Who’s Handling Your Dog? – The National Occupational Standards for the Dog Industry

Who’s Handling Your Dog? – The National Occupational Standards for the Dog Industry

The Way of the Dog has taken on several behavioural cases where the root cause has been linked to the activities and actions of, and handling by individuals and businesses paid to take care of or train the dog.

In all of theses cases the evidence suggests a clear and worrying lack of qualification, experience, and knowledge on the part of those individuals and businesses.

From a dog owners point of view, we are unwittingly placing our trust in individuals and businesses who are working outside the limits of their own authority, accreditation, qualification, expertise and experience.

This article has been written to supply dog owners who are seeking the services of any dog based service (where your dog is handled, managed or cared for by somebody other than the dog’s owner) with the recognised minimum standards expected of the service provider.

National Occupational Standards for Dog Handlers

Why do we need standards and regulation?

Pet care in the UK is a multi-million pound industry. This has tempted many individuals to give up main stream professions in pursuit of their dream job, such as working with dogs. This has led to a rise in the various types of dog services available.

Due to a lack of regulation and no defined standards, there have been no barriers for likely entrepreneurs to cross.  On the outside such services might seem like a blessing for those in need of support and assistance; however the variation in standards and lack of regulation is a real concern.

Have you ever stopped to think about who is handling your dog and questioned their ability to do so? Are they qualified and are they adhering to any professional standards? How would you know the standards they are expected to achieve?

With the release of the National Occupational Standards for the Dog Industry, you now have the tools to address these questions.

National Occu[pational Standards

The National Occupational Standards

in the imageIn October 2014, Lantra (sponsored by Government) released the following National Occupational Standards (NOS) following consultation with organisations including the Pet Education Training and Behaviour Council, the Kennel Club, the Canine and Feline Behaviour Association, British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers, Guild of Dog Trainers, and the Cambridge Institute for Dog Behaviour and Training.

The NOS aim to promote criteria that are relevant, accurate, and considered a suitable benchmark for those working with dogs (Lantra, 2014).

In each NOS there is a list of ‘Performance Criteria’ of which the individual professional must be able to demonstrate in addition to a list of ‘Knowledge and Understanding’ that they need to essentially know and understand. The ultimate purpose of these standards is to support the primary aim of protecting the welfare of dogs and to recognise that dogs as a species require a separate NOS and not an all-encompassing approach as set out in Animal Welfare standards.

Each of the NOS documents is available to view, download and print below.

  • LANCTB1 – Observe, Assess and Respond to the Behaviour of Dogs
  • LANCTB2 – Handle and Control Dogs
  • LANCTB3 – Plan and Implement Training Programmes for Dogs
  • LANCTB4 – Plan and Implement Training Programmes for Dogs and Handlers
  • LANCTB5 – Plan and Implement Programmes to Address Undesirable Behaviour in Dogs

NOS for the Dog Industry

Who do the National Occupational Standards apply to?

The standards are relevant to all those who work professionally with dogs such as veterinary paraprofessionals, groomers, walkers and day carers, trainers and behaviourists, those providing therapies of any kind, micro chippers, and by and large anyone who works with dogs on behalf of the public.

The standards documented in LANCTB1 and 2 are aimed at every single person within the dog industry who works with or handles dogs. Any person offering or providing dog training must achieve and adhere to the standards of LANCTB1-4, whilst dog behaviourists must achieve and adhere to LANCTB1-5.

Our View

At The Way of the Dog we feel that all those that choose to work with dogs should be familiar with the National Occupational Standards and aware of the criteria relevant to their practice.

Although the NOS are not currently enforced and only serve as guidelines to those working in the industry they – at the very least – give all dog owners a standard practice of which they can expect to receive if paying for dog services of any kind whether professional or amateur.

The truth of the matter is that many individuals and businesses within the dog industry are falling short of these standards and their lack of qualification, experience and knowledge are having a detrimental effect on the well being, health and behaviour of the dogs in their care.

We would urge all dog owners to read the NOS documents linked above and use them to assess their current and future dog care, training and behaviour service providers. You should address any concerns by asking that provider how they adhere to any particular standard and be happy with their responses.

A good service provider will be happy to address your concerns and pleased that you care for your dogs well being.

Do you have questions or comments about NOS?

