The role of the pet behaviour counsellor is to advise owners whose pets have developed inappropriate behaviour. This is different from standard obedience training offered by dog trainers. Behavioural problems include such things as aggression towards people, dogs or other animals, destructiveness, toileting problems, inappropriate vocal behaviour and phobias.
Bona fide pet behavioural counsellors work on referral from veterinary surgeons. Where necessary there will be close liaison between the counsellor and the referring veterinary surgeon.
To become a pet behaviour counsellor, you will need an academic knowledge of the theory of behaviour and solutions to problems, practical handling skills and experience, and an empathy with, and an ability to communicate and motivate owners. The ability to run a professional, financially sound and accountable practice is also essential.
There is no single recognised route for study, but there are an increasing number of courses related to pet behaviour counselling on offer and many organisations have agreed on the standards detailed by the Animal Behaviour and Training Council here. To become a Full Member of the APBC, applicants require education to Honours Degree standard or higher in a biological or behavioural science, including appropriate elements of zoology, physiology, psychology, clinical techniques and research methods. From March 2016 the APBC will require applicants for membership to have become a Certified Clinical Animal Behaviourist (CCAB) and meet the full requirements of education, experience and endorsement as detailed here.
In addition to academic knowledge, it is essential to acquire a thorough understanding of companion animals and one of the best ways of doing this is by gaining practical, hands-on experience. Working in a kennels, cattery, stables, at a veterinary surgery, or one of the animal welfare societies for several years is an ideal way to do this.
There are very limited career opportunities for pet behaviour counsellors in the employment field. Some of the larger welfare charities now employ a small team of counsellors, but vacancies will be few and far between. Most PBCs are self-employed and run their own practices.