What Every Pet Owner Needs To Know About Dog Trainers

1. Dog training is an unregulated industry. This means ANYONE can tap themselves on the shoulder with a sword and pen and ink cartoon of panting  hound doganoint themselves a; trainer, behaviorist, whisperer, dog psychologist, rehabilitator, nanny, etc.

2. Dog training is an unregulated industry. This means anyone can anoint themselves as the certifier of; trainers, behaviorists, whisperers, dog psychologists, rehabilitators, nannies, etc.

3. Dog training is an unregulated industry. This means there are no standard operating procedures that any of the above “professionals” needs to follow in order to have business cards printed, websites built or cash your check.

4. Dog training is an unregulated industry. This means anyone can recommend the use of pinching, shocking, squirting, startling, choking, hitting, poking, kicking, rolling, etc., to end unwanted behaviors.

5. Dog training is an unregulated industry. This means anyone can put treats in their pocket, spray their pants with lavender oil and call themselves a “positive-only” trainer.

6. Dog training is an unregulated industry. This means that someone can handle a dog in ways that causes them pain or distress.

7. Dog training is an unregulated industry. This means that should someone handle your dog in a way that causes pain and distress and there is a degradation in your dog’s behavior, they can blame you and/or the dog, you will have little to no recourse and they will have moved on to their next victim.

8. Dog training is an unregulated industry. This means that people are free to ignore the evidence indicating that there is the likelihood of seeing a degradation in a dog’s behavior, including increased aggression, should they be handled in ways that cause pain and/or distress.

9. Dog training is an unregulated industry. This means that pet owners, rescue groups and shelters, are at-risk of being manipulated by misinformation presented by the unregulated.

10. Just because dog training is an unregulated industry doesn’t mean that some of us are not preparing ourselves and learning to train as though it was.


60 comments so far

  1. Jim Crosby on

    THANKS AGAIN DEBBIE! You, as you usually do, ht the nail on the head. I always tell potential clients: the trainer should 1) NEVER do anything they can’t do right in front of you and 2) IF YOU FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE WITH ANYTHING A TRAINER DOES or wants to do they should honor your request and find another way.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks Jim! Appreciate you taking the time to read.

    • Pam on

      You know, on point #2 I am starting to think that a good question to ask a potential trainer is, “In the past, when an owner has not wanted to follow through with your training methods, how have you handled that?” If they start spouting off about people who are too soft-hearted or unwilling to discipline the dogs firmly to get the point across … well, that just weeded them right out 🙂

  2. the4leggedking on

    So let me get this right…what you are saying is, “Dog training is an unregulated industry. Therefore any idiot can claim they are a dog trainer. Did I get it? 🙂

    • fearfuldogs on

      ummmmm…..yup. I guess all too often that just about sums it up.

    • Blair Anderson on

      Look to your trainers affiliation with and attendance of conferences, etc., the likes of force free guild, association of pet dog trainers etc. Believe me, I get folk who have interfaced with trainers whose claim ‘of skill’ has been watching Cesar Milan video’s. and have zero teacher training to boot. Yep, alpha rolls are still taught, along with aversive corrections and other punishers. However when anyone asks me, am I a positive trainer, I always say No! (it is meant to show that I understand what positive training is and when the eyebrows go up I assure them that just depriving your Dog of ‘a treat’ is a punisher as is walking out of the room…. )

      I prefer to say, 20+ years, more than a thousand dogs and a success profile others would envy,and failures I can count on maybe, both hands. Help me keep it that way….

      Just because it is unregulated, doesnt mean reputation isnt valued or make ‘our job’ less important.

      /Blair ‘less leash, more control’ Anderson

  3. Michele on

    Debbie what you’ve blogged is so true. Here in Australia we had a TV Program on one of our free to air channels last night (Thursday), it was Louise Theroux looking at dogs in LA, amongst other things. Someone announced themselves as a positive dog trainer and all the dogs in the class had prong collars on!!!!

    • fearfuldogs on

      It’s kind of Orwellian isn’t it?- Telling people that the use of pain, fear or intimidation is “positive.” Creepy.

      • Alanna G Dickey on

        Technically it is positive…positive punishment. Negative results however. I hate all positive punishment methods of “training” as they don’t train, they instill fear.

