Similar to the veterinary profession, there is a common misconception that animal behaviourists generate a lucrative income. This piece is intended for both pet owners and veterinary professionals to explain and define the cost of a consultation with a clinical animal behaviourist.
An online search (Google) was undertaken using the phrase "clinical animal behaviourist UK". Using the first five pages generated of relevant practitioners, and consultation prices for a dog were recorded. The price of behaviour consultations ranged from £90 to £400 to see a clinical animal behaviourist (CAB). The average consultation price was calculated from the online results and combined with results from a survey of members of the British Veterinary Behaviour Association. The combined average consultation price comes to roughly £250.
Many people may view £250 for a two to three-hour consultation as excessive. During the consultation, the behaviourist will thoroughly discuss, observe and assess the dog's problems, so let’s break down the full process of a typical consultation, minus the consultation, into time.
The above table of the behaviour case process totals eleven hours 30 minutes. However, most behaviourists provide free follow-up calls and emails for three months to assess your animal’s progress and adapt your behavioural modification plan. So, we will approximate follow-up time as an extra three hours; however, it is likely to be much longer for complex cases. That brings us to 14.5 hours. As you can see from the figure below, the consultation is only part of the package.
CAB’s are required to be insured which is approximately £15 per month, maintain a high-level of continual education. They bring a range of equipment to the consultation (treats, muzzles, toys etc). They also need to pay professional fees and tax. Furthermore, veterinary behaviourists often have to write off-licence prescriptions as many psychotropic drugs are not licence for pets. This can be time consuming; however, many do not charge for this.
The approximate annual professional costs that a behaviourist typically pays comes to a total of £1,080. Between fifty dogs a year, that is £21.60.
Let’s calculate, based on our approximations, what a CAB makes in profit from the consultation price. From the £250, 20% is taxed. Minus our £21.60 for insurance, fees, equipment, and CPD, that leaves £179.40 profit to the behaviourist. Broken down into an hourly rate spent on one dog, the behaviourist roughly makes £12.37 an hour.
In addition to this, animal behaviourists need to maintain a vehicle to access patients in their homes, pay for phone and internet use, which are not factored into this assessment.
In comparison to a trainer, CAB’s generally have a veterinary, psychology, or animal behaviour undergraduate degree, and very often have postgraduate qualifications in animal behaviour and welfare. Which is a common prerequisite to become a certified practitioner. Besides education, CAB’s are required to gain substantial experience and assess a range of cases before they can become certified. They are adept at reading pets’ body language and adapting the consultation to your needs and learning style. Combined with education, it can take at least seven years to become a certified animal behaviourist.
Dog trainers typically charge £30 to £50 (often more) per hour, which may seem more financially desirable; however, owners often end up attending numerous sessions, and ultimately end up paying more than the behaviour consultation price.
It is also of note that many insurance companies cover behaviour consultations with certified practitioners.
Compared to other professions of similar education and experience, behaviour consultants are paid far less. Entry or graduate level jobs would be far more lucrative; yet, animal behaviourists wish to use their skills and knowledge to improve both owner and pets’ emotional state, and to prevent relinquishment and euthanasia.