Navigating the Roles: Veterinary Behaviourists, Behaviorists, and Dog Trainers

Hey there, pet parents! If your fur baby is acting a little off or you’re looking to instil some good manners, you might be wondering who to turn to. Do you need a veterinary behaviourist, a behaviourist, or a dog trainer? While their titles sound similar, each has unique expertise. Here’s a friendly guide to help you figure out who you might need for what.

The Doctor Is In: Veterinary Behaviourists

Veterinary behaviourists are basically the multi-taskers of the pet world. They’re licensed vets with a special focus on behaviour, meaning they can examine your pet from both a medical and behavioural standpoint. Say your dog is suddenly growling when you touch its back. A veterinary behaviourist can figure out whether it’s a behavioural issue or due to something medical, like an injury. They can provide a holistic approach that might include medication, lifestyle changes, or behaviour modification.

The Behavior Detective: Behaviourists

Behaviourists are specialised in—you guessed it—behaviour. While they’re not veterinarians, they usually have an advanced degree in psychology or animal behaviour. They can offer insights into why your pet might be acting a certain way and provide strategies for behaviour modification. For example, if your cat is scratching furniture, a behaviourist can help you understand the underlying motivations and offer non-medical ways to address the issue.

The Skill Builder: Dog Trainers

Dog trainers are the hands-on folks who can help you and your pet master specific skills or tasks. Think of them as the tacticians of basic pet manners. Need your pup to stop jumping on guests? Want to finally succeed at a loose-leash walk? A dog trainer can guide you through the steps to get there. Unlike veterinary behaviourists and behaviourists, dog trainers often focus on a more immediate, task-oriented approach.

Who to Choose for What?
  • Veterinary Behaviourist: If you’re dealing with behavioural issues and suspect there may be an underlying health problem, or you’re looking for a comprehensive approach, a veterinary behaviourist is a strong choice.
  • Behaviourist: If you want to dive deep into a specific behaviour issue without a suspected medical aspect, a behaviourist can provide specialised strategies.
  • Dog Trainer: For foundational skills and basic obedience, a dog trainer is often the most direct route to your goal.


The key takeaway? It’s not about who’s ‘better,’ but about which professional is best suited to meet your pet’s specific needs. It’s all about the right tool for the job—or in this case, the right expert for the behaviour. So choose based on what your fur baby needs most, and you’ll both be happier for it!

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