    • Tammy on

      No way in hell is anyone putting a prong or choke collar on any of my babies.

  4. dogconnect on

    As always I enjoy your blog. Well written. I love the bullet points! Nathalie

  5. Linda Kightley on

    Sadly this is so true. In everything there is always people that buy gadgets to cure what ever is ailing their beloved pet and use them because the trainer has recommended them.
    There has been lots of cruelty in the name of Dog/animal training. I personally spent money to gain the right to be a positive animal/dog trainer. Hopefully all that deal with our beloved pets will do the same. Therefore we the pupils have something to see when enrolling in classes.

    • fearfuldogs on

      More and more pet owners are questioning what is appropriate because they don’t want to be confused by all the different “methods.” We have an opening to educate, and hopefully at the very least can get the point across that good trainers don’t need to hurt or scare dogs in order to change behavior.

  6. Natasha on

    Education of children is regulated in many ways, yet a person can graduate from an accredited college of education and teach anywhere within an enormous range of techniques, proven to be more or less successful, with a huge range of results… The person can be promoted past the probationary period whether or not they teach the school’s curriculum, etc. Two teachers can approach the same curriculum with very different techniques and receive the same evaluation. I won’t go on. It’s frustrating.

    • fearfuldogs on

      I understand your frustration.

      • Natasha on

        It’s frustrating for you too! I think with dogs, we are talking more about conditioned response than the way we talk about learning with people, and that justifies narrowing the parameters. In addition, it becomes more specific as to what a good trainer should understand even though, nonetheless, there are still arguments about approaches…. I think the best way you have described the importance of positive techniques, and doing it properly, is first when you state that if animals CAN learn with a kinder appoach, aren’t we who are trusted with their care obligated to do so. And second, you support this by stating that demanding behaviors through fear doesn’t result in long-term changes the way positive methods do!

  7. Cora on

    This is something that makes me worried too – I do put out hints and tips for what’s worked for us (I have a very fearful rescue dog) in case it might work for others – but I worry about all the differing opinions – and who to listen to – really glad I’ve found this blog.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Glad you found it too! The problem is that hints and tips are usually not enough for helping some of the more challenged dogs. I know that with the online age people can’t help but try to look for answers, but often the best answer is; find a professional who knows what they are doing. And of course therein lies the problem for most pet owners, sorting through the “professionals.”

  8. Nick Cusimano on

    That is something to take into consideration but I think people need to keep in mind that trainers are human and they are not miracle workers.

    • fearfuldogs on

      It is true that trainers are not miracle workers, and we are human, but we can be more educated humans when it comes to behavior analysis and modification 🙂

  9. anin12 on

    11) dog Training is unregulated, anyone can self publish a book, enter paying contest to establish credibility pander to dog trainers at their seminars, yet have zero actual information and credibility for training.

  10. pawsforpraise on

    Shared this on my social media channels. Our education will stand us in good stead some day as consumers become more aware.

    • fearfuldogs on

      And we know it’s already paying off by having a better understanding of the most efficient and humane ways to train.

  11. Working Dog Mom on

    There is regulation in the industry of dog training, however I find that very few people are able to understand how to find the right and legitimate trainer for their dog.
    Always ask the trainer:
    1.) What School did you attend? (Tom Rose School or a Military Working dog trainer, ask to see their certificate) And What level did you graduate at? (Professional Dog trainer, Advanced Dog Trainer, Assistance and Guide dog trainer, Working Dog trainer or Master Trainer)
    2.) How many years have you been training? And what type of dogs do you train? (Lets face it you’re not going to take a dog you want to train to be a therapy dog to a Schutzhund trainer)
    3.) What Breeds are you experienced in training and handling?
    4.) What are some behavioral problems you have helped owners with in their dogs? And did it help?
    5.) What kennel clubs do you belong to or affiliations do you have?
    6.) Can my dog and I attend a class before we commit, so that I can make sure we will work well as trainer and client?
    7.) Do you have clients or past clients that I may contact for a reference to your work and techniques as a trainer?
    8.) What techniques do you use to correct undesirable behaviors? And what training aids and tools do you use?
    9.) Are you willing to meet my dog, so I can see how my dog interacts with you? (If the dog doesn’t like the trainer, training will not go well.)
    10.) Do you have any professional dog handling experience? (Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue or Military)

    • fearfuldogs on

      I’m not sure what regulation you are referring to. No one must provide any type of competency in order to call themselves a trainer or behaviorist or doggie psychologist. Your questions are a good idea, but most pet owners don’t have a clue what difference an answer might make.

