Dogs really are man’s best friend. It is time to get back to interacting with them as friends and as sentient beings recognizing that they can feel fear, anxiety, and stress just like us. The time has come to set them up for success in our world by focusing on cooperative and respectful communications in our training and not be confrontational or dominating. Competition trainers have followed through with the science of learning and realized that they can get more from their training partners… their dogs… if they learn to communicate with them and ask for behavior rather than demanding obedience. They have learned the limits of punishment in learning. In fact it only works when the punisher is there to punish at the exact same time as the behavior they want to punish.
You may not realize it but currently, there are no requirements for dog trainers to be certified in the United States. Anyone and everyone can call themselves a “dog trainer.” That being the case the person’s experiences and education can vary widely. Some may be continuing to train based on old theory based using punishment, prong collars, pinch collars or e-collars (electric shock). Some may be training using protocols based on the latest scientific learning theory findings of positive reinforcement, fun, and cooperative learning. Others, who call themselves “balanced trainers” use a combination of positive reinforcement and punishment methods. It is up to you to find out about the training you will give to your pet. Be aware though that there is scientific evidence that punishment-based methods may cause aggression. That seems to be common sense though as most animals want to protect themselves from punishment.
Certification is a relatively new option to begin to understand a little about the education and maybe experiences your provider has received over the years. Some certifications are simply “Certificates of Attendance” where the student is available to hear a presentation. Other certifications go a step further and require the student to pass a quiz and achieve a specific grade before the certificate is granted so that the student at least is confirmed to know some of the material presented. A third type of certification is only good for a certain number of years. This type of certification includes the presented material, a quiz, and also adds the requirement that the student study further to attain a certain number of CEU’s (Continuing Education Credits) which presumably give the student more training but also makes sure that they are learning up-to-date information on the topic. While this latter certification is the closest form of certification to licensure it is not the same thing because it is not granted by a universal licensing body. At the moment the United States does not have a body that requires the same type of licensing requirements for dog trainers that they do for Licensed Veterinary Technicians (LVT), etc.