I often get asked about why I chose this tagline to represent my business. Questions like “Aren’t all dog trainers certified - why would you need to specify that?” or “Why not just Certified Dog Training – why add Family to it?“ So, to kick off 2021 and the beginning of the Spawt On! blog, let’s break it down.
Man would it ever be nice if all trainers had to be certified – that would make everything so much easier. Instead, the world of dog training is completely unregulated and uncontrolled. This means that anyone can start a business or call themselves a dog trainer with no experience and no skills – and many do.
To me some of the scariest phrases in this industry are things like “self-taught”, or “always been around animals and am a natural with them”. These phrases lead clients to a false sense of security as it makes the individual seem like they are a good fit. While having natural talent is great (and I might even venture to say required), a certification means that the trainer has dedicated resources (time, money etc.) into perfecting their craft. Many certifications also require the person to acquire a certain number of Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) each year in order to keep their certification current. This keeps the trainer up to date on new research or developments and changes within the industry.
Unfortunately you can still find so many trainers out there that believe in the “dominance theory” or “pack hierarchy“ and while these terms sound flashy and are what many of us grew up with they have be disproven by science time and time again. Don’t get me wrong, you can get results using these methods but, not only are they unkind and confusing for the dog, but have the potential to cause major behaviour fallout including fear and aggression. Why should our dogs live in fear of us and the repercussions that we deliver if they mess up in our presence? Can any of us say we are truly perfect 100% of the time?
So if the industry is unregulated, how do you know what a good certification is? This is tough as well as there are so many options. For me I think length of the program is important – no one becomes a master at something in weeks. As well, I feel a hands on component is necessary. All trainer’s are going to have their own personal journey and there is no one right path, but for me this looked like this:
I am self taught…. Just kidding, but I did always have a passion for animals.
Though at the time I didn’t know it would lead to dog training I completed a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology (Concentration in Primate Behaviour) at the U of C. Wait, primates you say – how does that apply? Learning theory is the same across all animals (yes humans included). The things I learned throughout this university degree show up time and time again in my other certifications and other continuing education.
I worked in a grooming shop for a year and loved it and decided that is what I wanted to do with my life. It had me with animals all day – what could be better than that!
I had my own dog with some serious behaviour challenges (a topic for another time) and began classes with him at Dogma.
I loved their philosophies and their goal to change the dog training industry. I decided that being a dog trainer was a better fit than grooming and where I wanted to slot myself in to the vast landscape of the pet care industry. Dog training allows me to help people that are dealing with similar issues as I was, and better yet to help others from ever having to get there. I completed my DCBC certification (Dogma Certified Behaviour Consultant). This was an 18 month intensive program that included some classroom and a ton of hands on time. I also worked for Dogma for 4 years where I started as a daycare attendant and moved up to the Head Trainer as I gained my certifications and developed my skills.
Next I completed my CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed, a mouthful I know.) which is one of the most recognized certifications that exists for dog trainers in Canada and has many requirements before you can even take the test. Things like a minimum number of hours in dog training and class instruction, as well as signing a Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.
After we moved to Toronto, I began the process of creating my own business, and Spawt On! was born.
We now have scientifically valid and proven methods that not only align with how dogs learn, but also foster a positive relationship between you and your dog versus using fear as a motivator. So let’s use these methods!
Not all training is the same. The industry is huge and varied. You can do competition obedience, agility, fly ball, scent work, and the list goes on and on. To me family dog training is not about creating a Olympic level skilled dog. It is about training a dog to know what it needs to know to fit in a given household and to keep everyone's lives enjoyable – and those needs can be different.
Manners and safety skills play a huge part in what most families are looking for as these are the things that allow a dog to be out when company comes over, or go on a walk in a busy area. These are the skills that allow them to be included more in the day to day life of the family and don’t have to always be left behind at home. The list of skills you can teach your dog is endless, and continuing their learning is always a great way to bond and good for their mental health. Teach them the skills they need, or the tricks you think are adorable – don’t let the world dictate what your dog needs to know.
People sometimes wonder why I let my own dogs do certain things or why they don’t know a skill that might be considered “basic”. “But you’re a dog trainer – shouldn’t your dogs be perfect?” My answer is “no”. My dogs know what they need to in order to be successful in my home and with my lifestyle. Life is more fun for them and me when perfection isn’t a requirement. My one dog doesn’t even know sit that well – she’ll do it sometimes but it was never a skill I focused on. Why? Simple. She prefers to lay down – and looks super uncomfortable when in a seated position. It doesn’t affect anything in my life whether on not she can sit versus just hold a stand or down – so why force this position on her that she doesn’t like. As a member of my family versus “just a dog” I want her to enjoy our time together as much as I do – and sitting just doesn’t make the list.
To me dog training isn’t a cookie cutter, one size fits all activity. To me the “Family” in my tag line is about each dog and family and their individual needs, versus an arbitrary list of what constitutes a “well trained” dog. I believe that each training plan should be tailored to fit accordingly. I couldn’t care less if your dog can hold a down/stay for 20 mins. If you want them to, we can teach them that – but I don’t have a set agenda going in.
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