StubbyDog believes in force-free, positive reinforcement training for all dogs. We believe in building trusting and loving relationships with our dogs and in creating a positive line of communication. We don’t endorse fear, pain, or punishment when training because we’d never want our dogs to be afraid of us, or afraid of whatever they may associate their punishment with.
We also believe that affordable and accessible training will help keep dogs out of shelters, especially our Stubby Dogs. That’s why we sponsor force-free training sessions for dogs in danger of being surrendered and we’re proud to say we’ve helped many dogs remain in their homes!
Browse this page for resources on choosing a trainer, as well as resources for all your basic training needs.
Trainers 101: Who are they? And what do those letters behind their names mean?
The field of animal training is unregulated. One need not demonstrate a minimum education, have any background in how dogs learn, or even understand the effects their training techniques will have on an animal, to call themselves a trainer. For this reason, it is critical that you know what qualifications to look for in a trainer and what questions to ask before hiring someone.
For help with basic obedience, or behavior issues such as fear, aggression or separation anxiety, consider hiring someone with a Certificate in Training and Counseling (CTC) from The Academy for Dog Trainers led by Jean Donaldson. Academy graduates studied in depth the science behind animal learning, animal behavior and dog behavior, and have been trained in a wide variety of best practices in dog training and behavior modification. Graduates also adhere to a code of professional and ethical conduct that includes transparency and informed consent about methods, side effects, and use only the most modern, evidence-based, humane and force-free practices. To find a trainer in your area, search here: https://www.academyfordogtrainers.com/aboutgrads/Academy_Graduate_Referral_List.pdf
For help with basic obedience, training a service dog, clicker training or agility, consider searching the Karen Pryor Academy’s list of clicker training partners (KPA-CTP). All KPA-CTP trainers have pledged to train using force-free methods and are educated in science-based techniques. They have also spent 6 months mastering clicker-training and how to best communicate with clients (both dog and human). To find a trainer in your area, search here: https://www.karenpryoracademy.com/find-a-trainer
To become a Certified Professional Dog Trainer- Knowledge Assessed® (CPDT-KA) trainers must have at least 300 hours of trainer experience and provide recommendations from a veterinarian, a client, and a colleague. In addition, they must pass an independent, psychometrically sound and science-based exam to demonstrate knowledge in Instruction Skills, Animal Husbandry, Ethology, Learning Theory, Equipment, Business Practices & Ethics. A practical examination (CPDT-KSA) that tests a trainer’s physical skill in dog training is available for CPDT-KAs. This certification is a good jumping off point; however, some CPDT-KA’s have a tremendous amount of experience and breadth of knowledge, while others are newer and less experienced.
To become a Certified Behavior Consultant Canine -Knowledge Assessed® (CBCC-KA) consultants must have at least 500 hours of consulting and provide five recommendations with at least one being from a veterinarian, a client, and a colleague. In addition, they must pass an independent, psychometrically sound and science-based exam to demonstrate knowledge in Applied Behavior Analysis, Biology and Anatomy, Ethology, Body Language & Observational Skills, Health, Development, Life Stages, Consulting Skills & Best Practices and Scientific Method. For help with behavior issues such as fear, aggression and separation anxiety, contact a CBCC-KA. You can search for CPDT-KA’s and CBCC-KA’s here: http://www.ccpdt.org/index.php?option=com_certificants&Itemid=102
How to Choose a Trainer
By: Anne Springer, B.A., CTDI
PAWS FOR PRAISE
Make a Tail Wag!
Charter Member, Pet Professional Guild
Here’s some advice from Jean Donaldson on how to choose a dog trainer. After her suggestions, I’m going to take the liberty of telling you how I would want her questions to be answered if I were going to try to find a trainer for my own dog. You may not realize it, but trainers do, from time to time, attend one another’s classes, participate in working seminars, or take classes from trainers who are experts in dog sports or aspects of training that we are not expert in. As an example, I can lay a simple track and have my dog follow it for fun, but I certainly am not an expert in lost person behavior or variable surface tracking! So, if I wanted to know more about scent work of that kind, I might take my dog and go to classes with someone who does. Anyway, back to the topic at hand – how does the average pet owner find a trainer? (Jean’s comments are in bold font. My comments are italicized.)
