Fifteen years after starting her business, Austin Canine Consulting—and 32 stitches later—animal behaviorist Lauren Hays looks back on her storied career.
Story and photos by Lauren Jones
Lauren Hays is one of only two people in Texas to hold the prestigious title of certified associate animal behaviorist, and she has always had a passion for working with woman’s best friend.
“Even at 10 years old, I was training my big standard collie,” Hays recalls. “I knew I wanted to work with dogs from then on.”
When she began college at Texas A&M University, Hays wanted to become a veterinarian and follow in her sister’s footsteps but soon became intrigued with ethology, the study of animal behavior.
“My ethology professor noticed how interested I was and suggested I apply to the graduate program,” Hays says.
After completing her master’s degree, she started the strenuous process to become a board-certified animal behaviorist.
“You have to have a master’s degree or a Ph.D. and be mentored for two years, plus have letters of recommendation,” Hays says. “Additionally, we have to get recertified every five years. It’s very vigorous.”
Now, after more than a decade working as a dog trainer, Hays has the stories and the scars that have culminated in one fascinating career. And this is just the beginning, as she continues to grow her client base.
From Chihuahuas to great Danes, Hays has trained them all and sees, on average, three clients a day, which has its own challenges. From the time she was bitten by an aggressive Doberman to receiving a puncture wound that bruised her down to the bone, her day-to-day work certainly doesn’t lack excitement.
“Each appointment is intense, not so much physically, but emotionally,” Hays says. “I learned early on that seeing clients back to back was too much.”
For each dog she sees, she first sits down to collect the behavior history, from which she is able to start to uncover what triggers the particular dog and what its motivating factors are. Is the behavior driven by people or is it genetic? With many questions floating through her mind, Hays often likes to reflect on the psychology of her clients while driving through rush-hour traffic.
Many Austinites come seeking Hays’ expertise when their dogs start showing aggressive or unwanted behaviors. The onset of aggressive behavior, whether it’s directed at other dogs walking down the road or at strangers, is often seen between the ages 1 and 3, therefore, many of Hays’ furry clientele fall within that age range.
“Aggression toward people is almost always fear-based, but when it itsn’t, it’s extra dangerous,” Hays says, pointing to her most recent bite. “It’s when the dog isn’t afraid that he or she is more likely to bite you.”
Although she has worked some tough cases, Hays is rarely discouraged.
“It’s such a fun job, and I get to work with very committed owners,” Hays says. “I also get to take a chance on dogs. I once had a woman refer to what I do is that I work in the dark, shadowy corners of dog behavior…but someone has to work with those dogs too.”
Hays’ knowledge of animal behavior has made her one of the best in the business, and she isn’t slowing down any time soon. She is up for recertification next year and continues to provide her services for dogs and the people who love them.
For more information about Lauren Hays and her dog-training services, visit fideliodogs.com. *Lauren Hays is now working with Fidelio Dog Works. Follow them on Instagram at @FidelioDogs.