Do you have any questions or comments about the National Occupational Standards and their implications. Do you wish to respond to this post? If so, use the comment section below and we’ll respond with our views.

 

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The Benefits of Training your Dog

The Benefits of Training your Dog

It is fair to say that not all dog owners are interested in training their dogs or in some cases they perhaps are interested but simply struggle to find the time.  However you might be surprised to learn that teaching your dog a simple task, for a short period each day, can be hugely rewarding for both you and your dog. The task need not be complex it is the fact that you engage and interact with your dog that is the important factor.  Taking time to train your dog has numerous benefits that can be incredibly stimulating and enjoyable for all involved.

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What is the purpose of training a dog?

There are many purposes of course; however The Way of the Dog Ltd considers that the primary purpose is to maintain the health and safety of the dog whilst protecting the health and safety of others.  This is something that all dog owners should carefully consider given the recent amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act here in the UK. Training your dog is the responsible thing to do and can lead to the development of secure and confident foundations in your dog.

When it comes to choosing what to train your dog there is no definitive list, it really comes down to imagination, interest, personal choice, and access.  There are so many interesting activities and events that you can involve your dog in these days that dog training has become accessible to all.

Training a dog even the simplest of tasks can have a variety of benefits, these include;

  • Improving psychological and physiological wellbeing, contributing towards a healthy mind and body (both dog and owner).olla-obedience
  • Optimising brain function.
  • Increasing the strength of the bond and understanding between dog and owner.
  • Establishing clear and positive communication.
  • Raising self-esteem and confidence in the dog.
  • Reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Relieving boredom.
  • Teaching new skills and improving the proficiency of existing skills.
  • Giving a dog a role to perform providing an outlet for stored energy.

Your dog does not have to perform to any specific stereotype or even to a particular standard, all that matters is that the dog has the physical ability to perform the task and is willing to try.  There is no sense in trying to teach a Chihuahua to scale a 6ft fence any more than attempting to run a marathon with a Dogue De Bordeaux. If you have any doubts, consult your vet. Always consider the functionality of your dog ensuring that it is physically capable of achieving the objective or task without coming to harm.  History demonstrates that dogs were selectively bred to perform certain functions and that body conformation was modified accordingly.

A note of caution, careless designer breeding can affect a dog’s inherent ability to perform certain tasks.  Notwithstanding, it is important that any training undertaken is fun and rewarding for the dog.

M1370024Owning an untrained and disobedient dog can be a very challenging ordeal and may lead to exclusion from every day activities often taken for granted such as walking a dog in a country park or having guests visit the family home. Owning a trained dog can be a thoroughly rewarding relationship and enriching experience that forges strong human dog bonds allowing dog owners to successfully engage in a range of activities. If you are interested in training your dog and would like to discuss options please contact The Way of the Dog Ltd.

Enlisting a Trainer – What Constitutes a Qualified Dog Trainer?

Enlisting a Trainer – What Constitutes a Qualified Dog Trainer?

Following on with the Enlisting a Trainer theme the million dollar question is the one that seeks to identify and define what a qualified dog trainer is?  Unfortunately, in an industry that is currently unregulated there is no current industry leading definition that is nationally recognised or accepted as being the leading qualification for the dog training profession.  Moves are currently being made by Lantra to raise skills and standards throughout the UK to provide National Occupational Standards for dog trainers.  However, at this time it is possible to set up as a dog trainer without qualification, accreditation, or portfolio.  It is important to point out that a dog trainer is not by default a dog behaviourist, at The Way of the Dog Ltd we consider that the two are entirely different areas of the industry requiring different knowledge and experience.

7848636_mSo where as responsible dog owners do we go for training?  As a starting point The Way of the Dog Ltd recommends that you seek to work with individuals who are members of recognised associations such as;

These are just some of the associations and organisations in the UK, this list is not exhaustive and is placed in no particular order.

Whilst such associations or organisations recognise the abilities and skills of trainers they do not guarantee the capability, knowledge, and experience of an individual.  Similarly, they do not necessarily recognise or promote individuals that may or may not be more qualified than others, nor do they guarantee results or ethical practice.  They do however give you a point of contact if you find yourself dissatisfied with the service that you receive from your chosen trainer who fails to acknowledge your discontent.  It is important to recognise that there are trainers who possess great skills and professional qualifications that chose not to be linked with any associations or organisations.

