Friday, 24 October 2008

The Regulation of Animal Training

The Companion Animal Welfare Council is currently looking into regulation of Dog Training. A report was released recently by CAWC with recommendations. The CAWC report can be viewed here

Currently there is no regulation and anybody can set themselves up in businesses and call themselves a dog trainer, behaviourist, whisperer or listener. There is also a wide variety of prices too.

Until there is regulation all I can say is buyer beware.

Dog Training
When looking for a training class. Look for clicker trainers or ones that use food and toys. Go and have a look first. One bad experience for your dog may take months or years to rectify.

Puppy Training
Badly run Puppy socialisation classes cause behaviour problems. These are the most important weeks of your puppy’s life and these should be taken by experienced instructors. Letting the learner instructors take a puppy class shows the head instructors lack of understanding of the importance of getting it right at this time.
Some socialisation classes are just training classes with puppies in and there is not much if any socialisation going on at all.

Dog Behaviour
All dog trainers should have a basic understanding of dog behaviour but if your dog has behaviour problems then the chances are a class is not the ideal environment for your dog.
I would recommend if your dog has behaviour problems then seek the advice of a qualified behaviourist, meaning they have recognised certificates and/or University Qualifications. Behaviour is a science and should be studied.

What is reward based training
Choices of which methods you use show your consideration of the mental well being of your pet.
People and some trainer’s perception of what reward based training is can vary a great deal.

Dogs being checked on half checks, choke chains or pinch collars for pulling on the lead is not reward based training.
Rattle Cans/Bottles are not reward based training
Water Sprays are not reward based training
Spray, remote or electric collars are not reward based training
Scruffing or alpha rolls are not reward based training
Throwing chains at dogs is not reward based training
These are very ‘old school’ methods and the more current kind methods work better and take into consideration the mental wellbeing of the animal. These old school methods remind me of how years ago bears dancing was acceptable. It saddens me that dogs are still allowed to suffer in the name of dog training.

Also be aware giving a few random treats during a class is poor reward based training
Reward based training is where the good behaviour is reinforced using timing methods that have been extensively studied over many many years. The triggers/motivators of the bad behaviour are identified and removed, an alternative is then offered and taught. This means the animal does not suffer any pain, or fear and can learn effectively without stress. Most importantly the animal still feels it has some control of its life.

Qualifications and Membership
Look to see if the trainer has any qualifications or memberships and what these organisations criteria are. There are some out there that only require payment of membership. Some have their own courses that anyone could pass, some are just theory. Others only give a few weeks training and you can declare yourself an expert!!
The CAWC report gives an overview of the main organisations and how they work and details of the courses trainers can do. You should know what these letters mean after peoples names, before you buy into them and put your pet under their supervision.

Years of Experience
There are some excellent trainers out there with no formal qualifications but have been on many seminars, training days and are very good at training dogs. There are others who have trained for years and have always been rubbish at it and still are.

Hobby Clubs
Some clubs are run by people who like dogs, have a bit of experience in training and enjoy it. These people may not have the ability to work outside of the box when something doesn’t go to plan and can address a issue in a highly inappropriate manner. These trial and error situations can be at the expense of your dog. A puppy was recently seriously injured on a choke chain by a hobby dog trainer.

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