When trying to pick an animal trainer/behavioirts to work with it is easy to be drawn in by flashy websites, huge social media followings and people who can talk the talk. A lot of people have fantastic marketing skills which can distract from their lack of professional credibility. It can be really hard to see through the smoke and mirrors to work out how someone actually works and who is the right person to choose.
In the UK the animal behaviour and training industry is completely unregulated. Anyone reading this could decide, as of right now, to be a dog trainer, cat behaviourst, separation anxiety specialist...
There are no compulsory standards to meet, qualifications to achieve, codes of conduct to follow. There is also nothing stopping someone setting up their own organisation to 'accredit' other trainers etc.
For members of the public this is a mine field that leads to confussion, frustration and upset. For other professionals it is equally frustrating seeing those masquerading as experts mislead clients or mistreat animals.
There is desperate need for regulation. It isn't about who is the best, the most educated and so on. It is about protecting animal welfare and building trust between the profession and members of the public. The consequences of getting things wrong can be catastrophic. Often it may be wasted money and frayed tempers, or a annoying behaviour that continues unresolved. But it could also lead to an animal posing a serious safety risk of those around them, an animal enduring psychological distress indefintiely or animals being rehomed or destroyed unnecessarily.
I would strongly recommend that anyone looking for a training or behaviour professional looks at those on the Animal Behaviour and Training Council (ABTC) register: https://abtc.org.uk/practitioners/
"The Animal Behaviour and Training Council is the regulatory body that represents animal trainers, training instructors and animal behaviour therapists to both the public and to legislative bodies.
It sets and maintains the standards of knowledge and practical skills needed to be an animal trainer, training instructor or animal behaviour therapist, and it maintains the national registers of appropriately qualified animal trainers and animal behaviourists."
I am proud to have recently been selected as a trustee for the ABTC and I am excited to be volunterring my time to a cause I feel passionately about.
If you have a professional in mind who isn't ABTC registered I would make sure you ask them to fully explain their expertise and what methods they will be using. Below are a few 'red flags':
- Guaranteed results in a set time frame
- 'Balanced' training methods
- 'No treats' as a selling point
- Any reference to dominance, pack leader, teaching the animal who is in charge
- Animal 'whisperer'
- No reference to any formal training or accreditations
- The use of slip leads, choke chains, prong collars, shock collars (e-collars), corrector sprays etc
There are no quick fixes when it comes to behaviour. If there were you wouldn't still be biting your nails, snacking too much and so on... It might be hard but it is possible to modify behaviour without using force, fear or coersion and the rewards are huge.