The Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA) recently reached out to FFTW member Dr. Karen Selbert for an upcoming article on the importance of dog training for pet dog owners. Excited about the opportunity to continue educating the public, Dr. Karen eagerly participated and answered many great questions provided by the WVMA. Below are a few of the questions and answers submitted for the article.
What should dog owners look for in potential trainers?
Good trainers are like good veterinarians; they stay up to date on the latest information in their field, and they are skilled at communicating this to their clients. Good trainers should maintain some type of credentialing, and should demonstrate their participation in continuing education. Don't mistake slick marketing for knowledge, however. I want to see dates and descriptions of when and where the trainer has received their education.
Unfortunately, there is no required credentialing body for trainers, and therefore a lack of accountability. Anyone can hang their shingle and claim to be a trainer. I like to see CPDT (Council of Professional Dog Trainers) somewhere in their history, or at least an awareness of the group's existence and an explanation as to why they have not joined. http://www.ccpdt.org
There are some great articles that cover how to evaluate a trainer. This is for pet dog owners:
And here is what the sanctioning organization for veterinary behaviorists have to say about it:
In Summary: we should be referring to trainers who understand the concepts of scientific training techniques: they should be well versed in operant and classical conditioning, understand the 4 quadrants of learning theory, primarily focus on positive reinforcement and environmental management techniques, and understand the fall-out and consequences of punishment. They should not be using outmoded training techniques, and they should line up with the current AVSAB recommendations:
What is the best way to find a credible trainer?
We are lucky; in the Wisconsin area we have access to a forum of professional dog trainers that already meet the above criteria: http://www.forcefreewisconsin.com
This is a great group of active dog trainers that offer science based training methods. They are highly selective about group membership. Their purpose is to advocate dog and other pets by utilizing non-abusive training techniques. Many, if not all, seek and offer referrals, and easily collaborate with veterinarians seeking to meet their patient's needs.
You can also find a veterinary behaviorist using the AVSAB website: http://avsabonline.org/resources/find-consult
What questions should be asked before training?
Do you belong to any professional/trade associations? Why or why not?
Where did you learn you training techniques? When was your last CE? What equipment do you use? Why do you choose to use that equipment? What activities do your dogs perform in? What success do your students experience?
What benefits will owners see by taking their pet to a trainer/training class?
Owners will learn the first and most critical part about living with a dog: they will learn how to read dog body language. This will enable them to intercede on their puppy's behalf, and avoid dangerous situations as the dog matures. They will learn how dogs communicate, and learn how to manipulate the environment to ensure success in training. They will learn how important timing is in training, and practice that skill. They will experience how positive reinforcement results in a bond of trust that can change their relationship with their dog and other living things. Hopefully they will learn to appreciate their puppy for who he is, discover his strengths and weaknesses, and learn skills they can use for life.
How can training help at/with veterinary visits?
I'm so glad you asked!! A well trained pet is much more easily persuaded to comply to veterinary restraint and procedures. In fact, there is a new movement among veterinarians embracing fear free restraint techniques that utilizes the science of animal training!
Karen Selbert, DVM
Pewaukee Veterinary Service