COMMUNITY DOG CLUBS
Community dog clubs are a fantastic way to socialise / desensitize your dog, and practice your training skills.
Community dog clubs are located in most areas. In Australia, many clubs are affiliated with the ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council) and some also run ANKC Obedience Trials, Rally-O and/or Agility competitions.
Typically these clubs are run by volunteers. The volunteers do everything from conducting the lessons, to running the canteen, to organising the competitions. They work tirelessly and provide a great service to the community.
For a very nominal annual joining free (typically $15 to $30) and an additional daily training ground fee (typically $3 to $8), individuals can participate in regular training days. If you already have a stable, well-socialized dog, joining and attending a club like this is the best money you will ever spend. It will allow you to get exposure for your dog in a setting with a range of other dogs, people and distractions. This is great groundwork for a competition dog, or even for a pet that you want to easily be able to take to busy public areas (parks, festivals, etc).
Most clubs try hard to produce good instructors, however as clubs rely on having many volunteer instructors, it is not possible to set the bar too high in terms of what is required. The typical course to becoming an instructor at a club consists of several theory sessions and some practical group instructing. There is rarely a requirement to have a high level of experience in dog training, or external formal qualifications, prior to becoming a club instructor. You will certainly find a range of skill levels, knowledge and ideas amongst the instructors at any club. It can be very confusing for inexperienced dog owners to follow a system that frequently changes depending on which instructor you have in any given training session. Also some instructors will simply not have the knowledge or skills to address specific issues, indeed in some instances their suggestions are counter-productive and can make issues worse.
It should also be remembered that these clubs typically offer group sessions only, this can make it difficult to properly address an individual owner's specific training goals, or address a particular unwanted behaviour in a dog.
If you decide to take your dog to one of these type of clubs it is imperative that you:
a) Monitor your dog's progress and if you feel that you are not progressing, or that issues are developing, seek advice from a qualified private trainer sooner rather than later.
b) Be very mindful that most of the dog owners at these clubs are inexperienced. Keep your own dog close to you, and don't rely on others to control their dog/s. Give other dogs plenty of space, and watch for behaviours in your dog that indicate fear, anxiety, or excess excitability. These emotional states can lead to dog fights or threats of aggression.
If you are currently attending a dog club, but feel like you need assistance with a specific behavioural issue, or you would like help to achieve a specific skill, contact us. In almost all instances we would recommend that you continue attending your local dog club. Typically a few private lessons will get you back on track.
People currently competing or wishing to commence competition often find regular private lessons are a great supplement to attending their usual club.
For details about Avanti Dog Training qualifications and professional memberships click on the link below.
Dog training and behaviour consulting is an entirely unregulated industry.
Many of the certificates and courses that are on offer for trainers / behaviourists are also completely unregulated. The content of each course is as good as the individual who developed / presented the course.
There are however some internationally recognised qualifications and these are worth looking for. Not having one of these qualifications does not indicate that a person is incompetent, but having recognised qualifications certainly offers some confidence in the trainer's knowledge and skill level.
Below is a list of highly regarded qualifications in the dog training and behaviour consulting sector. Each requires significant study and assessment:
There are also a range of member bodies where trainers can pay a fee (without assessment) to join. Membership of these bodies indicates a level of professionalism and a desire to learn, however membership does not indicate a specific skill level, as no assessment or proof of knowledge has occurred.
APDT - Association of Professional Dog Trainers (USA)
APDT - Association of Pet Dog Trainers (AUS)
PPG - Pet Professional Guild (AUS and USA)
Dog trainers help with day-to-day dog training issues. These can include training dogs to walk on a loose leash, teaching dogs not to jump up on guests, and teaching dogs to follow commands such as sit, come, down, stay, off, or leave it.
Experienced dog trainers can also undertake more complex work, such as training scent detection dogs, tracking dogs, assistance dogs, and competitive sports dogs.
Professional dog training is an entirely unregulated industry. There are no requirements to undertake any formal training; and the training courses that are available are also unregulated. Each course is only as good as the person who developed / presented the course.
There are a lot of antiquated ideas in dog training. Often training concepts are simply passed from one person to another, to another, with little consideration for whether the method is appropriate, or has any scientific basis.
To add to the confusion, dogs are incredibly clever at working out what humans want. They can be exposed to poor-quality training methods and still work out what the handler wants. In all cases this is less than fair to the dog, but in some cases can even present a significant welfare issue.
As an owner it is imperative that you assess the qualifications and capabilities of the dog trainer you choose.
Canine behaviour consultants (behaviourists) have specialist knowledge in dog emotion and cognition. They are equipped to assist you with behaviours such as aggression (dog-to-dog, dog-to-human, dog-to-other species), excessive barking, phobias, resource guarding, digging, property destruction, anxiety, and other undesirable and unhealthy behaviours.
Unfortunately in Australia, behaviour consulting is an unregulated industry, and hence any individual can call themselves a behaviourist. Sadly there are also unscrupulous people selling short courses, claiming that participants will become qualified behavioural consultants on completion. In reality it takes a lot more than a short online course to gain the skills and knowledge required to manage complex behavioural issues, particularly dangerous problems such as aggression.
Always look at the credentials of a behaviourist before organising a consultation.
NB: Veterinary behaviourists are qualified veterinarians who have undergone extensive additional formal study and examination in the field of behaviour. The term "veterinary behaviourist" is exclusively reserved for these individuals. Veterinary behaviourists are the "gold standard" for a range of behaviour cases. Unfortunately veterinary behaviourists are often only located in capital cities.
In regional areas it is often possible to find a GP veterinarian who has undertaken further education in animal behaviour and may also advertise their interest in treating behaviour cases.
When dealing with a complex behaviour case, particularly when the dog is displaying aggression or anxiety, it is important to seek out a veterinary behaviourist or a veterinarian with a clear interest in behaviour cases. This is particularly important when medication is required.
It is important to remember that just holding a veterinary degree does not ensure extensive education in animal behaviour (surprising as that is to many pet owners). GP vets mostly rely on their own personal views and experience to guide them in behaviour modification methods. Some GP vets still recommend dominance techniques, punishment and the use of aversive methods and devices. The scientific evidence does not support these methods.
The veterinary education framework is attempting to address the lack of training delivered to veterinarians with regard to animal behaviour. Unfortunately this is a slow process and the additional units of education will only be undertaken by current veterinary students, hence vets who are already credentialed will remain unfamiliar with the newer methods unless they choose to undertake additional training.