Yes that’s right ladies and gents, my dog is a professional dog. He is a great dog. He is fully trained in the art of sniffing other dogs butts (and eyeballs, but don’t knock a guy for his fetish), qualified in finding the grossest thing to eat in a field, trained in galloping like a tit and falling over with NO grace.
My issue is people who say they are dog professionals.
Those who know me closely have no doubt heard my gripes about dog trainers, dog walkers, dog boarders and general dog ‘professionals’ who claim to have it all in spades and have nothing to back it up. I have spent many an hour having a good old rant about these people.
Here is the crux of it, would you take your dog to a vet that wasn’t qualified? Would you take your dog to a vet that said ‘I have years of experience!’ but had no police checks, insurance or relevant qualifications? No. Would you go and visit a therapist who claimed to be a ‘whisperer’ who could fix your problems fast, but had nothing to back that up but having read a few Freud books? Moreso nowadays we are seeing every man and his dog (literally) setting up a dog related business and trading as professionals. Did you know that the world of dog training in the UK is entirely UNGOVERNED? Anyone can set up as a trainer and claim to be a professional. That is frightening.
I have just this week handed in my notice at work because I want to work with dogs, so to start with I am going to become a dog walker for Pontcanna Dog Walking. I intend to train as a behaviourist while I walk dogs and gain as many qualifications as possible. I am currently studying a certificate in Animal Behaviour and Welfare, volunteer at Cardiff Dogs Home on weekends, have my own dog, am DBS (CRB/Police) checked, insured and fully vetted by the manager of PDW who is indeed a qualified professional and am doing my Dog First Aid course in a few weeks. I took steps to get all these accolades under my belt because I know if I wanted to hire a dog walker, these are the least I’d expect. You’re not just handing over the lead for someone to walk your dog around an field, you’re handing a complete stranger the keys to your home, access to your belongings and more importantly, complete responsibility for the creature that you probably love as much as I love mine.
It’s not just about the qualifications of the person you entrust with your pride and joy either, it’s about their attitudes, methods and inspirations. With celebrity dog trainers such as Cesar Milan promoting the ideology that you must be the ‘Calm Assertive Pack Leader’ of your dog, more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon of adopting these ‘training methods’ and declaring themselves a ‘whisperer’. Now this is a personal choice of course however I do not want wishy-washy terms like ‘whisperer’ to be anywhere near my dog. I don’t want anyone to be my dog’s master, pack leader or boss. I want someone who will teach my dog trust. My dog sits when I ask him to because I have taught him he will consistently get rewarded if he does. He comes when he is called because he trusts I am going to be kind to him when he reaches me. He trusts me to take food, treats and toys from him because he knows I will substitute it for something lovelier. I never hit my dog, never shout at him, never chastise or punish, and I don’t want someone who watched The Dog Whisperer walking or training my dog and shitting all over that hard work.
Whether your working with a dogs body (vets, walkers, daycare etc) or its mind (behaviourists, trainers etc) you should be as qualified as you can possibly be. Claiming to be an expert is misleading and has the potential to be disastrous. No longer is the hallmark of a professional a good website, a fancy logo and a good chat, you have to make the effort as a dog owner to really find out if that person you are letting into your dogs life is a good match for them and you.
Below is a handy checklist that I have put together so you can make sure you’re choosing the right professional for you and your dog, regardless of what service they are providing:
Do they share the same training/handling ideologies as you?
If they don’t share these ideologies, then walk away.
Are they DBS (CRB/police) checked?
Disclosure Scotland provides a full history check for just £25 and it usually turns up in a few days, so they should have one of these at the very least.
Are they insured?
While they are out walking, if they take their eyes off your dog and it is hurt, who foots the vets bill? You don’t want to be paying out £3000 to fix a broken leg because your walker was too busy texting their mates.
Are they qualified, or making steps to become qualified/accredited?
This is particularly important with trainers, behaviourists and vets (of course!) A walker as a minimum should be able to demonstrate confident dog handling skills and have some sort of first aid qualification in case of an accidentl
Do they have references?
You do NOT want your dog to be the guinea pig in someones ‘lets set a business up’ whim. Get references, and check they are real and not written by mates.
Do they seem right?
Often gut feeling says a lot. Remember how much you’re trusting this person with
Do they make wild claims to be a ‘whisperer’ or ‘pack leader’?
Marketing is clever, and terms like this are PURELY marketing gimmicks. Don’t fall for it. Ask for more references and research your own training methods, then find a trainer/behaviourist/walker that matches those.
I guess I wrote this because I am a bit alarmed by the people I see setting up and thinking they can fling a dog around a field for ten minutes and make a few quid, or those that will jab a dog in the ribs and go ‘tttsssk!’ and it will suddenly obey their command. More and more dogs are ending up in rescue because of poorly managed ‘professionals’. Watch who you choose! That said, kudos to those who work hard at what they do and are striving for professionalism and success. Those are the people you should give your money and your pride and joy to, not those with a fancy logo and a whimsical idea.