Dog Training’s Dirty Little Secret: Anyone Can Legally Do It

Dog training is an unregulated industry although dogs need to be licensed.

By Marc Bekoff Ph.D.

Dogs and humans beware

During the past year I’ve had a number of emails from people both lauding and severely criticizing the dog trainers to whom they went to help them teach their dog to live with them in their homes and elsewhere. Of course, different people have different needs and dogs are unique individuals, so it’s essential that a dog trainer/teacher be well versed in dog behavior and various principles of ethology/animal behavior and psychology. They also need to be able to assess the nature of dog-human interactions.

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Source: usernetsite free images

In her scholarly and well researched law review article called “OCCUPATIONAL LICENSURE FOR PET DOG TRAINERS: DOGS ARE NOT THE ONLY ONES WHO SHOULD BE LICENSED,” Elizabeth Foubert notes, “In the United States anyone can work as a dog trainer, regardless of the person’s qualifications. Scientific research in animal behavior and canine ethology indicate how to humanely train dogs, but nothing in the law requires that dog trainers apply these proven methods in practice. Dog trainers may use training techniques that bring harm to dogs and deceive consumers as to its efficacy. The onus is on consumers to educate themselves to these dangers when selecting a ‘qualified dog trainer.'”

There’s a lot at stake when a person entrusts their dog’s life to a trainer. Thus, I was shocked to learn that in the United States anyone can call themself a “dog trainer.” I went online and did many different searches, and while there are many excellent certification programs, it is the case that anyone can legally hang up a shingle that says “Dog Trainer” and begin to work with dogs and their humans. I also queried a number of trainers and they also agreed that there really is a “dirty little secret” about which many, perhaps most, people are unaware, as I was. And, if course, it’s not a little secret at all, but rather a huge one, because of the incredible damage that can be done by someone who isn’t trained to be a dog trainer. Of course, certified dog trainers also can cause harm but that goes beyond what I want to write about here.

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