Professional and formal dog training qualifications generally comes from recognised professions such as Police Constabularies, Armed Forces, HM Customs & Excise. HM Prison Service, Search & Rescue, Guide Dogs, or the various service or medical detection dogs, to name but a few.  Trainers who have gained formal qualification through such professional services should be reliable, but again there is no absolute guarantee.  Some of the associations previously referred to such as the BIPDT offer practical training packages and examinations for potential instructors.Guz_Dog_whisperer_Bolton-014

Further consideration should also be given to working with those that have gained formal teaching qualifications or possess recognised qualifications in instructional techniques.  Neither guarantees that the dog trainer is a subject matter expert in his or her chosen field, yet dog owners can expect lessons and sessions that are structured and appropriately managed and delivered using good teaching practice.  Those that do not possess such teaching qualifications should not be regarded as unprofessional or incapable of delivering excellent sessions there existence is merely an additional consideration when seeking best professional practice.

The recommendation of others perhaps still remains a strong endorsement of ones qualification, but be careful as we all have different expectations and standards.  One person’s view of appropriate professional practice is another person’s dissatisfaction.  In summary take your time when choosing a trainer ask questions about qualifications and background and if unsure conduct further research.  A professional trainer will always be willing to offer up details of his or her background and experience and will be more than happy for you to conduct research.  A traumatic experience at the hands of an incompetent trainer can lead to untold emotional damage for your dog and incalculable financial expense to rectify.  Please contact The Way of the Dog Ltd should you have any questions about this article.

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What is Socialisation?

What is Socialisation?

You will hear the word ‘socialisation’ often spoken by dog owners, enthusiasts, and professionals alike, but what does it really mean?

Dog and catWhen raising a puppy you might hear the word repeated often without any true appreciation or understanding of its significance.  For a long time now we have been told that we must socialise our puppies at the earliest opportunity and introduce them to all other dogs so that they might become tolerant of all dogs.  This in part is true, but this approach does not explain socialisation in its truest sense or properly suggest how such socialisation should take place.

Mismanaged interactions may have negative consequences and lead to the development of behavioural problems later in life, whilst a lack of early socialisation can equally bring about similar complex problems.

How we define dog socialisation at TWOTD?

The Way of the Dog holds the view that socialisation is the purposeful act of familiarising puppies and dogs to the environment in which they live, occupy, or visit so that the animal acts in a way that is considered acceptable.

It is important that dogs become familiar with sensations, actions, objects, and living things within a variety of different environments or circumstances. Failure to introduce the dog to such things may lead to the dog demonstrating a reluctance to approach or accept unfamiliar situations and develop ways to avoid or escape them; this might include strategies that involve aggression.

iStock_000006122272MediumThe primary socialisation period for a young dog is considered to be from 3 – 12 weeks old, and is the most important period of social development.  This is why it is absolutely essential to choose very carefully where you obtain your puppy.  A reputable and ethical breeder will likely commence socialisation as soon as the 3 week point is reached.

Puppy socialisation by TWOTD

If a puppy is not correctly socialised during the early sensitive periods there is a possibility that a dog will never adjust to or accept novel events later in life.  It is therefore essential that time and effort is taken to appropriately socialise a puppy to as many events as possible.  The Way of the Dog takes this role very seriously and delivers bespoke puppy development courses that focus on properly managed socialisation whilst developing confidence and shaping character.

 

  • Socialisation should always be carefully managed and not delivered randomly or without any consideration to how a particular dog may react.
  • Dogs can be bold or cautious, weak or strong; they may dive in to a situation without hesitation or demonstrate much reluctance, they are all very different even at such an early stage.
  • Puppies should always be carefully introduced to other puppies and caution should always be exercised when introducing them to adult dogs.
  • Enrolling a puppy in a group puppy class is not always the best approach to socialisation as a mismanaged class can be responsible for the development of fearful or aggressive temperaments if the puppy is subjected to negative experiences.

Commit to thorough socialisation of your dog

Social maturity and development continues through to the 18 – 24 month point depending upon the individual dog.  It is possible that a dog can become unusually sensitive to any event or circumstance during this period.  Puppies considered to be socialised during their early months may suddenly develop what seem like irrational fears towards events that at one time caused them no concern.  Therefore, socialisation should always be carefully managed and maintained during the first year of a dog’s life and owners should consider sustaining such approaches beyond until a dog is considered to be a well-adjusted adult.

