If you are looking for a dog trainer, it’s important that you realize that there is no regulating or governing body for the dog training profession. In fact, anyone can claim to be a dog trainer and anyone can claim to be a “master trainer” or a “certified trainer” from XYZ Institute and anyone can open the XYZ Dog Training Institute! It’s also important to know that someone calling themselves a “behaviourist” may have no formal behavioural education at all. That makes your job a little bit harder because you now have to do some research on your own.
There is one organization founded in 1993 who is making an effort to become the source for current and positive guidelines, continuing education and a gathering place for dog trainers in the form of a professional organization – The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (the APDT). They are the world’s largest dog association and have a large, international membership. They hold an annual 5-day conference for trainers with a constantly changing array of speakers each year. Trainers associated with them are included in a database of information that can be used as a resource by the general public.
(From the APDT website)
Who is the APDT: “The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) is a professional organization of individual trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through education.” The APDT Mission Statement: “Promoting caring relationships between dogs and people by educating trainers in canine behaviour and emphasizing professionalism and reward-based training.” Please watch this Video Link of Dr. Ian Dunbar – founder of the APDT giving a lecture on Dog Friendly Dog Training in 2007.
It’s always a good idea to watch a dog trainer at work teaching other people how to work with their dogs. You need to be comfortable with the methods that someone uses and also with the way they handle dogs – are they patient and kind or impatient and rough? Are they open to having you ask questions about what they are doing and their philosophy? Beware of trainers who use terms like “dominance” and “alpha” and “pack hierarchy” – these are frequently misused and inaccurately applied. Refer to the Position Statement on Dominance by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour: Link to Position Statement
I think the most important question for a dog trainer today is “how are you continuing to educate yourself”? There has been a lot of changes in the dog training profession over the past 20 years and it requires some serious commitment of interest, time and an investment of money to keep up to date. It’s important that trainers are open to change and willing to try new methods in the interest of the mental, emotional and physical welfare of dogs. It’s the whole dog that’s important and how we can help educate their guardians to give them the best possible life and relationship with us. We need to be willing to change our “tried and true” methods and toss away the egos at the door to the training centre!