What are Technologists of Behavior, and Trainers and Consultants?
Although there are practical distinctions between trainers and consultants, there is also significant overlap. They are all technologists of behavior utilizing the principles of behavior change programming. That is, they are professionals who apply scientific products to solving practical problems in behavior. The main difference between trainers and consultants in this practical sense is that while trainers tend to work more with dogs and clients to prevent problems and proactively train new behaviors, consultants tend to work more with companion animals and clients to resolve problems and reactively decrease the probability of problem behaviors. This may not be a useful distinction except that some professionals prefer to work solely as trainers while others as behavior consultants. Since some professionals operate as one and not the other, and the skill sets and competencies are different for each focus, the distinction becomes useful. Many trainers help clients resolve simple problem behaviors (such as jumping up in dogs for instance) and consultants usually utilize training skills in their behavior change programs. All behavior professionals are ultimately interesting in promoting the interspecies relationship through coaching and consulting with clients, student trainers/consultants or the public. No behavior technologist, unless they are also a licensed veterinarian diagnoses or treats medical conditions or prescribes medications, these being the sole purview of veterinarians. Nor do behavior technologists, unless they are licensed mental health counselors/therapists counsel clients in a human mental health context beyond simple attending skills utilized to help meet the companion animal behavior objectives. Below is a more detailed elaboration on the role of trainers and behavior consultants.
Professional dog trainers (PDT) are technologists of behavior who may train dogs directly or coach clients on how to train their dogs, usually in a proactive manner to achieve specific behavior goals. Dog training is distinguished from behavior consulting in that trainers are more focused on preventing problem behavior situations proactively by working with clients and their dogs to develop appropriate behavior patterns. They are often involved in training for manners/lifestyle or sports objectives. They also educate the public and colleagues on the technology of behavior, ultimately promoting the interspecies bond. Dog trainers work in diverse professional environments, including but not limited to the client’s home, shelters or rescue organizations, dog training facilities or an office. Dog trainers operate from a behavioral (rather than medical-model) theoretical orientation and are focused on applied, empirical, research-based strategies and tactics that addresses observable, measurable behaviors, and not on fictitious “mental conditions.” Dog trainers are skilled at working collaboratively with individuals, families and organizations to achieve cooperatively determined training objectives.
Professional dog, cat or parrot behavior consultants (PDBC, PCBC, PPBC) are technologists of behavior who consult with clients, and in some cases, work directly with a client’s dog, cat or parrot toward meeting specific behavioral objectives, preventing and/or resolving problem behavior, and ultimately strengthening the interspecies relationship. They also educate the public on the technology of behavior. Dog, cat or parrot behavior consultants work in diverse professional environments, including but not limited to the client’s home, shelters or rescue organizations, animal training facilities or an office. Dog, cat or parrot behavior consultants operate from a behavioral (rather than medical-model) theoretical orientation and are focused on applied, empirical, research-based strategies and tactics that addresses observable, measurable behaviors, and not on “mental conditions” or “behavioral diagnoses.” Dog, cat or parrot behavior consultants are skilled at working collaboratively with individuals, families and organizations to achieve cooperatively determined objectives. Some dog, cat or parrot behavior consultants work directly with animals, while others coach clients on how to work with their dog, cat or parrot, and many carry out both practices as dictated by the circumstances. AABP designated dog, cat or parrot behavior consultants are species specialized. They have undergone education focussing on a particular species and their membership category reflects this specialization.
Professional Animal Behavior Consultants (PABC) are consultants as described above except that they are generalists with a strong competence in the technology of behavior but without a species specialization. The principles of behavior and the technology of behavior change programming is similar across species and Professional Animal Behavior Consultants often consult on multiple species behavior issues.
Without limiting the above, dog, cat, parrot, or animal behavior consultants generally engage in the following professional activities:
· Facilitate referrals to veterinarians where there is a possibility that medical conditions may be contributing to problem behaviors or otherwise interfering with achieving specific behavioral objectives in order that the veterinarian may attempt to identify and treat any pathological conditions. Consultants endeavor to work within the constraints created by the veterinarian’s advice regarding the animal’s medical condition and the treatment required for optimal recovery.
· Perform a functional assessment of the problem behavior including identification of the specific observable problem behavior itself and the environmental stimuli that influence it (i.e., antecedents and consequences).
· Work with clients (individuals, families or organizations) collaboratively to identify realistic and specific long and/or short-term behavioral objectives.
· Develop a research-based behavior change program that can reasonably be expected to achieve the established objectives.
· Monitor the frequency, duration and/or intensity of the target behavior or their outcomes where appropriate throughout and after initiation of a behavior change program in order to objectively determine whether established objectives are being achieved and to make adjustments to the program where necessary and continue to reevaluate goals with clients.
· Facilitate a referral of clients to other professionals such as but not limited to fitness and/or nutrition consultants or human mental health professionals where appropriate.
· Carry out educational activities such as instructing courses, workshops and seminars or conferences and writing articles and books on topics related to companion animal behavior, training and prevention or resolution of problem behaviors.
If you are looking for someone to help you train your dog to perform specific behaviors, then you are likely looking for a professional dog trainer. If you are having a problem with some of your companion animal’s behavior and need help changing them, then you are likely looking for a consultant.