While I do not often post on this blog, I do read the posts and comments daily. In the comments portion, I've noticed that there are some who are very much against the usage of the term dog behaviorist as opposed to a dog trainer. Seeing how we've just completed our initial analysis with a dog behaviorist, I felt this is a good time to post what I believe to be the differences between the two.
1) Dog Trainer - Dog trainers help owners train their pets to behave.
As brand new dog owners, we had initially been very active in seeking out dog trainers for advice and tactics regarding issues such as obedience or proper socialization. We've put Loki through the usual circuit: obedience training, dog parks, long walks, exposure to humans..etc.
Having a dog trainer is certainly a best practice for new dog owners and can help prepare both the owner and the pet for a life of co-existence. Without the advice from trainers we have engaged, it would have been quite a bit more difficult in training Loki. However, with that said, a dog trainer can tell you whether or not the dog is agressive or even dominant, but may not have the necessary analytic toolset to fully explain the situation logically.
2) Dog Behaviorist - Dog Behaviorists help owners identify root causes of certain unwanted behaviors.
So what happens when your dog is fully trained, yet exhibit unwanted behavior sproratically? In the two plus years since we've brought Loki home, we've honed our ability to both train and read his moods. However, there are still certain behavior which seems nigh impossible to correct with any type of training.
Loki's mother and myself have tried many different methods of correction without much avail. With that in mind, the only logical conclusion is that we are not addressing the correct issue. This is precisely the time when we discussed and agreed upon a dog behaviorist. Our expectation of the behaviorist was to help us identify the root cause of Loki's issues so we may employ the necessary correction in order to adjust his aggressive behavior.
After our meeting with the dog behaviorist, it's as if the lightbulb came on for the first time. Her analysis was logical and explained a situation we were never able to fully grasp before. Having her pinpoint the theoretical root allows us to focus our training and hopefully remedy this problem.
For the naysayers out there, I want to reiterate the necessity of the dog behaviorist role along with that of a dog trainer. The roles along with the tool sets employed are vastly different and both roles have their place in certain situations.
Thinking back on the decision to get a Shiba Inu as a first dog; I'm not necessarily sure it was a well thought out approach. We certainly do not regret bringing Loki home, but similar to purchasing a first house, you simply can't comprehend the cost through initial analysis.