Here we go again, another hot button issue on the periphery of our friend, the dog.  If it’s not training methods, then it’s breed standards, or standards of a particular breeder.  Those are the evergreens.  We might also include the differences between rescuers as opposed to buying from breeders.  Vaccinations against more holistic methods.  Raw feeders v Kibble feeders…The arguing goes on no matter the subject.  It is my belief that, as dog people we will soon be completely unable to stop outside factions from taking control of our interests, because we can’t agree on anything that really matters.  When I posted a challenge to my readers to find something that we ALL do agree on, I was disappointed in the answers.  Most were based on emotion.  And while I agree with the sentiment, “We all want what’s best for our dogs.”  it doesn’t really protect us from the onslaught of rules and legislation that some would impose on dog-owners everywhere.  So I’m going to wade into the latest attempt to prevent good people from practicing what they love most, and are most skilled at doing.  Much of the problem comes from those with “Certification”, “Title” or “Degree”, but little experience.  Education, but little instinct for the art.  Desire for control, but scant leadership ability.

  Should “Dog-Training” require higher education and Licensing from a Controlling Organization in order to protect consumers and ensure that Positive Methods of Training are observed?

This is the latest skirmish among those of us in the canine professions, and there is at least a small group that would love to make it a subject of Governmental legislation.   Not to put too fine a point on the subject, but most of the sturm und drang, encouraging more control and necessitating expensive licensing, is coming from those that follow the Purely Positive philosophies.  Many of them have an alphabet soup of degree’s that they love to place after their names wherever they can find space for them.  They complain against, and harbor real hatred for individuals such as Cesar Millan, who has no degree hanging from his wall.  Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not entirely in Millans camp either, but he may be the foremost authority on being demonized and hated by fellows in the industry.   Anyone that can rightfully say that they practice anything similar are also demonized by the “Other Side.”  And truly, Cesar Millan is only the tip of an iceberg that would have crushed the Titanic, as opposed to the minor, but effective damage that  hunk of frozen water caused.

The largest impetus behind this legislation of “Certification”, seems to be, ubiquitously, filthy lucre.  Money.  With a dash of  “do it MY way, or don’t do it at all.”  Check out the websites of the various “professional” organizations that claim to represent “Dog Trainers/Training” as an industry.  None of what they offer is inexpensive, although some of the programs may have benefits.  Pay the charge, and you may be allowed to train with one of several big names in the industry.  Pay more and you’ll be given credentials, some without ever having to meet the individual responsible for teaching you.  Assembly line “certification”.  But under the proposals of an elite cadre of individuals, those payers would still be able to hang out a shingle “legally.”  And make no mistake, they are overwhelmingly instructed, indoctrinated, and walking lock-step with the Purely Positive mind-set coven.  Their intent is too force everyone to lose the use of certain tools, techniques, and methods that stand out from Purely Positive.  Don’t believe this can happen?  Then why are German Trainers forced to hide and deny use of training collars or various types?

Keen observation of this situation fascinates me.  I get to see  dog-training from several divergent perspectives.  First, The Law Enforcement K9 trainers.  Second, The IPO/  schutzhund/PSA  perspective.  Third, The Service/Therapy dog perspective, and finally, The Pet Dog/Rescue/Boarding facility perspective.  They couldn’t be more different.

In the Schutzhund/IPO/Law enforcement world, Performance Is The Proof of a good, solid, trainer.  There’s no obsession over who holds what degree, what Trainer Organization pay homage (and cash) too.  What matters, is what the dog has learned under your guidance.  Word of mouth is the best advertising, and the weak and unskilled, or ego-driven can’t survive.  And they don’t.  Yes, there are plenty who claim great skill in training protection/sport/LE dogs, but they soon fall victim to their own failures.  Performance is the primary judge in this arena.

