What's it like to work as a dog behaviourist?

There's never a dull day attending to dogs' needs, but sometimes Nick Jones has to be quiet about the day job

Daisy Wyatt
Monday 19 October 2015 15:26 BST
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Nick Jones gets calls from owners up and down the country worried about their pets’ behaviour, but often it’s the humans who need more help. The most common case he sees is “separation anxiety”, where the dog howls after its owner leaves the room – and it’s not uncommon for people to get upset when he suggests how to solve the problem.

“I’ve had plenty of owners crying on me at the prospect of bringing the dog off the bed. I remember seeing this guy who was pretty much in tears when I told him to fully ignore his dog for a week. A lady once had so much anxiety and upset with her dog she pretty much cried for three hours throughout her visit,” he says.

But the former police officer, who admits to being a “softie”, has no problem with crying clients and says it can be useful in solving their dogs’ behavioural problems. “It can be quite helpful to get the emotion out and find out what’s going on because sometimes owners have all sorts of complicated issues with their pets,” he says.

The other most common case he sees is dogs with aggression issues, but in his 11 years as a dog psychologist he has only been bitten seriously three times. “Some people take pride in being bitten; I actually think it’s a minor failure because if the dog is in a position where it feels it can bite you, you’re not quite reading the situation correctly.” At times he has advised for dangerous dogs to be destroyed, but he gets most upset when owners put their pets down without telling him. “Sometimes I’ve really felt like sitting down and crying, but easily 90 per cent of the time it’s a highly enjoyable job.”

Jones charges around £500 for an easily remedied behavioural case, and loves getting to meet owners from a variety of different backgrounds. “Sometimes I’m in really small lounges where I can barely swing a cat and other days I might be in a mansion in Surrey.” But when he’s not working, he has learnt to keep quiet about his day job. “When people ask what I do it’s a bit like telling someone you’re a doctor because they want to discuss all their issues with you.” For more information visit: www.alphadogbehaviour.co.uk.

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