As the creator of the Dog Decoder app, which helps people learn how to read dogs’ body language, I have an up-close view of many of the people, organizations and other players in the pet industry. For the purpose of this blog, I’m offering my opinion about the dog industry. Sadly, it’s an industry about which I have increasing cause for concern.
While there are some incredible pioneers and leaders, in this industry, some of the top names representing dog-welfare, turn a blind eye when dogs are harmed or die from abuse and/or neglect. Some usurp their power by firing or ostracizing those who speak out or question the status quo, while others think nothing of taking someone else’s idea or product and passing it off as their own. Humane groups supposed to be protecting animals, don’t. The cost of this attitude is the continued suffering of animals and our colleagues who care about them. I have often wondered if one of the reasons suicide is common within the pet world is because of the dog-eat-dog (pun intended) mindset and the hush hush culture, that is so prevalent in the pet community today. It’s enough that many in our field suffer from burnout and depression, we sure don’t need to be hurting each other on top of this. The worst part of it, this suffering and exploitation, is that it’s in the guise of helping dogs. This is the most confusing and disturbing part for me.
The palpable division between the dog trainer camps, (positive reward training and aversive training methods), along side an often strained or non-existent relationship between veterinarians and dog trainers, is alive and strong. These relationships can be an extraordinary opportunity to team up in the effort of helping dogs to thrive, yet, it’s often fraught with ego and aversion. In the end, it’s the dogs who suffer.
In addition to this insidious division, driven by some malevolent leaders are the many organizations, today, offering certificate courses and programs. It can become quite confusing to know which organization to trust. After all, they are not credentialed through state or federal agency, so how does one go about making an informed decision as to where to get the best possible education to suit their needs?
With so many courses and programs being offered, it’s especially important to discuss the competition between dog trainers, professional dog organizations and some new certificate programs by veterinarians, for veterinarians and dog lovers. Competition can be a healthy and vital asset. It can offer more well-rounded hospital staff, different and diverse courses or trainer teams offering their own individual experiences and insights, providing patients, clients and trainers and veterinarians, with more knowledge and experience. It seems however, that competition is seen as a bad thing, hence the dismissal of key people being fired and/or ostracized as a board member or from a team, group or organization. This kind of leadership is separating people not bringing them together. It makes me wonder if branding, agenda and bottom line are more important than the education, offered and it breaks my heart. I am not a dues paying member in any dog related organization for all the reasons stated.
I can’t talk about competition, stigma, credentials, initials, labels, groups, organizations, etc. without talking about Imposter Syndrome. I recently read a wonderful article by Andrew Hale; a graduate of The International School of Canine Psychology and Behavior about Imposter Syndrome and it’s worth the read. It brings to mind again the incredible power that our leaders in this community have and the responsibility this position holds to create a community of unity rather than disunity. Another reminder and perhaps factor in the high suicide rate in the pet care industry especially within the veterinary community.
I’m not sure what can be done about this except to speak out so that more people can feel safe speaking out when they see abuse to animals or our fellow colleagues. We must learn to think more critically about which groups to support and align ourselves with and ask questions!
How can we know what kind of organization we are dealing with or what a particular certification will offer us? Below are some vital tips. Please share this information as a way to combat industry norms and practices that, at the end of the day, don’t have animals’ or animal caregivers’, best interest at heart.
Fact-finding questions for choosing pet-industry organizations to support, learn from, and align yourself with.
- Ask for the syllabus. What exactly is the education being offered that you’re looking into?
- Will credits be offered for continuing education?
- How well rounded is the education or organization?
- How long is the certificate good for?
- How will taking their course benefit you? Will it help meet your goals?
- Are there any strings attached to how you use the certification?
- Are the philosophies up-to-date, offering continued education for growth?
- Are they a one-size-fits-all or do they claim that they are the only one offering what they’re offering?
- If they have a directory, contact people randomly in the directory asking about their experience with the organization; the education, the benefits, the community, etc.
- Can you pay per course without paying yearly membership dues?
- Will you be tied to a long term membership?
- What can you expect from paying a yearly membership fee?
- If you take the course and don’t pay yearly membership fees, is your certificate still valid?
- Is the organization a non-profit or for profit?
- Check to see who their affiliates are, not who is financially backing them.
- If they are offering a license, ask who is licensing; the government (state, federal)? Don’t be fooled or confused by terms. Dog training is an unregulated industry.
- How does it feel when you are asking questions? Do you feel they are polite and forth coming with their answers or are they put off by all your questions?
Do your due diligence to be the best dog advocate you can be.
About the author: Jill Breitner, is a professional dog trainer and dog body language expert loving and living her life on the west coast of the USA. She is the author of Dog Decoder, a smartphone app about dog body language recommended and used by veterinarians, shelters, trainers, educators and guardians worldwide. Jill has been teaching gentle handling/basic husbandry skills to clients and their dogs for 40 years, to be your pets advocate for a happier and stress free life. Join Jill on her Dog Decoder Facebook page