How to Choose a Dog Trainer: Why Education and Credentials Matter
Would you go to a doctor who had not attended medical school?
Would you hire a lawyer to represent you in court if they had no education or understanding of the theory of law?
Would you trust a teacher for your child if they said their educational philosophy came from a "gut feeling" about how to teach children?
I am going to guess that you answered No to these questions.
Thankfully, the industries mentioned above have regulations and requirements in place for people to practice as professionals. Unfortunately, dog training has no such regulation in place. This means that any person off the street can call themselves a dog professional and advertise training services. This means that you could be spending hundreds to thousands of dollars on a "professional" who is going to give you bad advice.
But... it's just dog training. There can't be that much to learn to be a professional in the industry.... right? Wrong.
Unfortunately, there are still a wide variety of methods that are used to change behavior in dogs. Celebrities on TV are still giving us the wrong idea about how we should handle behavior problems with our canine friends. The theory that dogs are trying to dominate us and need to be "put in their place" has luckily been debunked and disproven. (Resource here.) Dogs do not need to be threatened or hurt in order to live in harmony with us and be a part of our families. The scientific community is learning more and more about dogs, the way they think and learn, and the most effective and humane ways for us to interact with them all the time. The fact of the matter is that there is still unfortunately a lot of inhumane, conflicting, and dangerous advice out there on how to work with dogs.
So, how do you avoid falling into this trap of uneducated (and quite possibly harmful) guidance from imposters?
Here are a few tips!
Look for certifications and continued education! Below are a few credentials from qualified dog behavior programs. Many of these programs have online directories to find a qualified graduate in your area.
CTC (Academy for Dog Trainers)
KPA-CTP (Karen Pryor Academy)
VSA-CTP (Victoria Stilwell Academy)
Ask about methods. A professional who is following the advice of the most current research and findings will adhere to using force-free methods only. Here is some more information about this research.
Look out for red flags such as:
Guarantees to fix any dog with any behavior problem
Lack of educational background and/or training philosophy on website
Advertising the use of "balanced" training methods. This is just a vague way of saying that the trainer uses inhumane, punishment-based methods which can cause serious harm to your dog
Trust your instincts. If a trainer is telling you to punish or handle your dog in a way that makes you uncomfortable, get yourself and your dog out of there immediately!