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Strawberry Fields' Position Statement on
Training and Behavior Modification of Companion Animals

  • Strawberry Fields stands with the IAABC's (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) statement on LIMA. “LIMA”  is an acronym for “least intrusive, minimally aversive.”

  • "LIMA describes a trainer or behavior consultant who uses the least intrusive, minimally aversive strategy out of a set of humane and effective tactics likely to succeed in achieving a training or behavior change objective. LIMA adherence also requires consultants to be adequately educated and skilled in order to ensure that the least intrusive and aversive procedure is used."

  • "LIMA does not justify the use of punishment in lieu of other effective interventions and strategies." In the vast majority of cases, desired behavior change can be affected by focusing on the animal's environment, physical well-being, and operant and classical interventions such as differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior, desensitization, and counter-conditioning.

Behavior Resources for Your Dog or Cat

My Companion Animal Is Struggling with  A Behavior Issue(s). 
What's the Next Step?

1.) Your veterinarian should always be your first point of contact.

Your veterinarian is the first person you should contact when your pet exhibits problem behavior or your pet’s behavior changes. Changes in behavior or behavior problems can reflect underlying medical conditions, which must be evaluated by your veterinarian. Many underlying medical problems, including pain, can alter your pet’s behavior in ways that are difficult for pet owners to identify. Please call your veterinarian if you note any change, however mild, in your pet’s behavior.

2.) Choosing the right person to work with your pet's behavioral needs.

Once medical conditions have been ruled out, we, like you, want the best behavioral care possible for your pet. It is important for you to understand the qualifications of people who use titles that indicate they are behavior professionals. This is difficult since, unlike the titles veterinarian, psychologist, psychiatrist etc. which are state licensed, the title “animal behaviorist”, or similar titles can be used by anyone, regardless of their background.  Whether your pet’s behavior has recently become a concern or you are dealing with long-standing behavior problems, CAABs are uniquely qualified to work with you and your family to find the best solution.

CAAB= certified applied animal behaviorist

3.) What is a CAAB?

CAAB stands for Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.  CAABs have supervised graduate training in animal behavior, biology, zoology and learning theory at accredited universities. Some CAABs are veterinarians who have completed a residency in animal behavior. CAABs are full time professionally educated animal behaviorists.

Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists should work closely with your veterinarian to provide the best behavior care for your pets. Because most CAABs work through veterinary referral, they know the importance of keeping your veterinarian informed of their findings. Because of their training they know how to provide a useful case summary to veterinarians.

CAABs are the only non-veterinary certified behaviorists with both graduate training in animal behavior and supervised hands-on experience with a wide variety of species.

Let's Recap!

If you have tried to change your pet's problem behavior on your own and have been unsuccessful, consider getting some professional help. You could consult with a pet trainer, a behavior counselor, a certified applied animal behaviorist, or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

How do you decide which professional to use?

  1. You should always start by taking your pet to a traditional veterinarian to determine if the behavior has a medical cause.

  2. Once that is ruled out, you could hire a trainer (usually referred to as a CCPDT or could be known by a slightly different acronym) to see if the behavior can be altered with some simple training techniques.

  3. If the problem persists, you should try a behavior counselor, a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB), or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, depending on how severe the problem is and what types of professionals are available in your area.


How do CAABs (certified applied animal behaviorists)
differ from CCPDT (Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers)?

If you have tried to change your pet's problem behavior on your own and have been unsuccessful, consider getting some professional help. You could consult with a pet trainer, a behavior counselor, a certified applied animal behaviorist, or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

  • How do you decide which professional to use?

You should always start by taking your pet to a traditional veterinarian to determine if the behavior has a medical cause. Once that is ruled out, you could hire a trainer to see if the behavior can be altered with some simple training techniques. If the problem persists, you should try a behavior counselor, a certified applied animal behaviorist, or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, depending on how severe the problem is and what types of professional are available in your area.

Whoever you decide to work with, please be aware that changing the problem behavior will take time and patience on your part. You will need to work on the behavior at home with your pet, following the recommendations of the trainer, counselor or behaviorist. The professional needs to train you, as well as your pet, so you know how to reinforce the behavior that you want.

Further Information About CAABs
(Certified Applied Animal Behavior Specialist)

1.) How is a CAAB different?

