Choose Your Behaviourist Carefully
A good one, one interested in helping you and your dog, will not ask for thousands of pounds up front with a promise of telephone back up for the next 12 months! Whose telephone bill are the lengthy calls being added to? From a telephone call how can they tell what may be going wrong if things aren’t progressing as you hoped or in fact where you are going wrong - you may think you are doing exactly what you were advised to do but is your body language wrong? Is your tone wrong? They can't tell unless they see you in action.
The ones we would recommend are willing to give free advice initially over the phone once you have described the problem THEN if this doesn’t help will come out to your home, for a fee of course, but for that session only, and then work on a plan of action from there. Additional sessions arranged as and when necessary depending on your progress, and a willingness to answer your query (during reasonable hours of course) without spending money up front for advice you may never need., and explained in terms that are easy to understand.
A major point to consider also is whether the behaviourist you are thinking of using has experience of your breed. There are standard methods for behaviour modification of course which are effective across breeds but "specifics" too for your breed. In some cases a matter of size can be relevant to the techniques used, what is appropriate for a Yorkie may not be practical for a German Shepherd and vice versa. There may also be traits associated with your breed which are best dealt with by tried and tested methods for the breed. We are not assuming all dogs of a breed are out of the same mould but that a range of behaviours, good or bad, may be common.
This article was instigated by us having brought to us a dog with a specific problem whose owners HAD paid thousands of pounds up front. They were provided with a barely legible hand written assessment and action plan backed up by printed guides for getting a dog used to a muzzle, clicker training, the reward system of conditioning - all of which could be had for free from one of the many good sites on the internet, and a stimulus-response reinforcement diagram whose place lies firmly in a canine psychology text book. It may be accurate but of no use to the average owner who just wants examples of what to do (and why) in each instance of the appearance of the behaviour they are concerned with changing.
We, as a GSD rescue, see all too often people whose dog could have been better helped by a behaviourist, as recommended, with the knowledge of the GSDS needs. We do not intend to upset those behaviourists who genuinely do care about the people and their beloved dogs. We just care!
And don't forget, no matter how well qualified, if they aren't able to put across the remedies/possible solutions in terms you can understand they then this is not going to be any help at all. Ask them to explain in plain English rather than psychology terms
Amongst the trainers we recommend is Mark Calvert, mentioned below.