If you love dogs, and have a strong desire to help them live happier, healthier lives, then you might consider becoming a canine behavior counselor.
If you think the old saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is true, then you might want to think again. It’s been shown that dog behaviorists can make a positive impact on canines of any age, no matter how ingrained their negative behaviors might seem.
Needless to say, this is one career path where a strong love for canines is a necessary prerequisite. After all, you’ll be spending much of your day interacting with dogs of all shapes and sizes, and many of them with very challenging behavioral problems such as biting, incessant barking, inability to be potty trained, etc.
Just like people, canines sometimes develop emotional and behavioral issues throughout their lives, especially dogs that were neglected or mistreated as puppies, or through the first few critical years of their existence. Dogs do best when they grow up in a stable, loving environment, where they know the rules and what’s expected of them.
Unfortunately, some dog owners treat their pets with little or no regard for their emotional well being, and often these canines end up in animal rescue shelters or the city dog pounds. Some of these animals were simply neglected, which is bad enough considering the loving bond that dog’s seek with their masters, but other canines were also abused, which can lead to much more serious emotional problems.
Just about everyone has experienced an ill-behaved dog at some point in their lives. Some dogs seem to bark incessantly, or they’re shy, or they jump up onto guests, or they growl or show aggressive behavior toward strangers - or in some cases their owners. Animals rescued from shelters or other facilities often display these undesired behaviors, and often this leads to their unfortunate end as they’re deemed unsuitable for adoption and are euthanized.
A canine can't tell you what he or she is feeling
There are a host of other problem behaviors that feline’s can develop over time, including:
Unfortunately, many frustrated dog owners don’t know how to handle an animal who’s displaying these bad behaviors, and so they lash out by yelling or hitting the dog. This often leads to even worse problems as the frightened animal becomes more terrified - and more neurotic.
If dogs could speak, it could make it a lot easier to diganose what's bothering them. But they can't, and so the canine behaviorist has to be somewhat of a detective. This is a skill that’s normally developed through many hours of experience working with troubled dogs, and learning what in the animal’s background led to the animal’s current traits and behaviors.
One thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t a “desk job” where you’re not required to do much physical labor. Performing therapy on dogs is hard work, both physically and mentally, and you’ll have your good days and your bad days. Many of the canines with behavioral problems are large-breed dogs like Dobermans, Rottweilers and Pit Bulls. They can also be aggressive, and unpredictable, so you’ll have to be on your guard at all times when you’re around these animals.
Training and certification
So if you’re interested in becoming a canine behavior counselor, how do you get started? What skills, education and experience will you need to secure an entry-level position in this growing career field?
For starters, you’ll want to get as much experience working with canines as you can, in a variety of settings. There’s no substitute for experience, and you’ll need to learn how to recognize and treat a wide-variety of canine behavioral problems. Since dogs can’t speak, and tell you how they’re feeling and thinking, most of this work involves learning how to recognize a dog’s body language and facial expressions.
Does the dog cower his head in a submissive way around strangers, for example, or does he exhibit more aggressive behavior such as growling or bearing his teeth? Is the dog shy, or outgoing? How does the dog interact with other animals?A great way to learn and get some experience working with a wide variety of dogs is by volunteering your time at an animal shelter or animal rescue facility. Most of these facilities have an urgent need for friendly, compassionate dog lovers to help with a variety of day-to-day tasks, including working with behaviorally challenged dogs.
You’ll be working with shelter dogs, after all, and these animals can have the most problems because they often come from abusive or neglected homes. Some are stray dogs as well, and they can need extensive care and training before they’re in a suitable condition for adoption into new homes, especially homes with small children.
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