Just as human psychologists have graduate training in psychology, certified applied animal behaviorists (CAAB) have advanced graduate degrees in the science of animal behavior. Some CAABs are veterinarians who have completed a behavioral residency.

A CAAB is a certified professional with scientific training in animal behavior. A CAAB works with people and their pets to modify pet behavior that has become a concern for owners. CAABs diagnose the cause of a pet’s behavior problem, often in coordination with your veterinarian. A behavioral diagnosis is a critical analysis of your pet’s behavior using scientific principles.

We use critical thinking skills and education to determine the cause of your pet’s problem; sometimes we must develop novel approaches to solutions. Individuals without extensive education and experience may guess incorrectly as to the cause of the problem and provide ineffective advice. Improper advice can delay or prevent resolution of the problem.

2.) CAABs have:

  • Obtained an undergraduate degree, usually requiring 4 years, at an accredited college or university.

  • Gained admission to an accredited graduate school or veterinary school through a highly competitive admission process.

  • Completed post-graduate education receiving a Master’s (2-year full time) or Ph.D.(4-year full time) degree in a behavioral science, or DVM or VMD degree with a behavioral residency.

  • Passed rigorous oral and written examinations given by their faculty committees.

  • Published articles in scientific journals.

  • Supervised hands-on experience with animals.

  • Met the course work and experience requirements for certification as set forth by the Animal Behavior Society.

3.) The information CAABs provide is based on scientific principles of animal behavior, not just on personal experience and opinion.

Much of the information in the popular media is made up of “pop-psychology” explanations of animal behavior that are not valid. Your interaction with a CAAB will provide you with the most in-depth, up to date information available in the scientific literature. For example - did you know that despite the misinformation in the popular literature that dogs are always striving to be the boss - for many thousands of years man has selectively bred dogs to be submissive, not dominant to people? Most behavior problems with dogs have nothing to do with "dominance". In addition, CAABs do not "blame the owner" for the pet's behavior problems that can develop for a variety of reasons. Most owners have had previous dogs that did not exhibit behavior problems. Cats can have differing motivation for behavior than dogs. Most CAABs work with the unique problems that your cat may exhibit.

There are three different types of specialists who deal with animal behavior problems:

  • Behavior counselor

A behavior counselor or consultant is often a certified pet trainer, but he or she should also have more experience and knowledge, including a background in learning theory, awareness of the latest scientific knowledge, and hands-on training. A behavior counselor should be able to analyze and diagnose the problem, devise and explain a possible solution, and do necessary follow-up. Like trainers, some counselors are species-specific.

You can find a certified behavior consultant through the CCPDT or you can ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

  • Certified applied animal behaviorist

These are people who have been certified by the Animal Behavior Society (ABS) as either an applied or an associate applied animal behaviorist. Certification by ABS means that an individual meets certain educational, experiential and ethical standards required by the society. 

  • Board-certified veterinary behaviorist

A veterinary behaviorist is a veterinarian who has completed an approved residency training program in veterinary animal behavior and passed a board exam. Veterinary behaviorists can rule out health problems and dispense medications, which are sometimes used to help change behavior in pets. You can think of animal behaviorists as the equivalent of psychologists, while veterinary behaviorists are the equivalent of psychiatrists. For help in finding a board-certified veterinary behaviorist, talk to your veterinarian.

Private sessions with a CAAB or trainer are better for addressing specific behavior problems like phobias, separation anxiety, excessive barking, destructive chewing and aggression. They cost more, but are better at tackling complicated issues.

Pro Tip!

If you're a pet owner and your animal is working with a professional to help them with behavior modification it's very important to realize that even the best pet professional in the world cannot work magic. There are no quick fixes when it comes to behavior modification. Patience and perseverance are required from a pet owner.

What Is A Certified Dog Trainer (CCPDT)?

  • Certified trainers can have different acronyms after their name other than CCPDT (Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers), such as CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer- Knowledge Assessed 

  • If a trainer has an acronym after their name that you don't recognize you can always ask them what it stands for, but it's imperative you do your own research into that trainer. 

  • Here are some definite steps to take when considering a trainer or behaviorist for your pet. 

    • Interview them! We'll talk about what questions to ask later

    • Do a google search and see what comes up in the reviews

    • Ask for references and make sure to check them

  •   We can't stress enough that trainers, whether certified or not, aren't always GOOD trainers or maybe they aren't the right trainer for you because they do not line up with how you want your pet to learn.  Unfortunately, as a rescue we had to learn that lesson the hard way! 