The Therapy/Service dog arena has hitherto been a world of people wanting sincerely to help.  Good people more concerned with capable, skilled, dogs than who trained the dog.  But I see disturbing trends in this system.   over certification, outside interests controlling what types of training are mandated, outside interests trying to change where Service dogs are welcome, businesses restricting access to PTSD/Emotional support dogs, and more.  Alongside those problems, there are people selling credentials to anybody that wants to walk an untrained dog anywhere they please, whenever they please.  The Service Dog problems are two-headed and complex.  I don’t know where the balance will come from, but there’s a real battle ahead.  This area needs discussion and balanced administration.  I hope that those involved have the wisdom to find ways to continuing to provide these valuable working dogs to people that desperately need them.

Finally, the Pet Dog industry.

You’d find more rules/laws in Port Royal, Jamaica circa 1655.  Anybody can hang out a sign and print business cards and call themselves a “Dog Trainer”.  But don’t get me wrong, I support that right.  Success or failure should come from the hand of the consumer.  If a dog trainer doesn’t produce successfully trained dogs/owners, the market and word of mouth will eliminate them.  Trainers of ALL methods.  Trainers with an alphabet soup of degrees after their names, and trainers with nothing more than skill and experience to bolster them.  This then is where the ugliness rears it’s head.

A small but loud group of individuals, coupled with others that smell money in the water, see a fur-covered gold-mine in them thar’ hills.  These people want very specific laws and standards to be mandated upon everybody, with subsequent denial of licences or certification as support.  Most of those in this group are from the Purely Positive training cabal.  Only their way is the right and proper way.  Most of them seem to care more about controlling how others train than actually training themselves.  If they had to prove that their methods are totally successful, by producing results of lasting effectiveness, then the open market would soon eliminate them.

The blogs, FB pages, and books that are published by this crowd seeth with contempt toward anyone that dares question “Science”, and the modus operandi of the Purely Positive Crowd.  Anyone without the “required” titles given by the “professional” dog trainers associations is considered unfit for the public to seek help from.  This attitude has become so vitriolic that certain trainers are even adopting an outward appearance of supporting the militant minority of PP.

Does anyone prove their skill, talent, or instincts with a display of which seminars they’ve attended or which Dog Training Organization they mollify with lucre, or how many acronyms follow their name on a business card?  Like the politics of our time, it seems the Least qualified keep getting elected because they have the media on their side, or the money to overwhelm any opposition.  And the least qualified become the voice of Canine Behavior because our society is impressed with academic achievement and the fallacy that education is the end-all-be- all of our profession.  It’s time for proof.  Go out and Prove you are a skilled dog trainer.  Train people, train dogs, and do so in a way that stands the test of time and professionalism.  Work in such a way that doesn’t rely on bashing other trainers and their methods or philosophy of dog behavior.  If you feel the need to challenge someones opinion or methods or lack of qualifications to train dogs, let YOUR ABILITIES prove it, not your word processor, or even worse, words spoken loudly from the relative anonymity of the internet.  That being said, be happy to know that there ARE schools for dog trainers that are quite good, and worth their cost.  But only because they teach you to decide what works best for you, not a militant curriculum of their own.

My personal solution to these arguments is to do what I do regardless of anyone else’s “opinion” of what I “should” be doing.  My success will speak to my clients, not my influences.  We need more legislation like we need new holes drilled in our skulls.

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Comments
  1. Excellent read. Experience and skills are what matter. The best trainers I’ve encountered are not part of the latest fad group of “certified” trainers. If we have a little friendly competition amongst the dogs I think I know which side would prevail. ; )

  2. Greg Hollen says:

    I like it being the wild west. Good trainers succeed and bad trainers fail. Word of mouth is the lifeblood of our industry. This is capitalism as it should work. Are there lousy trainers out there? Why, yes, yes there is. There will always be good and bad no matter the “legislation”. Legislation would make the situation worse since it would be written by who has the current influence on the legislature.

  3. Ron Dorazio says:

    I didn’t see any possible solutions. The purely positive crowd wants to force legislation to ban our tools of the trade. What can we do to stop them?