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.
So 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;
- British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers (BIPDT)
- Guild of Dog Trainers (GODT)
- Kennel Club Accredited Instructor Scheme (KCAI)
- Dog Training Industry Association UK (DTIA)
- Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT)
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.
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.