Don’t Be Fooled

The other day, I heard this newscast on NPR about how the Mayor of NYC wants to institute licensing requirements for paid performers posing with children as cartoon or superhero characters on the streets of NYC. Check out the NPR newscast: NYC Considers Licensing Costumed Performers Supposedly, some parents experienced harassment and demands by some of the performers and generally felt unsafe. In the Mayor’s eyes, the licensing requirement would help with oversight and legitimizing the performers while having some accountability measures in place.

Ok, you’re probably like, “this doesn’t have anything with dog training,” but it did spark some thinking on my end on the parallels with licensing dog trainers. Like the situation in NYC with street performers, currently in the United States, there isn’t a centralized licensing body to oversee dog trainers in its many forms. There are numerous schools, organizations and groups which bring together people who are currently trainers or who are interested in dog training. Many of these, like the one’s I’m mentioning are fantastic ones to check out.  An organization like the Association of Pet Dog Trainers or APDT is a forum where dog trainers can become part of its umbrella group and gain access to educational materials which can enhance their practice. On the other end of the spectrum, is the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, CCPDT. This organization is an international testing body which certifies dog trainers. In between, there are schools certifying their students after successful completion of their program and excellent and knowledgeable self taught dog trainers. The plethora of organizing bodies and training approaches within these groups creates some level of confusion in identifying what a dog trainer does and how.  It leaves the consumer thinking which way to go.

Even with the advent of a potential licensing requirement for dog trainers (which may or may not happen), there is still responsibility which falls on the person seeking dog training services.  You may ask, what responsibility exists for the client?  Well, for the client, the responsibility is “don’t be fooled”.  A client has the purchasing power and with that power, I recommend for the client to do your homework.  A licensing requirement for dog trainers will not completely prevent people from abusing or manipulating clients.  I’ll go out on a limb and say that will probably be the case for the street performers in NYC.  Sometimes, people just need to say “no” and walk away!  So, here are a few things that come to mind when seeking dog training services.

First, a client seeking dog training needs to be informed and empowered by accurate information.  Before picking up the phone to call a dog trainer, consider your personal values.  Ask yourself how do I want my dog trained? What methods exist to train my dog?  What are the differences between force-free, positive reinforcement and positive punishment or aversive methods?  Which method do I prefer? What are the theories behind these training methods?  Finally, which one will have the best interest of my dog at heart? Check out some of my previous posts on the subject.    I suggest to really look into the efficacy of each of these training methods and make a choice based on facts for effective long term behavior modification and obedience training.

After you figure out which way to go, interview your trainer.  Ask for any and all training background.  Asking for a dog trainer’s background doesn’t have to stop at certification. Some of the most highly skilled and knowledgeable trainers don’t currently have certifications.   Instead, ask about length of time dog training and in what capacity (any shelter/volunteer work) and if so, ask for the places.  If you choose, you can always contact those other facilities and inquire about their recommendations for a particular trainer.  I suggest asking for an explanation of the theory behind the chosen training method so you can gauge if the training principles are in line with actual training being conducted.

Important to note, dog training will be for the life of your dog.  Training will always take consistency, patience and time on behalf of the pet guardian.  Any trainer claiming to train your dog in several sessions is worth a second, third, fourth thought.  As a consumer, please take the time considering your options and feel empowered in decision making since you took the time in researching and gaining your own understanding of how you want your dog trained. Your knowledge will enable you to choose a dog trainer based on proven methods rather than be bullied or mesmerized by proclamations of quick behavior modification schemes.

A good starting point is checking out APDT Dog Training Search.  This is not an exhaustive list, but its worth checking out.  I would also suggest talking with your veterinarian.   Many trainers are referred by word of mouth, so finding out about referrals by another trusted professional will help alleviate some stress in finding a trainer.

Happy Training 🙂

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