Finding a dog professional can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task with all the information available on the internet and advice from the public. So how does someone go about weeding through all the options to find themselves their next dog professional? I am glad you asked! Here are my top 5 tips.
Start your search off right by looking for qualifications and certifications. Just simply working with dogs for X amount of years isn’t going to cut it I’m afraid. Education is just as important as experience. Why? Education shows dedication. There is a lot of time, money and effort that goes into professionals acquiring certifications and qualifications in their field (not to mention the wealth of knowledge that gaining that education!). Of course, these degrees or certifications should be in relevant areas. Great job on that BA in marketing Jerry, but how is that going to help you train dogs?!? I didn’t think so.
2. Accreditations, Memberships & Ethics, oh my!
So we now know relevant education is key, but accreditations and memberships will also tell you about a professional and their ethics. The word ethic is defined as “a set of moral principles, especially ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field, or form of conduct”. The prime word in that definition is morals or a set of standards related to behaviour, associated with right and wrong. What an individual considers to be right and wrong can vary, however when we consider that the training and behaviour modification of dogs should run along the same lines as it does with humans (because dogs are creatures with emotions and feelings) ethics should involve not inflicting pain, fear or intimidation into the process. So, when looking for accreditations and memberships associated with professionals look for organizations which do not support the use of tools and methods which inflict pain, fear or intimidation. Thankfully many organizations have search features on their websites where you can find members to make your search even easier!
3. It’s Tool Time!
With the above tip in mind, if the “professional” you are interviewing uses any of the following tools in any of their videos, photos or other media please use the exit nearest to you. Prong collars, choke chains, slip leads, e-collars aka remote collars, vibration collars, shock collars, spray bottles, stones in a can, rolled up towels (aka bonkers). Basically, if it sounds, looks and/or feels wrong – trust your gut.
4. Methologeeeze That Looks Uncomfortable!
So, if you got this far and you are still looking at your prospective professional with optimism, yah! Yet, there is still some digging to do. If they describe themselves as a “balanced” trainer, be prepared to say adiós! If they say that serious behavior issues need any of the tools mentioned in #3, say buh-bye! If they say that they don’t believe positive reinforcement works on every dog, smile and wave! If they try to convenience you that the tools in #3 do any of the following: give you better or clear communication, help your dog to thrive, give your dog confidence, help your relationship, give structure to your training – well I hope you know what to do by now. Byeeeee!
5. Positive Reinforcement ONLY.
We now know what to say ‘no’ to, but what do we say ‘yes!’ to? Say yes to a professional who took the time to educate themselves. Say yes to a professional who is clear about their methods: no pain, no fear and no intimidation. Say yes to a professional who when you look at their videos, photos or media the dogs look relaxed, happy and willing. Say yes to a professional who says yes to food and toys in their training – and relies on these positive reinforcement tools exclusively. Say yes to a professional who gives you a good vibe not from the number of followers they have on social media, but because they are speaking the language of love for dogs by treating them like the amazing, feeling and emotive animals they are.
And one final note, when you find and work with that awesome dog professional leave them a review on their social media. Positive reinforcement professionals LOVE positive reinforcement. Spread some joy their way!