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Maureen’s Credentials


I’ve spent many years studying animals at university level:

  • Zoology in UCD, gaining my B.Sc. (Hons) in 1993, and going on to gain my Ph.D. in 1998, also from UCD.
  • I graduated from Newcastle University with a Master’s (with Distinction) in Applied Animal Behaviour and Welfare in 2012.
  • With all of the above qualifications, I am currently Ireland’s most highly qualified dog behaviourist.


I am also professionally certified in Animal Behaviour, and in dog training:


What is a Behaviourist?

The title of behaviourist is not a protected title in the way that vets, medical doctors, psychiatrists, physiotherapists, and other paramedical and paraveterinary titles are protected. As with many other industries, self-regulation is as good as it gets, and we’re lucky to have some super animal behaviour and training professional organisations to which practitioners can turn to achieve professional accreditation, and which bind practitioners to Codes of Conduct in order to protect clients and their dogs from malpractice or damaging treatment.

However, because the title is not protected yet, anyone can call themselves a behaviourist. There are so many self-titled behaviourists in Ireland it must be very confusing for the dog owner to tell who is genuinely sufficiently qualified and who isn’t. So, I hope that this article helps you, the discerning dog owner, to make up your mind!

Treating Behavioural Problems

Behavioural problems happen because there is an emotional imbalance occurring, for some reason, with your dog. Emotional problems can be difficult to diagnose accurately, and difficult to change. To do so requires an in-depth, comprehensive understanding of how the emotions are intertwined with health, genetics, welfare, learning processes, and the environment.

Proper, in-depth training and experience allows the qualified behaviourist to untangle all of these contributing factors, and to make an accurate diagnosis, just like a doctor or a vet does to diagnose medical conditions. A wrong diagnosis made due to lack of proper training means that the consequent treatment may not target the problem, and in many cases will make the problem behaviour worse.

It is this ability to systematically diagnose behavioural problems which sets the qualified behaviourist apart from the untrained, self-titled “behaviourist”. It does not rely on hocus-pocus, or witch-doctorism, or being in a “calm-submissive state”!

The qualified behaviourist comes to a diagnosis, and designs a treatment plan based on evidence and research, just like a doctor or vet does. An accurate diagnosis allows the qualified behaviourist to formulate a specific, targeted treatment plan for you and your dog which directly addresses the core emotional problems.


How Can I Tell if a Behaviourist is Qualified?

So, how do you know if a behaviourist has the right qualifications and experience?

In an attempt to provide some form of industry self-regulation, there are a few behaviourists’ professional associations, such as the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), the UK Registry of Canine Behaviourists (UKRCB), or the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB), all of which require their members to have studied animal behaviour to a minimum of honours degree level (B.Sc. (Hons)).

Critically, they also require their members to demonstrate practical skills and application of their knowledge: it’s not enough to simply understand the theory! They’ve got to be able to put it into practice too. Those pet insurance companies which cover behavioural problems require that their behavioural practitioners are members of one of the above, such is their confidence in the standards demanded by these professional associations.

There are other well-respected non university-based courses where graduates acquire a high level of knowledge and experience. But no matter where they’ve trained, it is critical that their courses are accredited by an external educational accreditation body: if the course has no external accreditation, it’s quite simply not worth the paper it’s written on...

Do your research here, as there are dozens and dozens of internet-based courses which make big claims, but are not accredited, not industry-recognised, and are quite simply nowhere near good enough to produce graduates with sufficient knowledge or skills to take on behavioural problems.

Unfortunately, there are no courses in Animal Behaviour to honours degree level available in Ireland yet. Most behaviourists will have attained their qualification in the UK, if not beyond. So, when you make contact with a behaviourist, ask! Ask them where they trained, and make sure you’re happy that they trained specifically in applied companion animal behaviour. Ask them how long they’ve been in practice. I know I’m more than happy to tell my clients all about it!

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