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Monthly Archives: January 2012

New Professional Organization for Force Free Pet Pros

I’m happy to announce that I have joined the Pet Professional Guild as a charter member, and have been named to the steering committee.  More to come as we go along, but if you know trainers who are using positive, force free methods please tell them that they now have the opportunity to join an organization whose code of ethics they can trust to be closely aligned with their own.

Dog Training Ethics and Certification at Odds

There are some initials after my name that suggest education in canine behavior, but none of them are “CPDT.”  Some dog trainers, despite our desire for a certification process that helps insure competence, have elected not to test for that designation.  The reason is that, while the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers does not do anything but test, and the organizations are technically separate, the Association for Pet Dog Trainers is largely made up of people who have taken the test, and it is their ethics we question.

Originally formed by the likes of Ian Dunbar, et al, the APDT was intended as an educational organization that would uplift the quality of dog training.  For a while, it seemed as though that might happen.  Then, an odd thing occurred.  Trainers who continued to use choke, prong, and even shock collars, despite the “education” offered through continuing education, became a vocal enough crowd to influence APDT policy and ethics, we think for the worse.

Fast forward to a recent decision by CCPDT to lift its ban on the use of shock collars on puppies less than one year old!  That action prompted those of us who practice force free training to want to vomit in our mouths, for lack of a better graphic mental image to capture the disgust we felt.  Effectively, it meant that the the CPDT designation, for all intents and purposes, could NOT differentiate, for the public, the difference between a trainer who uses shock (even on puppies) and one who doesn’t.  The pro’s and con’s of the use of shock collars is fodder for seemingly endless argument between us and them, but suffice to say that the public deserves to KNOW what methods will be used on their dogs, including any possible fallout, so that they can make a decision based on the relationship they want with their dogs and their own moral and ethical values.  They need to be aware of the factions in the dog training world, that there is a rift, and that they have a choice to make.  Obviously, I have made my choice – as both a dog owner and trainer, I do not want to train my own dogs by saying to them, “Do it or it will hurt, ” and I want others to at least have the opportunity to learn what I have learned about there not being any reason to have to cause pain or fear in order to successfully modify a dog’s behavior.

One group, Truly Dog Friendly, agrees with the notion that we do not need to hurt dogs to train them, and it was hoped that they would take up the challenge of forming an organization that would provide certification, etc.  For reasons unknown, it didn’t happen.   But, recently, Niki Tudge, a force free trainer, and owner of Dog Smith, took up the incredible challenge on her own, and formed the Pet Professionals Guild.  Some of us, myself included, have joined as charter members and have high hopes that, at last, in the United States, there will eventually be a certifying organization that guarantees the public a  science AND ethics based force free choice for training their dogs.  People will have the benefit of knowing that their pet professional has assented to some very strong guiding principles. The sad thing is that the public, until now, may not have even realized that there was a choice.  A trainer is a trainer, right?  Wrong!!!

UPDATE March 15, 3016: There is now a certification that is independently tested and does have an ethics requirement. The Pet Professional Accreditation Board:

New England Breed Rescue Groups

New England Breed Rescue Groups

This is a great time of year to adopt!

2011 Christmas Puppy, 2012 Buyer’s Regret?

All those Christmas puppies…  Every year, despite our best warnings against impulse purchases, or against buying litter mates, or against buying from pet stores or the Internet, there is still a flood of Christmas puppies that someone thought would create a joyous holiday and then become the Lassie of their dreams.  And most families do actually survive the first nights at home with a whiny pup, the house training foibles, and the teething stage that puppies all go through.  But, too often, the good idea from December turns into the “I just don’t have the time for this puppy” of January.  This time of year is so sad at animal shelters in much of the country.  While many of the puppies often do find a new home with better prepared families, the unspoken horror is that many older dogs meet their doom because adopters take home those ever so cute puppies and leave the older dogs behind. 

In areas where there are low spay/neuter rates, puppies are sometimes euthanized too.  It’s one of the saddest things in the world to think about those innocent little beings having no where to go.  And, even if they are adopted, shelter workers scramble to find the poor mom a home when all her puppies are finally taken.  Often, she has only days to live when the last one finds a home if she is not taken in by a family or a rescue group.

If you purchased or adopted a puppy for Christmas, and are having second thoughts, before you put that ad in the paper, before you consider giving him away, before you drop him off at the shelter, please consider calling a trainer instead!  Most puppy problems are easily solved, and you might be surprised at how young you can start training that little ball of fluff and just how smart he is. 

One year out of your life, coping with your responsibility to the dog you promised a “forever home” to, can give you 15+ years of amazing pleasure.  (After all, the children who take care of you in your old age are hardly the same people as when they were teenagers, literally driving you crazy.)   A bit of inconvenience now can show your children that pets aren’t disposable and that they must live up to their promises.  A few accidents on the rug now are worth the tail wags of an ancient, loving, faithful dog later.  I promise.  And, I hope you honor yours.