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Sara Richter, CDBC

 As an avid equestrian of over 25 years, I began my career with horses, and have since gained over 15 years of experience working with numerous species ranging from domestic, agricultural, and exotic. My lifelong experience with a variety of animals drew me to those that were presenting behaviors that others considered a problem. In combination with my love of science, I dove headfirst into the world of behavioral science. I have adopted and raised dogs with human-directed and dog-directed aggression, separation anxiety, compulsive disorders, horses with fear-based behaviors, and isolation distress. I know the toll it can take on humans to live with and love an animal displaying concerning behaviors and strive to make the experience a positive one for both ends of the lead. Throughout my career, I have handled and trained thousands of dogs and I have dedicated my career to education, developing creative and effective solutions that are backed by sound science and do not rely on force, intimidation, pain, or fear to alter behavior. 

Methods

The methods and strategies I use are evidence-based, learner-centered, and I make every effort to reduce stress experienced by the animal during the learning process. I do not recommend the use of aversive training equipment such as prong collars, e-collars, etc. As a certified professional, I am bound to a strict code of ethics and policies ensuring that humane training methods are used. For more information on the guiding principles of the methodology I use, please see the "Position Statement on Humane Dog Training" from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior.

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What is the difference between a behavior consultant and a trainer?

 

“Trainers teach key skills to animals, their focus is on giving pets and their guardians the tools they need to live happily, and perform well in sports, in service or assistance roles, or as family companions. This goes a long way to immunize against behavior problems further down the line, but when problems do develop, responsible animal guardians need extra help. 

Animal Behavior Consultants are called in—either by contacting them directly or by referral from their veterinarian —when an animal’s guardian has noticed a problem with how they’re behaving. The job of an animal behavior consultant, in a nutshell, is to help identify what is causing the problem, to develop an intervention plan to change the problem behavior, and to help the owners learn how to execute that plan. 

To be successful, an animal behavior consultant needs a thorough education in the science of animal behavior. They need to know about how animals learn and what kinds of tools will be effective in changing their behavior. They need to be able to gather data and use it to measure whether their plans are effective, and to know when to refer to veterinarians or veterinary behaviorists for extra help. This education doesn’t have to be a college degree, but it does have to be comprehensive enough to allow the consultant to deal with complex, multifactorial cases that may not respond to the most obvious strategies.”

- Miller, J. (2016, August 26). “Animal Behavior Consulting 101 Part 1: What is an Animal Behavior Consultant?”

What does it take to become a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant?

  • Professional references from a veterinarian, colleague, and client.

  • Minimum 4 years of behavior consulting experience.

  • Minimum 400 hours of educational coursework such as classes, lectures & workshops.

  • Essay-based examination on topics such as; ethology, learning theory, species-specific knowledge, species development, psychopharmacology, and hypothetical scenarios regarding behavioral cases and their management and modification.

  • 3 written case studies documenting cases worked and successfully resolved by the applicant. Case studies are reviewed by a board of experts and topics (such as dog-dog aggression), are assigned by IAABC, at the time of the application, and applicants are given 2 months to write them up to verify a well-rounded professional with experience across many facets of behavior modification.

  • Annual continuing education is required to maintain this accreditation.

  • Certificants are bound to a code of ethics.

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