Selecting a Dog Trainer – Minus the Agenda

Posted on November 20th, 2017 by FetchMasters in News

I know, I know! Lots of dog trainers have produced posts and videos about how to select a dog trainer. And most of the time those posts and videos have an agenda either in favor of a particular training method or geared towards selling you a particular trainer’s services.

This article/video falls into neither of those categories.

Rather, it is meant to share some common sense things that I think every professional dog trainer should be happy to support.

Tampa, Florida, just passed (as best I can tell) the first ordinance in the nation – being dubbed the “Truth in Training” law — meant to provide oversight for the dog training industry in that city. And don’t be surprised if you see such an ordinance in Denver, Colorado, soon. With as many dog trainers as Denver has, a little legal oversight might not be a bad thing.

The “Truth in Training” law does not address opinions about various dog training methodologies. Instead, it is about dog trainers exhibiting an appropriate amount of professionalism, safety and accountability.

This article is based upon the Tampa ordinance because, even though we do not yet have an ordinance like this in Denver, the elements of the ordinance are good, common-sense  measures to keep everyone safe and honest. So, with no further ado, there are basically five elements of the ordinance that any professional dog trainer should be able to — and willing to — comply with.

  1. The dog trainer must be licensed.

    Various states have variations of this requirement.

    In my own state, Colorado, if a dog is to be trained away from the owner’s presence, the dog trainer must be licensed by the Department of Agriculture’s PACFA (Pet Animal Care Facilities Act) division. Otherwise, they are not training legally.

  2. The dog trainer must carry liability insurance.

    The Tampa law specifies a $100K insurance policy.

    This is just good common sense. Even with the most gentle methods of training dogs, accidents can happen. Human error, equipment failures or even just getting surprised by a dog coming around the corner can result in damage or injury to property, people and pets.

  3. The dog trainer must be background checked for animal cruelty convictions.

    While I assume that this background check will be part of the licensing process in Tampa, I’m not sure how a consumer would be able to find out such information in Colorado. I’ll do some research on this and update this post when I have more info.

    But suffice it to say: You would not want to send your child to daycare with a child abuser, so you probably don’t want to purchase dog training from a dog abuser.

    I like that this element of the law is not about opinions or unfounded accusations. It is strictly about legal convictions.

  4. The dog trainer must provide a written training plan.

    The wording of the ordinance defines this training plan as a “written plan that clearly outlines the name of the dog, the dog’s age, the dog’s breed, the individuals who will be responsible for the training and care of the dog, and the specific behaviors or obedience training needs to be addressed. The Training Plan shall also include the specific methods and/or techniques, the equipment that would be used in Dog Training, a description of any potential physical corrections or Dog Training techniques that may be used in the correction process, any deprivation techniques that may be used, and any risks involved, if any. In addition, the Training Plan shall provide a written cost estimate of all fees and costs (including care and boarding fees, where applicable) associated with the Training Plan and the level of involvement required by the Consumer. If the Consumer provides special health or feeding instructions for the dog, those instructions shall be attached to the Training Plan and become incorporated into the Training Plan.”

    Frankly, a professional dog trainer should be able to provide this level of information. However, if this law is passed in Colorado, I do hope that it allows for some flexibility to change the plan mid-course with the owner’s consent. As dog trainers, we do not always know what the best course of action is until we try some things.

  5. The dog trainer must report incidents of injury or death to the regulating agency within 24 hours.

    Those reports would then be made available to the public so that consumers can make an educated decision about the dog trainer they choose.

    I think any dog trainer – regardless of methodology – will agree that dog training should not cause injury or death.

In Summary

There are other things I believe are reasonable predictors of whether a dog trainer can do what he/she claims to be able to do, and that might be a good topic for another article. For example, reviews and professional certifications say something about a dog trainer’s successfulness and baseline education in animal behavior. However, the dog training career can be embarked upon from several different paths. So, I would never consider either of these to be a deal-breaker.

However, the above elements of the Truth in Training Law do a pretty good job of requiring integrity, safety and accountability to a sparsely regulated industry.