Last week, we listed red flags in sales pitches for dog-training services: words and phrases, claims and misinformation, all warning that the training offered might turn out to be punitive (punishment, pain, force, coercion). This week, we offer ‘green flags’ instead—in ads, Abouts, etc.—that tell the training will be positive.
I asked friends and dog professionals for their input on those green flags. I added, “Proud of your own ads and Abouts for the dog-training services you offer? Show us! Include with your comment a link to your website, please!” I was delighted with their responses. Of course they’re proud!
I have chosen to excerpt several short statements from those websites to illustrate the individuals’ commitment to positive training—statements that, I think, clearly tell us “who they are.”
I encourage you to use the links to these examples of ‘green flag’ websites that honestly and openly tell us “what they do and how they do it.” I think you will be impressed. I certainly was!
First, what ‘green flags’ dog professionals note in sales pitches for dog training services.
Carol Duncan (Texas) Science-based.
Sodonnia Wolfrom (Arkansas) Continuing education is a must. What we know about dogs changes over time, so continuing to learn during your professional career means you are more likely to keep up with the science.
Monique Feyrecilde (Washington) Open-door policy for observing before attending.
Bryn Souza (Connecticut) Encouragement for including multiple family members in training practice and multiple dogs in the household, not just the one that “needs work.” Willingness to offer one-on-one sessions or in-home sessions to actually observe family dynamics beyond a group training setting.
Jeanne Brennan (California) Any wording that promotes building a “partnership” with your dog is a green flag. Learning to live with a dog does require learning to read each other. I don’t remember who I first heard this from, but training isn’t something you do TO the dog, it is something you do WITH your dog. Dr. Sophia Yin used to describe it as a dance (she was a great ballroom dancer, BTW), and I can remember many times I felt that way working with my dogs. It was so much fun!
Does this mean you can hire a trainer to train your dog for you? I say yes, but with stipulations. You must commit at least to watching how the person trains, and do they train with joy? Then you must commit to some time with the trainer to learn the skills your dog has learned and keep the joy going.
I think the reason the word “obedience” bothers me—makes me groan, even—is that it does not imply partnership, or building a relationship. That word, and its variations, sounds like something you are doing TO the dog, which removes the fact that you are also responsible for contributing in this relationship.
Photo by Sarah Richardson
Jessica Stinson Hudson (Alabama) Dog-friendly; pics of happy dogs who are clients (not stock photos); credentialed with an organization that promotes non-aversive (or minimally aversive) methods; positive reinforcement; cues; fear-free; no pics of aversive tools.
From Jessica’s “My Training Philosophy,” at Mobile Dog Training
My goal is to promote trusting, healthy, and enjoyable relationships for owners and their dogs. My training philosophy is that learning should never be painful, intimidating, or forced. Instead, your dog should willingly and happily respond to your cues and have a clear understanding of what is expected. I promote non-aversive tools and methods and employ evidence-based approaches to communicating with dogs. Training should be fun for you and your dog! The methods I use in training create a thinking dog who is motivated to make good choices.
Cindy Wilmot (Vermont) Humane; ethical; force-free; Fear Free; non-coercive; no intimidation; reward-based.
From Cindy’s “About Us”:
At Incredible Canines, we believe that choice-based learning is beneficial to the dog/human relationship because it builds and promotes trust in ways that other methods cannot. When you give your dog a choice, you are telling him that he has the freedom to choose not to participate in something that is scary or unpleasant. This may sound counterintuitive, but think about the many choices we make each day. What if your life was micromanaged to the point you had little or no control over even the smallest aspect? Our dogs depend on us to guide and coach them through a sometimes scary and confusing world. Our job is to provide structure in a way that helps our dogs make sense of the environment in order to feel safe and confident. It’s not about control. It’s about helping them learn by providing clear information, teaching and marking behaviors, and motivating and reinforcing them in ways that promote active engagement. Force has no place in a healthy relationship.
Frances Dauster (Alabama) [I’d suggest] possibly a list of educational events [they’ve participated in]. Here’s my list—not complete, but you get the idea.
From Frances’s “About Us” at Sunpaws Pet Services
When choosing a dog-training Instructor to assist you and your pet, please ask about the methods employed to teach your pet the skills you seek in your companion animal. Your pet should be having FUN. If training your furry friend is not fun-fun-fun for you and your dog, your relationship with your companion could easily suffer!
