Dog training

Push for licensing in dog training

CLEAR WATER, Wis. (WEAU) – Pulling on the leash, jumping on others, reacting towards other dogs are all reasons why dog ​​owners sometimes seek dog trainers.

However, dog “trainers” can hold themselves out as such without any certifications, courses or experience – and it’s completely legal.

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers is trying to change that, hoping for legislation that requires licensing.

“If you hired a dog trainer and they do something that hurts your guts, ‘oh, I don’t know if I like it’, that’s a huge red flag. You’re right,” said Heather Mishefske, owner of emBARK at Eau Claire.

Many families have welcomed a new furry member into their home over the past couple of years.

As pandemic puppies age and naughty behaviors are discovered, many dog ​​owners are turning to dog trainers for help.

“At this point, anyone can claim to be a dog trainer, so regardless of education, experience, or ability,” Mishefske explained.

“Anyone can identify as a dog trainer, whether through past experiences, reading a book, taking an online course,” added Bradley Phifer, executive director of the Certification Council for Dog Trainers. professionals.

That’s why industry professionals say dog ​​owners shouldn’t blindly trust their trainers. Mishefske, who also sits on the board of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, says it can be quite dangerous.

“The dogs lost their lives after being ‘trained’ by someone who is horrible,” Mishefske said. “I hope we don’t see any more in the news of dogs that have been hung from a strangle chain because they got the wrong problem and were asphyxiated.”

Experts say even a well-meaning dog trainer with a lack of knowledge can hurt dogs. Phifer says it’s not always physical — it sometimes hurts the relationship between owner and pup.

“If you go up to someone and they say ‘you have to put this collar on your dog and hop it a few times to get it to listen,’ it affects how you see your dog,” Phifer said. . “It affects how you see how your dog thinks, learns and feels.”

Both point out that there is a difference between someone who is certified and someone who has a certificate. So, they turn to lawmakers with a model bill in hopes of passing it.

“What would that look like? It would look like a sort of licensing board setting standards of care and competence,” Mishefske said.

Mishefske says the organizations are working to get the legislation on the docket for New Jersey first and from there for the rest of the country.

The licensing process would ensure that trainers use less invasive and less aversive techniques.

It’s not a one-stop shop, however. Once the trainers received their license, they would still have work to do.

“With licensing will come responsibility,” explained Mishefske. “If they don’t follow those guidelines, they can be flagged and go through our ethics committee and determine if they can still be in that particular organization, so there will be a lot of checks and balances in place. “

Both have advice for those who need training now.

“Always ask the question, ‘what if my dog ​​doesn’t do it right?’ and the correct answer to that is, ‘well, your dog doesn’t understand what the question was.’ Let’s go back, let’s review,” Mishefske added.

“Make sure your trainer has demonstrated their skills in one way or another, that they receive ongoing training. That they put positive reinforcement as their primary means of training,” Phifer said.

Experts say to always trust your instincts.

For Mishefske, the license protects the owner and his dogs, which is why it’s his passion project.

“Dogs that are stressed at the hands of trainers are so heartbreaking,” added Mishefske.

Heather adds that you should always ask potential trainers about their code of ethics and if they are looking for more education.

For a list of APDT recommended dog trainers, click here.

To learn more about the model bill, click here.

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