredit these individuals itself. The ABTC is an umbrella organisation which regulates membership bodies - it's up to these smeller bodies to accredit, or certify, that an individual meets the ABTC's high standards in order to use the titles of ABTC Trainer, or ABTC Clinical Animal Behaviourist.
Other umbrella organisations do exist, such as the UK Dog Behaviour & Training Charter, who regulates well-known training bodies such as the IMDT and Pet Professional Guild. However, it's important to note other regulators like the UK Dog Behaviour & Training Charter don't set specific standards, such as laying out minimum educational criteria for individual members. This is unlike the ABTC, whose minimum criteria for Clinical Animal Behaviourists is a university degree in a related subject, or proof of equivalent learning.
In fact, Veterinary Professionals are advised to only refer clients to trainers or behaviourits who are accredited by an ABTC membership body. A Veterinary Times article on how vets consider referring a pet to a behaviour specialisti is here. With ABTC registered clinicians, you get the Crème de la crème.
Still confused? See my infographic below, or see the About Me page to scrutinise my own accreditations!