The animal training industry is completely unregulated and anyone can call themselves an animal behavior professional in spite of having no formal education or qualifications. So what can consumers do to protect themselves?
- Ask for formal education and credentials.
It’s important that a dog trainer gets an education in the science of how dogs learn. If the trainer has a degree in a behavioral science, has taken classes in psychology, motivation, or learning theory, or has had exposure to these concepts via a school such as the Academy for Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy, Companion Animal Sciences Institute, etc., that’s good indication that the person is interested in legitimate science, and not the “voodoo” that many people spout about their dog training abilities, as if those somehow came from osmosis or from the vapors somewhere. Beware of any schools that still tout “dominance theory” or suggest the use of shock collars.*
- Ask for continuing education involvement.
There are now many opportunities for dog trainers to receive continuing education, both in person and online. If the person has done this, they ought to be able to tell you through what organization, the name of the presenter, and the topics presented. More importantly, you should get a sense that they enjoy keeping up with the latest studies and they will not be afraid to alter their opinions based upon valid research. For example, one of the pre-eminent authorities on wolf biology, Dr. David L. Mech, who originally coined the term “alpha” has recanted the original implication of the term because new research shows that it is inaccurate. Hear him tell it in his own words:
Good trainers are always trying to learn more themselves! “I’ve been training for twenty years.” is NOT a credential. It’s also quite possible for a trainer to have been doing it wrong for twenty years, or at least not as humanely as they could have!
- Ask for scientific evidence supporting any claims about behavior.
Behavior modification occurs because of two types of learning, operant and classical. In simple terms, operant conditioning takes place in a three part contingency. There is an antecedent, a behavior that the dog performs, and a consequence. So, this is the learning that takes place, for example, when we teach a dog to “sit.”
In classical learning, there is only a two part contingency. The dog learns, “If this happens, then that happens,” This is the type of learning that changes a dog’s emotional response to something. This takes place, for example, when we rattle the lid to the cookie jar and suddenly the dog comes to the kitchen. He has learned that the noisy lid predicts that you will pull out a cookie for him.
A trainer should be able to tell you about these things. The quadrants of operant conditioning, and the process of desensitization and counter-conditioning should be as familiar to the trainer as the tools of your own trade are to you!
- Ask what actual physical events will be used to motivate your animal (keep asking if you receive obfuscating answers such as “energy,” “leadership,” “status” or “dominance”).** For example, ask, “What exactly will happen to my dog if he gets it right? And what exactly will happen to my dog if he gets it wrong?”
In good science-based classes, a dog that gets it right is going to hear a marker word or sound, and then receive a reinforcement (food, toy, privilege…) For example, trainer enters the room and asks the dog to sit for greeting. Dog sits. Trainer reinforces the dog with a click/treat.
A dog that gets it wrong in a good training class will not be called stubborn, willful or stupid, he’ll simply get no reinforcement, or he’ll have a privilege withdrawn, and be given another opportunity to get it right. Example: Trainer walks in and dog jumps on trainer. Trainer withdraws all attention and turns away. Once the dog is on the floor, trainer returns and reinforces the dog for having his feet on the floor. Trainer gradually lengthens the time the dog’s feet are on the floor before giving the reinforcement. After a while, the dog needs only occasional reinforcement for keeping all four feet on the floor.
No physical punishment should occur. No choke collars, no prong collars, no shock collars.
- Ask what side effects each procedure has. Fear is a particularly concerning side effect as it is difficult to undo.
No trainer worth his or her salt wants to add to a dog’s problems. That’s why an understanding of the science is so important. Aggression, learned helplessness, fear, are all to be avoided, but they are easily installed in dogs by those who persist in using aggressive or confrontational training. Here’s an example of Dr. Sophia Yin using science (counter-conditioning) to change a Jack Russell Terrier’s mind about how he feels about air being blown in his face. Before: Can you imagine a child exhaling while laying on a couch near this dog??? After: He’s changing his mind!:
Had Dr. Yin punished the dog, he might have stopped the growling temporarily, but the dog’s dislike for air in his face would still have been there. In this training, the dog actually learns to LIKE having air on his face!
