On a daily basis, people are searching for dog behaviour training and are walking away disappointed. In some cases, they now also have a traumatic experience of training and have damaged their bond and trust with their dog. People are putting trust in ‘professional’ trainers and quite frankly, these cowboys and cowgirls are far from professional. It is heartbreaking to hear the stories and see the damage that is being caused. The sad fact is that anyone can call themselves a dog trainer and offer dog behaviour training as there is currently no legislation or regulation in Queensland, meaning our pets are being exposed to harmful methods that are not based on scientific evidence.
This means it is entirely up to owners to try and work out what good dog behaviour training looks like and sadly, social media and the internet can be our worst enemies as again, it is not regulated or filtered. As a behavioural trainer, I cringe when I see posts asking for advice on social media as invariably, there is a lot of harmful advice being given and taken and it breaks my heart to think of the poor dogs that are being exposed to these methods. I also know that people don’t and can’t always see the whole picture. Behavioural problems or concerns in the human world are often addressed by a qualified psychologist in a therapeutic setting. It really should be no different in the canine community.
So how do you identify dog behaviour training that will be by an appropriately qualified professional?
· Are they listed as a Professional member with the Pet Professional Guild of Australia? The Pet Professional Guild will check all professional members have appropriate qualifications and experience. Professional members also agree to use only methods that will not cause harm and have a scientific basis.
· Ask them if they work and collaborate with a Behavioural Vet. If so, ask if you can you contact that Behavioural Vet for a reference as Vets with membership in the Behaviour Chapter are highly regulated. Any good behaviour trainer will have strong relationships with a Behaviour Vet. Anxiety Disorders can not be treated by a trainer and training alone. Some behavioural issues are so intense and severe that they need medical intervention alongside training, and this is far more common than you would think. If the trainer can’t name a Behaviour Vet and have one speak to their work, then chances are they really don’t have enough experience with behaviour issues and concerns.
· If they mention anything like “alpha”, “pack theory”, “dominance” or being the “leader” then keep on looking as their methods are outdated. Dominance theory has been disproven. Even the researcher who came out with these theories in the 70’s came out 10 years ago to say “Sorry, I got it wrong.”
· Punishment is never necessary with dogs. Corrections and training tools are using punishment-based methods and not only is it not an effective way to learn but it also doesn’t address the underlying emotion. It is scientifically proven to increase anxiety and aggression. Any trainer who says they are a “balanced” trainer is using punishment as well as reinforcement.
· Police handlers and ex-police dog trainers are a huge red flag for potentially being very outdated and harmful. They use shock collars and many punishment-based techniques.
· Board and train programs can be one of the most harmful and traumatic things you can put your dog through. Even if they say they don’t use punishment, you can’t know what happens behind closed doors and they are not always honest.
Ask for a referral
II hope that helps you in your dog trainer search and honestly, this doesn’t have to be me. I am more than happy to refer to other trainers as there are plenty of good ones out there. I do this because I love dogs and I want to see dogs live their best lives and I am not the only person who can help you with that. Please feel free to email anytime with the area you are in and I can let you know who might be local and can help you without doing harm.