Alphabet Soup - A Fatal Problem of the Dog Training Industry

Originally the title of this post was going to be "Why I will not be seeking PPG accreditation..."but I felt that this was too specific. It is true, I will not be seeking to pass the accreditation/certification/licensure (whatever it is being called at this point - it seems to change daily) process with the Pet Professionals Guild. I have many reasons for this, some specific to the organization, but the most powerful reason is because I don't need more letters and neither does the public. 

As of writing this, I have 20 initials after my name. That is 5 more letters than my entire name, including my middle name. Why do I need so many? The problem is that I don't. 

Some readers might not be aware of this, but dog training is an unregulated industry. Unlike most professions from plumbers to psychotherapists, there are regulatory agencies that have set standards for education, experience, and testing. Unfortunately this is not so for dog training. After reading this article, you can turn around and call yourself a professional dog trainer and no one can stop you.

Out of this problem of quality control for the consumer, professional organizations were born. Professional schools, online schools, and other career development agencies also began popping up, trying to get into the pockets of those trying to navigate the industry and determine how they could become qualified professionals and advertise that to the public. Again with no regulatory body, these programs, schools and certifications are all varying in quality. ethics, and value.

Then comes the egos... and the infighting... and battles over methods and tools... and ethics... and round and round it goes, spinning down a drain that does nothing but hurt dogs and frustrate the consumer into never trusting the industry again.

So now we come to today. The bulk of the industry (dog trainers - not veterinary behaviorist or those with PhDs in behavior) has three primary respected organizations - The Association for Professional Dog Trainers, The Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers, and The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. The first (APDT) being an umbrella organization committed to navigating the industry and educating ALL dog trainers (regardless of other membership), the second (CCPDT) committed to presenting, evaluating and certifying professional standards in the industry, and the third (IAABC) committed to presenting, evaluating and certifying professional standards in the industry as well as bridging the gap between dog trainers focused on behavioral modification and veterinarians.

And there are the others. Specifically the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and the Pet Professionals Guild (PPG). Each swings on either side of the center. IACP is an all inclusive group, who welcomes any training method, regardless of questionable use in the industry. Many people considered "traditional trainers" hold membership in this group. PPG sits on the other side of the training spectrum as a herald for dog training that never contains any pain, fear, intimidation or use of a tool developed to cause any of these elements. This stance is commonly called "Force Free". 

These are the major players and you would think that in the best interest of the dogs we all love, we could ignore our differences and find common ground to develop industry standards. Instead just the opposite has happened. Of the 5 mentioned groups, as of writing this, 3 have certifications - CCPDT, IAABC, and IACP. And in the last week PPG has announced their certification plan. Details of PPGs have been hazy and seem to change each time I view the website but regardless, this is a mistake. PPG is about principles. There is no reason to put more letters after my name that further confuse the consumer when I can just as easily take a highly respected test and tack on a logo that says I follow PPGs principles. 

I blame egos. And it hurts in my gut to say it because I know we do this work because we love dogs. But for some reason in this industry, every member must be on "THE WAY". The perfect gospel spoken truth regarding dogs. Forgetting the science is always changing and that cooperation saves more dogs than exclusion. Because another certification is just that, exclusion. And until regulatory standards are created, it just continues to hinder the consumers navigation to their life or death problem - fixing their dog. 

From my experience, the remedy to this fatal problem is extending the olive branch to all dimensions of dog training. To create an industry standard that is not controlled by one group but by representatives of all of them. This solution would solve the epidemic of subpar dog trainers and set a standard that would stop sensationalized TV personalities that damage more than they inform.

So in conclusion I will not be taking the PPG accreditation exam, not because I disagree with their standards, but because I disagree with the delivery. I am uncomfortable with further confusing the consumer. Instead I will stand behind the certifications already established and work to further my education and standards so that the public has one more dog trainer they can trust. Until the industry standard is that where a dog owner can trust in the quality and knowledge of any professional they hire.