September B. Morn (Washington) “Family-friendly.” “Gentle, positive training.”
From September’s “Dogs Love School’s Mission Statement”:
It is our mission, and also our greatest pleasure, to help your dog become the dog you want him or her to be, using only gentle, dog-friendly, experience-tested training techniques and tools.
Steven Cogswell (Colorado) Affiliations with known force-free organizations: PPG, Karen Pryor, VSA, Academy for Dog Trainers. I can easily find a clear explanation of their training philosophy on the website; they will clearly say positive, force-free, humane. Positive is used as a selling point, right out of the gate, transparently and without equivocation. If I don’t know within 20 seconds of looking at their Facebook page or website that they are a positive, force-free trainer, I tend to move on.
From Steven’s “Training Philosophy” at Practically Perfect Dogs:
The world of dog training is awash with conflicting information. There are a lot of well-meaning, reputable folks who care about dogs and they feel pinch collars, shock collars, choke chains, and all sorts of punishment techniques have a place in modern dog training. In answer to that, here’s the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviorists’ recent statement on humane dog training: “Based on current scientific evidence, AVSAB recommends that only reward-based training methods are used for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems.” [bold emphases are mine]
Before I share Alisha Ardiana’s comments, as well as her education and credentials as she lists them on her website, I’d like to call your attention to a typical “bio” from a website for a business that offers training one-on-one, in-home, and in classes. This business has chosen to list most of its staffers as bearing the title of “Professional Canine Behaviorist.” In addition, one particular employee (paid, which makes them “professional”?) has been given other titles, too: “Puppy Specialist, Service Dog Specialist, Associates Degree—Law Enforcement, Hiking Enthusiast, and Passionate About Helping Others.”
No explanation is included that would explain where and how each title was earned—need I say more? (I would also like to note that the number of “Professional Canine Behaviorists” employed by this business has dropped somewhat since I last checked. I have to wonder why.)
When you read Alisha’s “About Me,” you probably won’t wonder “why” … no red flags here!
Alisha Ardiana (California) Positive reinforcement; force-free; support your dog; behavior that’s rewarded will continue; safety; emotions; and helping your dog thrive. Connection, compassion, empathy, cooperative care, collaboration, teamwork.
From Alisha’s “About Me” at empawthy
I have a Biology degree from the University of Notre Dame, and I planned to become a veterinarian. Once I began working with animals, I preferred the role of a caretaker and became a California Registered Veterinary Technician. I worked in this field for 20 years.
In 2015 I decided to pursue my passion to strengthen the human/animal bond through dog training.
I have trained puppies, adolescents, adults, and seniors. My specialty is helping shy, fearful, and reactive dogs feel safe with their guardians’ support.
CPDT-KA~ Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed
CTBC- Certificate in Behavior & Training Consultation from the Dog Training Internship Academy
FDM~ Certified Family Dog Mediator~ L.E.G.S Applied Ethology Family Dog Mediation Professional Course
Completion of the Karen Pryor Dog Professional Program
▪ My training style is strongly influenced by the internationally recognized dog trainers, Amy Cook, Kay Laurence, Ken Ramirez, and Turid Rugaas.
▪ I completed Dr. Susan Friedman’s Professional Course, Living & Learning with Animals.
▪ I am a student of Fenzi Dog Sports Academy.
▪ Our dog and I have several titles with NASDA and AKC Trick Dog.
▪ I worked at San Francisco Puppy Prep, the San Francisco SPCA, and A Well Adjusted Pet.
What’s the importance of knowing what kind of treatment you and your dog will receive from the business you choose for dog-training services? Look back at the quote Steven Cogswell shared, from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviorists, which recommends that “only reward-based training methods are used for all dog training, including the treatment of behavior problems.”
Considering this expert advice, why would you want to make any choice but that?
When you see too many red flags … walk away.
Dog Training Electronic Collar Market 2023 Latest Trends, Growing demand and Top Leading Brands |Petrainer, ABBIDOT, PetSafe, PATPET, Ortz, Slicemall, Havahart Wireless, Dogwidgets, PeTuition,
Listen to His voice: Dog training gives parallels to discipleship, ministry
Any dog can become a service animal with the proper training | National News