Behind four paws and a tail. What is being a dog behaviourist like?

Has the idea of entering your dog’s mind ever crossed your mind? Have you ever seen your pet shaking in the sleep and wished you could know what it was dreaming about? Well, you won’t get a chance to look into your dog’s mind unless you find a combination of Pavlov and Freud – but if you’re far from understanding your dog’s actions, call a dog behaviourist. Ross McCarthy, one of “dog psychologists”, takes us behind the scenes to show what this job – or rather a lifetime passion – is about.

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His family didn’t own dogs. Despite that, he managed to grow a massive fondness for them.

“I was a strange child – always obsessed with dogs,” Ross McCarthy, a dog behaviourist and the director of communications for the Canine & Feline Behaviour Association of Great Britain starts the story. He began walking the dogs when he was still a kid. That’s how he got all the skills that were necessary for understanding and training dogs.

“Naturally, when I was a teenager my hobby of dog training progressed. Later, I was able to make the transition into full-time training and behaviour analysis after a three-year course,” he describes.

And what does the work day of someone who wants to understand a true nature of the man’s best friend look like?

“Every day is very different,” Ross states. “I write for magazines, teach, lecture, work with social services and legal cases and consult with clients. Each day, however, is great and varied.”

This interesting career path brings many challenges, too. Usually, people come to ask Ross for help when their dog starts acting in a weird way. When your dog is too aggressive towards other dogs or people, ignores you when you call it, pulls on the lead or separates itself – it’s time to act. If you want to train your dog or improve his habits, you can use dog behaviourist’s help as well. For Ross, however, the biggest challenges that he had to face were connected with… people. “Dogs have owners. Working with people can always be a challenge!” he claims. “Some cases can be very hard – simply because people are unable and unwilling to do what is required,” Ross says. Nevertheless, the cases he gets

“Dogs have owners. Working with people can always be a challenge!” he claims. “Some cases can be very hard – simply because people are unable and unwilling to do what is required,” Ross says. Nevertheless, the cases he gets vary and he has to approach them all individually. “Every dog has its own story as the people do,” the behaviourist states.

So if the nature of a dog is so complicated, are there three essential things to know to treat our furry friends better?

“Firstly, a dog is a wonderful species, not a fluffy little human,” Ross accentuates. “Also, you have to keep in mind that dogs need leadership, affection, training and fun.” He emphasises also the importance of the natural raw diet.

Not only Ross takes care of “mental health” of other people’s pets, he also owns five himself: a Chihuahua, a Pomeranian, a German Shepherd Dog and two Rottweilers. Nevertheless, despite his big love for dogs, if he was given a chance to become one of them, he wouldn’t take the opportunity. “I don’t think that dogs get treated very well on the whole,” the dog behaviourist declares. “But Rottweilers are my favourite – I like their confidence, honesty, loyalty and open social behaviour; so I guess I’d be one of those.”

Do you feel motivated enough to understand what lies beneath four paws and a tail? You can get a qualification that will allow you to train dogs and analyse their behaviour. “The Cambridge Institute of Dog Behaviour & Training offer practical courses up to a BA (Hons) level,” Ross mentions.

Kasia Kwasniewska

Editor in Chief

Passionate about far too many things. Loves reading, watching films, eyeing (and producing) good design, listening to music and stuffing her face with chocolate on a daily basis. Cooks from time to time, and drinks far too much coffee to be a normal human being.
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