“I’ve Had Dogs All My Life…”

This is a sentiment I’ve heard fairly frequently over my time as a trainer and behavior consultant. Trainers have a lot of “shop talk” around this statement. There are some quick and smart-alecky answers that I sometimes revert to on social media, such as, “I’ve had four kids, that doesn’t make me a pediatrician..” “I’ve owned and even fixed my own cars for years, that doesn’t make me a mechanic…” and a few others which are slightly more graphic!

However, a quick response doesn’t answer the underlying, very real question that is in this statement. The question is, “What makes you more qualified to train my dog, or tell me what to do in training and managing my dog?” Although it may be frustrating and annoying to trainers when we’re faced with this, it’s a valid question. What makes someone an “expert”? Is it 10,000 hours of practice? As Malcolm Gladwell would contend in his book Outliers? Is it a specific number of courses in a certain area? Is it successfully testing in a subject? I believe it’s a combination of all of those things. I know good trainers who have been training for many years and have not attended formal training, though most of them do attend workshops and read on the subject. I know good trainers who have had years of study in university. I know students of mine who are naturally talented at reading body language and teaching their dogs. So, how do we decide who should be called “expert” and who should be called to assist pet owners in need?

I feel a great responsibility to my clients and animal students to have a set of credentials which show that I have competed specific numbers of hours in the work I practice, that I have passed qualifying tests, and that I’m continuing to educate myself in the field. Which is why I’ve added a page to this website with a list of my continuing education. That can be found here:


I’m currently enrolled in a multiple session course, and will be attending an online conference through the IAABC and Fenzi Dog Sports Academy later this month. I participate in online training forums and have a group of colleagues with whom I have regular behavior topic discussions.

I believe as trainers we need to meet standards, and be sure that we are providing our clients and potential clients with resources on how to find a good trainer, who also is meeting certain criteria and can be trusted to provide excellent, state of the art training to both pets and humans. To our clients it may seem like seeking an education on how to seek an education, but it really is important, you have a family member who’s education will affect both of you, for the rest of this animal’s life. It’s worth it to both of you to do it well the first time!

Links on how to find a trainer:

IAABC (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) :https://iaabc.org/consultants

APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers) This site has many links on the process. *not all trainers listed here are positive reinforcement based, they do mention that, an how to assess, assess carefully! https://apdt.com/resource-center/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/

AVSAB (American Society of Veterinary Behaviorists) https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/How_to_Choose_a_Trainer_AVSAB.pdf

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