      • orfan on

        No one must provide any competency, but as point 10 addresses, many do. The presence alone of certifications or titles does not guarantee a better, more competent trainer, or one who uses methods you’re searching for, but it can be a place for an owner to start. How the trainer discusses their credentials, perhaps even researching those a bit, and in my opinion, the trainer *not* presenting him/herself as someone who knows everything, who has nothing to learn, are all good things. Even if a trainer is reading books and watching free webinars, they’re broadening their knowledge base.

    • Xanthe on

      I’ve met military trained dog trainers who used very harsh, outdated methods & had very rigid, authoritarian, ‘my way or the highway attitudes’. I did not recommend these trainers to my pet sitting clients. Clients who had used people with these methods observed harmful effects on their dogs.

  12. Mel on

    Powerful. Sharing this one Debbie. I wish more understood this. I hope your post will help advance that understanding.

  13. Wendy on

    This is a scary article to say the least. I’m so glad when I started training my own dogs at a local obedience club it wasn’t regulated in that there were a variety of options instead of following a specific standard. With regulation usually comes taxes or fees. Be careful what you wish for. Personally I enjoy my freedom to train my dogs my own way, each dog is different.

    • fearfuldogs on

      No regulations. No consumer protection. No standard operating procedures. Not sure it can get much worse than that.

  14. Jadwiga Wencel on

    If a trainer will tell me he is going to train my dog I know is a BS. Good trainers train owners . Most dog problems are created by owner

    • fearfuldogs on

      I will often train the dog and then teach the owner how to cue and maintain the behavior. I can train behaviors much faster than most owners.

  15. Gail Hogan on

    Just discovered this site and hoping it will help with my friend. I adopted Brody a little over a year ago from a local shelter. They had said he was very timid. That was an understatement. He was terrified of cars, going through a doorway and great difficulty walking on a leash, tries to slip collar when scared. He has now overcome these fears; loves to go in car and for walks and no problem coming through door. The one thing I can’t figure out how to help him with is the fear of my adult son. When my son comes in he will growl and run from him. My son keeps saying he doesn’t like me and I tell him no Brody is afraid of him. He has tried giving him treats, talking nice, petting him and nothing seems to help. Any suggestions on approaches to try and help alleviate his fears would be wonderful.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Unfortunately many of these dogs like Brody need a good solid trainer to help, suggestions are often not enough. I hope things have improved for him.

  16. edisonharrington on

    Very well said and on point, one of my peeves is those trainers who tell people they can show them how to potty train a dog in 7 days..or cure aggression in a couple of training sessions..it is no wonder there are so many confused dog owners that are right now this very minute desperately trying to find help to fix the problems inexperienced trainers cause. However regulation can be just as hazardous as it tends to get way out of hand..

    • fearfuldogs on

      Somehow consumers and dogs need to be protected. So far dog trainers have not done a stand up job of self-regulating. At the very least we could have a set of standard operating procedures.

  17. Emma Milly-Lily Lee on

    I just found your blog when looking for information to pass on to an adoptant who is returning a fearful dog after seven days. She took it to a trainer who used flooding within minutes of meeting the dog to try to overcome his dislike of having his back end touched by strangers. The dog bit the trainer repeatedly and the woman couldn’t understand why I was angry. Not only was your info on flooding just perfect to send her but I really wanted to share this with her as well. The trainer is an irresponsible thief who is stealing a living and ruining dogs’ well-being and I wish she’d have gone with her gut reaction about him. Instead, a boundary has been broken, trust has been destroyed and all the dog learned was that humans sometimes don’t understand growls and barks, and a bite is a good way to get them to stop.