- If you feel at all uncomfortable, don’t be bullied: get another opinion.
Places where you can seek help:
“Until these devices are illegal, consumers must protect themselves and their dogs by looking beyond the marketing messages of those who profit from their sale and use. It is not necessary to use electric shock to change behavior. It is not necessary in humans, in zoo species, in marine mammals or in dogs.” ~Jean Donaldson
“Absolutely, without exception, I oppose, will not recommend, and generally spend large amounts of time telling people why I oppose the use of shock collars, prong collars, choke collars, and any other type of device that is rooted in an adversarial, confrontational interaction with the dog.” ~Karen Overall, MA, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVB, CAAB
Please see below for links to useful resources. Check back periodically as we try to update these lists and include new material as often as possible.
1) http://smartdoguniversity.com/category/blog/ – a dog training series, training videos, and blogs from Karen Pryor Academy faculty member, Laurie Luck
2) www.peaceablepaws.com/articles.php?type=Pat – articles by Pat Miller, training editor of “The Whole Dog Journal”, author, and trainer at Peaceable Paws, near Hagerstown, MD
3) www.patriciamcconnell.com/solving-behavior-problems – articles, blogs, and videos, available for free, by Patricia McConnell, known worldwide for her books and seminars and former host of “Calling All Pets”
4) www.abrionline.org – Jean Donaldson’s Animal Behavior Resources Institute with articles and videos from a number of different trainers
5) www.dogstardaily.com – download books by Ian Dunbar, “Before You Get Your Puppy” and “After You Get Your Puppy”.
8) www.AskDrYin.com – blogs, articles, and videos on various behavior issues
9) www.AVSABonline.org – American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior position statements on socializing puppies, punishment, and dominance
10) www.yourpitbullandyou.com – Animal Learning is Not Breed Specific
11) www.pitbullguru.com – Modern, Reward-Based Dog Training and Behavior Consulting
Children and Dogs:
www.LivingWithKidsandDogs.com – advice, articles, and great books for parents
http://www.liamjperkfoundation.org/- awareness and bite prevention
Gentle Leader Video:
A video which will show you how to help your dog to enjoy wearing a Gentle Leader (you could follow all of these same steps for a muzzle): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wakterNyUg
The Culture Clash, 2nd edition, Jean Donaldson
The Power of Positive Dog Training, Pat Miller
How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks, Ian Dunbar
Don’t Shoot the Dog, Karen Pryor
Dog Behavior Problems:
The Dog Who Loved Too Much: Tales, Treatments and the Psychology of Dogs, Nicholas Dodman
MINE! A Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs, Jean Donaldson
FIGHT! A Guide to Dog-Dog Aggression, Jean Donaldson
Way to Go! How to Housetrain a Dog of Any Age, Karen London and Patricia McConnell
I’ll Be Home Soon! How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety, Patricia McConnell
Feisty Fido, Help for the Leash-Reactive Dog, Patricia McConnell and Karen London
Chill Out Fido! How to Calm Your Dog, Nan Arthur
Puppy Start Right, Foundation Training for the Companion Dog, Kenneth Martin, Debbie Martin
I’ll Be Home Soon: How to Prevent and Treat Separation Anxiety, Patricia McConnell
Control Unleashed: Creating a Focused and Confident Dog, Leslie McDevitt
This page was compiled by: Allison Hartlage
Allison has been working with animals professionally since 2008. She holds a Certificate in Training and Counseling from Jean Donaldson’s Academy for Dog Trainers, is a Karen Pryor Academy graduate and Certified Training Partner, a Certified Pet Dog Trainer through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, a Certified K9 Nose Work Instructor, and she supervises the animal training and behavior department at the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. Allison shares my home with a StubbyDog, three rescued kitties and my animal-loving husband, Aaron. Above all else, she wants our four-legged friends to be better understood. Check out Allison’s latest project here: https://www.beaconreader.com/projects/understanding-animal-training-behavior