Now that you are aware of LIMA (least intrusive, minimally aversive) based practices couples with science based, positive reinforcement ONLY, when it's time to interview that person your thinking of using to help your beloved animal, always ask them what methods they use.   There are other important questions to ask that you can find here. 

It would also highly benefit you to do your own research on LIMA based practices vs. dominance based theories and techniques Another good idea would be to watch youtube videos of both practices in order for you to see what a trainer practicing LIMA techniques vs. dominance techniques looks like. Reading about the right, humane way to practice behavior modification is excellent but being able to see these behaviors in action can shed a new light on how we go about training our pets can either  f your friends or family is seeking out one of these people to help with a pet having behavior issues make sure to let them know what you have learned. 

NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK A TRAINER OR BEHAVIORIST WHAT TECHNIQUES THEY USE OR ANY OTHER QUESTIONS TO ENSURE YOUR PET IS BEING TREATED AS HUMANELY AS POSSIBLE. LIMA and be able to recognize a trainer or behaviorist that is adhering to science based, positive behavior modification and training techniques but realize not all people know about this way or would even agree to follow it if they did.   plenty of trainers and pet owners that still ahere to the old school method of dominance, aversive based training methods.  Learn more about those methods here.

1.) What is a trainer?

Dog trainers, also known as behavior counselors or pet therapists, have varying levels of knowledge and experience. Their training may include both formal and informal education. Many dog trainers are self-taught through reading, while others attend professional classes. Still others learn by apprenticing with experienced trainers. Some trainers don’t hold a professional certification, but can still train dogs effectively. They often teach specific skill sets such as, obedience, agility, tracking, and search and rescue. They may work with individual dogs or group classes.

2.) What does it mean for a dog trainer to be certified?

Dog trainers who attend specialized schools become certified by an independent organization after they meet specific requirements. Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDTs) are people who have earned their title by passing a standardized test administered by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. They demonstrate knowledge of canine husbandry, behavior, and teaching skills.  In general, dog trainers generally address behavior issues by trying to resolve the symptom (what is happening) rather than the underlying cause (why it is happening).

3.) Choosing between a  CAAB and a trainer?

If your dog has no behavioral issues and needs basic training in obedience or agility, call on a trainer. If your dog has behavior problems that need to be addressed, consider a CAAB. You may need to travel a bit to find the right help. Remember that your veterinarian is there to provide advice and can refer you to another animal behavior consultant if needed.

Before hiring a trainer or consultant, look at their resume and speak to past clients. You should look for someone who will focus on positive training methods instead of negative reinforcement techniques (which are outdated). If you are going to enroll your dog in a group class, make a visit to observe the trainer in action before signing up.

Certified Professional Dog Trainers and Behaviorists: Chicago

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Copilot Dog Training

Margaret Fraser is a Chicago based certified dog trainer (CPDT-KA).  Margaret is also certified in fear free methods.  As a certified trainer, she relies on positive reinforcement training with a focus on science-based methods.  Margaret services the North and west sides of Chicago and some nearby suburbs. Other areas are possible depending on availability. She also offers virtual sessions.  Margaret is also the co-founder of Rescue Chicago.

I Got This Sit Dog Training

I Got This Sit dog training offers day training, private training sessions, Live In & Learn packages (14-21 day private consultations), behavioral boarding, Reactive Rover classes (for dogs that have an overreaction to triggers in their environment, Reactive Rover Meet-ups and services for rescues.  They do not work with dogs that have separation anxiety.   

Dog Behavior Solutions Inc.

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Insight Animal Behavior Services

Insight Animal Behavior Services is led by Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist, Dr. Kelly C. Ballantyne, along with an amazing team of Veterinary Behavior Residents, Veterinary Nurses and Behavior Consultants. The team at Insight is ready to help you address your dog or cat's behavioral issues by sharing their knowledge of animal behavior and the science of behavior change.

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Kelley Bollen's
Behavior Tips for Dogs and Cats

Kelley Bollen has a Master's Degree in Animal Behavior, is a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant (CABC)

and a professional member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC).

Kelley is a nationally recognized expert in the field of shelter behavioral care and has worked with animal welfare organizations for over 20 years.  For more information about Kelley Bollen please visit her website.

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