Time To Raise The Bar

dog on pavement with caption training shouldn't hurtThere are few fields in which having grown up either performing a task or with the student, is enough to qualify one as a professional and justifies charging for one’s services. Unless of course we are talking about dog trainers.

I grew up reading and might be able to teach plenty of kids to read but if your kid has dyslexia it would be wiser to choose someone with an education in reading science. I’ve been driving a car since I was 15 but I hold no delusions that I could be a good race car driver because of it. I’ve been feeding myself for decades, and I’m still alive, but it doesn’t qualify me to charge people for nutritional advice.

There is a science of animal behavior. How animals learn has been studied and researched for decades. Ignoring this and continuing to train dogs based on one’s own personal system that deviates from the science, would in any other field leave one open to criticism and possibly criminal prosecution. But not so in dog training. ANYONE can call themselves a dog trainer or behaviorist, and label the criticism close-mindedness or jealousy. I’ve been training dogs since I was a toddler (what else is holding out my cracker and getting the dog to come to me to take it if not training) but it’s no reason to hire me or seek me out for advice.

Dog training is an unregulated industry with no accepted standards outside of those established by professional groups, and they vary even between groups. Before you let anyone put a hand or piece of equipment on your dog, or encourage you to do so yourself, stop. Don’t let their confidence, arrogance or even big words or concepts sway you. You may end up paying a bigger price than you thought.


12 comments so far

  1. Abby on


  2. pawsforpraise on

    Thank you – competency in learning theory is a must for dog trainers, especially those who deal with fearful or reactive dogs, since fear is so easy to install and so difficult to remove. I highly recommend your book, and your Facebook page to all.

  3. jan on

    I have been curious about this. Is there a reason that dog trainers are not required to be licensed as almost every other profession is?

    • fearfuldogs on

      It’s a good question Jan and I’m not sure why it is the case. At some point a society decides that someone or something is worth protecting and enacts laws and regulations to try to ensure that. Fortunately there is a strong coalition of educated behaviorists and skilled and ethical trainers ready to step up to provide guidance when people finally put their foot down and say “enough is enough” stop abusing the vulnerable.

  4. rangerskat on

    You’re preaching to the choir here. With my first dog, Ranger, I approached one of the trainers at a big box store about a basic training class. When Ranger got all excited about the interactions and barked she grabbed a bottle of lemon juice and without my permission gave him a cap full. I had no idea what she was planning or I would have body blocked her but this was so foreign to any sort of training with which I was familiar that I didn’t catch on until too late. Fortunately, Ranger reacted to it about like he would have if she’d given him an unexpected cap full of water. Needless to say we didn’t join any of her classes but found a trainer that knew about learning theory and positive methods. When it came time to find a trainer for Finna I knew a lot more and was very careful to research the trainers before I ever approached any of them. If someone had treated Finna like that big box trainer treated Ranger she’d have their hand off. I’m still looking for a house sitter with whom I’d feel comfortable leaving Finna. So far none of them have passed muster enough to even be allowed to meet my damaged dog.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Good heavens Ranger barked!? The nerve of him, what does he think he is…..a dog? 😉

  5. Catherine McBrien on

    It’s not just dog training that requires no certification or education, the same criticism has long been leveled at horse trainers who can “hang out a shingle” with no formal or informal educational requirements. And believe me, I’ve seen lots of bad horse trainers as well as downright cruel horse trainers.

    I of course believe that certification is a good idea but given the widely divergent views on animal training and the lack of state resources to administer and regulate professional licenses in the animal training field, I am doubtful that animal trainers will ever be certified.

    • fearfuldogs on

      When I learned how horses were/are trained it shocked me. Hobbling, how horrific is that! I agree that achieving standardization will be a bumpy road but though there may be divergent views on animal training, there is a body of science to support which of those views will warrant inclusion. And we are seeing it happen in other parts of the world (outside the US) with animals being granted certain civil rights and pieces of equipment being outlawed for use. Poco a poco.

  6. Natasha on

    There is a movement to let people teach in schools without credentials. And to stop paying them for extra knowledge and experience. It’s been going on a long time. Knowledge and experience NOT important? The world is upside down.

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