The dictionary would have us understand professional to mean “Engaging in a given activity as a source of livelihood or as a career” but in terms of Dog Training what does this actually mean?

Dog Trainers like other areas of the Pet Industry, such as food and nutrition are not meticulously regulated. This has left the dog training industry with practicing professionals operating at extreme ends of the professional spectrum. One end of this spectrum has professionals operating as trainers who are qualified through their commitment and passion for animals through years of animal involvement. At the other end of the spectrum are the animal behaviorists, those dedicated through education to understanding animal behavior as a science an important part of animal psychology.

Canine behaviorists unlike many Dog Trainers can not only help you teach your dog a few commands but can actually help you modify unwanted behaviors such as aggression, anxiety issues and phobias. Training skills are one of the many tools found in the behaviorist repertoire of skills.  Canine behaviorists unlike many trainers do not work with predefined recipes but are able to select from many areas of learning theory to address each dog and its unique behavioral challenges.

So how do you choose a trainer for Fido? An internet search will inundate you with organizations, clubs, on line experts all promising you success in training Fido and making him the perfect family companion. Well there are several highly reputable professional organizations with extensive member directories. These organizations have ridged codes of conduct for professional members. They list member’s qualifications and areas of expertise making your search easier.

The American Pet Dog Trainers Association, there vision is “All dogs are effectively trained through dog-friendly techniques and therefore are lifelong companions in a relationship based on mutual trust and respect.

The National Association of Pet Dog Trainers NADOI, states in their code of ethics for members “Always will I advocate training by such methods that will keep the best interest of the dog, the handler, and the fancy in mind”.

The DogSmith®, a national dog training franchise that has a rigid code of conduct, and all the DogSmiths are members of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and work within that code of conduct too.

DogSmith Certified Dog Trainers are a competent body of professionals.  Competence is the most ethical obligation a professional has in their field of expertise.  To be competent means the professional is knowledgeable, is schooled in the theory and research of their industry and has the necessary skills to actually apply that field of knowledge to a working situation with their clients. Within the companion animal training and behavior field “necessary skills” refers to the professional’s interviewing skills, their ability to use functional assessment procedures to determine the most appropriate behavior change program required and technical skills, their ability to use appropriate behavior change interventions (Welfel 2009).

Competence is the measure of actual professional performance, not the level and amount of education an individual has.  Like in all professions it is unlikely that one companion animal trainer or behavior analyst will be competent across all their industry interventions. The   services offered by a companion animal trainer or behavior professional are referred to as their “scope of practice”.  DogSmiths as competent professionals only work within the boundaries of their knowledge and skill body.

Professionals recognize that it is the right and responsibility of every individual to advance their welfare. Clients have freedom of choice and do this voluntarily when they have adequate disclosure of information regarding the services to be provided and an appropriate understanding of the circumstances and the expected results. Clients have ethical and legal rights to this information when embarking on a professional relationship with a companion animal trainer or behavior professional (Welfel 2009).

DogSmiths acknowledge that clients in the companion animal behavior consulting and training relationship have the full responsibility for their animals. Professionals must fully disclose all aspects of the professional client relationship in terms of confidentiality, role of each partner in the relationship, the cost of services, payment methods, cancellation and reimbursement terms and liability and indemnity policies (O’Heare 2009).

DogSmith professionals are diligent and focus their attention on the needs of the client.   DogSmith companion animal trainers and behavior professionals consider the client to also include the animal. The pet dog is the vulnerable component in the consultation process as they cannot offer informed consent and the priority is always on using non invasive and non intrusive interventions that are successful. The DogSmith is always concerned with the animal’s welfare, the behavior change methods to be employed and the parameters of confidentiality and privilege relating to local and state animal controls, ordinances and laws (O’Heare 2009).

Each of these organizations will help you to find a dog trainer, or canine behaviorist that will meet the needs of you and your pet, humanely, safely and conducted by a Professional who not only engages in the activity as a source of income but one who has you and your pets best interests at heart.  There are members of these associations in most  geographical areas. So having made the responsible decision to train you dog, spend some time to select the right trainer, one who has a mandate of ‘do no harm, seek to do good”