    Thanks for your helpful and interesting posts.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Sorry to read this. I hope things turned out ok for the dog. One day a trainer who puts a bite history on a dog or causes the dog to become more afraid of something will be held accountable and sure as heck doesn’t expect to get paid for their efforts.

  18. Jessy Shaw on

    Debbie, a really good friend of mine went to a dog trainer that didn’t really know what he was doing and ended up injuring the dog. Luckily she had a really great pet hospital in her town that fixed the dog up straight away. This is really good information that everyone should know!

    • fearfuldogs on

      Geez, what a terrible thing to have happen. I hope the trainer paid the bill.

  19. Simone Cooper on

    It’s still entirely voluntary, and it only ensures knowledge rather than practice, but the CPDT is a step in the right direction: http://www.ccpdt.org/
    It is financially independent of any particular school or training method, and relies on blind-graded testing.

  20. Janet Goree on

    I have people sign a form agreeing to not use any physical discipline. While of course I can only enforce it in class it gives me an opportunity to talk about it.

  21. Andrew on

    Great post. I’m one of those who went through a private certification process, but I’m constantly updating my knowledge-base and founding my methodology on modern behavioural evidence. As many others will probably attest, the dogs are the (relatively) easy part… it’s the humans that are often the biggest struggle to work with. But, where there is a will… there is a way! 🙂

    • fearfuldogs on

      It’s exciting information and there’s always more to learn. Thanks for your efforts!

  22. I.V on

    I went out and got myself a national qualification as a dog trainer as I saw it important that if I wanted to give any advice I should at least get educated … No matter how much handling I have had in the past! I also don’t go beyond behaviour and obedience anything I think is medical/needing medication I advice they get Vet advice before we continue! I see so many other “trainers” with “20years experience” yet no training using collars on dogs that should not have them used at that age! If you read the collar suppliers info on product you would know not to use it on dogs under 18mths!! Thank you for getting this message out!

  23. Chanters on

    Reblogged this on Come. Sit. Stay! and commented:
    I really like #10. That is definitely our approach at the Ottawa Canine School! I strongly believe in continued education. It was crucial to my former career, and still is now.

  24. Carin Cohen on

    Loved reading this. Would you give permission to print this up and post it? Giving you full credit of course. You should make posters!

    • fearfuldogs on

      Sure. Go for it if you think it will help someone.

  25. Lesley Dipple on

    Sometimes even vets get it wrong, one local practice recommends a trainer I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot barge pole and doesn’t see anything wrong with their training methods.

    • fearfuldogs on

      We do have more to do in regard to the education of other professionals about the dog training industry.

  26. Denise Mcleod on

    And it doesn’t mean there are no good dog trainers our there either. Because Ive met many brilliant ones. That have oodles of experience, love for their clients dogs, commiment, dedication, a real desire to serve dogdom, are willing to stay up all might… Worrying about YOUR problem dog, that go without themselves to help others who have no money to give, that are wide, experienced, help full and kind. Just like all the other unregulated and regulated industries .. . there is good and bad. Go on a personal recommendation… Ask lots of questions… Ask if you can watch their work BEFORE you judge them.

  27. Jennifer Fisk on

    Yes, dog training is an unregulated industry however whose philosophy of training would be used to develop standards? There are all positive trainers I wouldn’t use and there are compulsion trainers I wouldn’t use. I prefer a balanced trainer who teaches a behavior with treats but who also gives timely corrections when warranted. Many trainers wouldn’t like his methods.

    • fearfuldogs on

      It’s not a question not philosophy, it’s a question of science. How are other professions like doctors and electricians regulated? Behavior is lawful. How animals learn is not a question of opinion. How to teach (or train) efficiently and humanely is not something that should be based on personal preference, but rather on the evidence the robust and well documented science of behavior has provided. Trainers either choose to avail themselves of this information or not. Balanced, unbalanced are code words that have no place in the industry. IMO.

  28. Roger M. Pearlman on

    Thank you for sharing this! I printed this out and handed over to my sister who has so much faith for her dog trainer. I really wish people take it seriously and take certification and such!

    • fearfuldogs on

      One day it will be a requirement, but for now owners must do their due diligence when choosing someone who has the potential to do serious harm to their pet, both physically and emotionally. I hope your sister is prompted to consider how her dog is being handled.

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