Not all pet trainers or behaviorists are created equal, and what works for one dog may not work for another. In addition to variation among individual dogs and owners, certifications and education among trainers varies greatly. There are very few officially recognized programs to certify trainers and behaviorists, and there are huge jumps between certification levels. So how can you know you’re getting the best training for your beloved pooch?
Science only started to really explore positive psychology (and positive animal behavior modification techniques) in the past 10 years or so. Many trainers still rely on compulsion training, where the owner is encouraged to use force and intimidation to maintain absolute control of the animal at all times. This method comes from a treatise written by a Prussian military general in the early 1900s, and was largely based on studies of man-made wolf packs in captivity.
As the field of positive psychology expanded during the past decade, it fueled research into comparative and evolutionary psychology, leading to a more comprehensive model of animal social interactions and positive behavioral modification techniques.
If you are looking for behavioral modification for your pooch, first consult your vet to rule out any medical conditions which could be affecting behavior. The American Society for Veterinary Behavorists (akin to psychiatrists) can be found at http://avsabonline.org/. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists hold a Masters or Doctoral degree in Animal Behavior. There are currently fewer than 50 CAABs in the U.S. (http://corecaab.org/faq/).
For routine obedience training (and sometimes behavioral modification), a Certified Pet Dog Trainer program provides minimal assurance of basic behavioral knowledge, although it does not necessarily reflect experience or guarantee positive training techniques.
Regardless of who you choose to train your dog, make sure that the trainer works with you in your home environment (or the problem environment) and provides you with the tools to continue working with your dog yourself.
If you are interested in further information on training techniques or animal behavior education, contact your veterinary behaviorist or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Best of luck finding a trainer!
Thanks to Elise Poston for this submission. Look for more Did You Know tidbits from Elise in future editions of Scampers Weekly Recap.