Sunday, September 20, 2015

STOP in the name of dog!

Transparency: the condition or state of being transparent which simply means the condition or state of being honest and open. Not secretive. What does this have to do with dog training? A lot.

Dog Training is a very unregulated industry. One can call themselves a dog trainer right now. Within minutes you can have a professional looking website, have business cards printed, start a Facebook page and call yourself a professional dog trainer. Question is are you one? 

Professional: a person engaged or qualified in a profession

The industry's lack of guidelines and laws concerning the various professions in the pet care world make it a desirable place for many to start their own businesses without any prior knowledge or experience in that field. The only profession that is regulated is that in the Veterinary field. All others such as groomers, walkers, sitters and trainers are not bound by regulations other than city and/or county laws of running a business. Most pet care providers don't comply with those laws either. They are neither registered with the city and/or county, have insurance or the required licenses to run their business.

My personal interest goes to the "About" page. What have they done to become a dog trainer? Where did they gain their knowledge? Are they self-taught? How do we know if these people really know what they are doing? This is where I ask you to STOP and think! 

For someone to call themselves "professional" the requirement should be: special education, training and skills relating to that specific job. Self taught is absolutely acceptable but then have your knowledge tested and/or certified to ensure you provide the services you get paid for and follow ethical rules in the treatment of dogs by using methods that do not include pain and fear as training methods.

Any educated dog professional will proudly and without hesitation provide all that information. They are transparent! They will provide a clear overview of their education and provide clear answers on the methods they use. Thanks to scientists such as Skinner, Pavlov, Watson and Thorndike we have the knowledge we have today of dog training. We know for a fact that dogs learn two ways: through association and through consequence or better known as Classical and Operant Conditioning. Thousands of experiments support the animal learning theory and the theory has successfully been applied to millions of animals. Sadly we have trainers that make up their own theories when it comes to dog training. Claiming to have developed a new method when it all comes pretty much down to above mentioned ways of how dogs learn. Some use force and some don't.

Trainers that use the good stuff (food, play, access to other dogs, toys, etc) in training are the trainers that provide clear information on their websites! All others are usually pretty vague and often manipulative in their description. 

Here is a great example of an "about page" of a random dog trainer and self-proclaimed behaviorist. 

"... She has since been educated in animal behavior as well as canine obedience and training. [Name] holds a BS degree from ##### University and a Masters from #####  University. “ Two sentences glued together almost on purpose providing no substantial information about the education. It almost seems like this person is trying to camouflage the part that is important: “educated in animal behavior as well as canine obedience”. The question here is where? Not at University Number 1 and 2. A quick research provided that the person in question got their degree MS, Math & Computer Science and their Masters in MBA, Marketing and Finance. None of the degrees have anything to do with animal behavior or training. Marketing at its best but not in your best interest.

Another interesting point here is the use of the word "behaviorist." The trainer in this case is misusing the term behaviorist. She has no education in the field. Is it allowed? Regretfully it still is. It is deceitful and unjust for anyone to use that term unless they have been educated in the field. 

"Animal behaviorists are behaviorists that focus on companion and domestic animals, such as dogs and horses, or they may concentrate their studies on animals in the wild. Behavior topics can include what causes certain behaviors, why the animal exhibits that behavior and how the particular behavior influences the behavior of other animals."

Degree level: Bachelor's degree for entry-level positions in the field/ master's or doctoral degree for animal behaviorist positions. 

Here is another example of an "about page" but one of an educated trainer:

"[Name] is a graduate of Jean Donaldson’s world-renowned SF/SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers, and holds a post-graduate honors Certificate in Curriculum Development & Design, and a graduate degree in Social Work. She is a certified professional dog trainer, holding her CPDT from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, and is a professional member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers." The trainer did mention the other degrees but was very clear where the knowledge of dog training came from and what else she did to be a dog trainer. 

Another good way to identify a qualified dog trainer from an unqualified one is the terminology. If you see words such as methodology, dominance, alpha, pack animals, pack leader, energy, empathic dog training, corrections, commands, understanding the way dogs think, respect, submission, alpha rolling, can full of pennies, helicoptering, tapping, slip leads, every dog has their own unique approach, etc. you know you are venturing into the world of dog trainers who practice training based on the dominance theory. See references for further information.

Terms you should look for:

Those words provide you a clear answer which means these professionals train without pain!


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