If you’d like to enrol your new dog on one of our bespoke Puppy Development Courses, please Contact Shaun today.

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Enlisting a Trainer – One-to-One versus Group Training

Enlisting a Trainer – One-to-One versus Group Training

In this blog we will focus on one-to-one training versus group training.  Both possess strengths and weaknesses; however at The Way of the Dog we feel that they are both very different approaches to training.  Many new dog owners enrol in group training from the outset because they are led to believe that this is the best and only way to socialise their dog, this is not the case and we will discuss socialisation in a separate blog.

iStock_000003222497MediumWe hold the view that one-to-one training supports a new dog owner to learn in private and at their own pace allowing them to become accustomed to unfamiliar training methods before moving into a group dynamic at the appropriate stage of training.  It supports uninterrupted training free from distraction and the desire to interact with other dogs, therefore enhancing the possibility of progression for both dog and handler.

Whilst group training can be very beneficial in teaching your dog how to behave when in the presence of other dogs, at The Way of the Dog we do not consider that it is the best way to commence your training.  Socialisation with other dogs is key to a dog’s successful development and whilst a group session can support this it is essential that this is managed carefully.  Many dogs are distracted in the group environment which is obvious considering the fact that the owner is unlikely to have much control at this stage.  When taking part in training of any kind for the first time many dog owners feel embarrassed, disorientated, hopeless, and uncoordinated.  When in a group environment these feelings are often intensified and may lead to group training becoming non-productive and in some cases damaging.

five dogsIf you want to get the best from a group class we recommend that you take part in a class that has a ratio of 6 dogs, 6 handlers, and a fully qualified dog training instructor.  This approach supports a healthy and manageable student to instructor relationship and will allow you to get the very best from the session.  You should expect during a 60 minute lesson; a proportion of individual attention, enough space to work in, and the ability to speak to and hear comments from the instructor.  It should be a stress free environment where dogs are carefully managed and prevented from being confrontational with other dogs.  In certain situations confrontation may be difficult to avoid, however it should be a rarity rather than the class norm.  Anything other than that described above then you should really consider the value and the quality of the training that you are receiving.

23060295_mlSo the choice is yours to make, should it be one-to-one training or should it be group training?  What you should perhaps ask yourself before making a choice is; What do I want to achieve from my training?”  “Will my chosen route allow me to achieve this?”

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How, when, and where will you train your dog?

How, when, and where will you train your dog?

In a previous blog we discussed ‘How do you choose a trainer’ giving you things to consider when searching for a potential candidate to work with you and your dog.  Like many of today’s skills and services there are those that are enthusiasts, amateurs, or professionals, capable of offering different levels of service and proficiency.  To support you in identifying who-is-who The Way of the Dog will run a series of blogs to help you make informed choices about enlisting the services of reputable dog trainers.

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One of the most important decisions to be made when taking ownership of a new puppy, or when re-homing a dog, is how, when, and where you will begin the dogs training.  Scientific evidence supports the fact that initial dog training should begin early and certainly during the first 6 months of a dog’s life as this will help shape the future long term behaviour of the dog.  Unfortunately, a large proportion of dog owners leave it to chance and often far beyond the 6 month period when the dog has become difficult before they seek assistance.  It is no coincidence many young dogs, who receive no formal training during the early months, are later abandoned, handed over to dog rescues, or are passed from home-to-home, during the period 6 months to 2 years.

Training a dog that is older than 6 months should not be a problem for a competent and qualified dog trainer.  It just means that it is likely to be more difficult, possibly more expensive, and certainly more time consuming for the dog owner during the initial stages of training.

So what should we consider before enlisting the services of a dog trainer?  During the coming weeks we will discuss specific aspects that may help you decide how to choose the right trainer for your needs.  Here are a few topics that we will discuss:

  •  ‘One-to-one training versus group training.’
  • ‘What constitutes a qualified dog training instructor?’
  • ‘Should training be conducted indoors or outdoors?’
  • ‘How much should dog training cost, price versus quality?’

If there are specific questions that you would like to raise relating to the sourcing of dog training please feel free to leave a comment and The Way of the Dog will consider including in future blogs.

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