Expiration Date: Why I'm not renewing

The dog training industry is unregulated. This means any novice entering the field has to collect all the knowledge they can and sift through to figure out what has merit and what doesn't.  The other day I received final notice that one of my dog training industry organization memberships expired that day. Actually this was my "we miss you, please come back" request to be exact. This email and the 4 prior reminded, and then pleaded with me to continue my membership.  I understand the auto-generated emails trying to make me stay and I don't fault them for that. However I've been thinking about the prospect of saying good bye to this membership for a long time and I can confidently say today that I'm glad I'm not renewing.   

Every few months or so, a topic comes up on one of the various professional dog trainer Facebook groups, asking if they should renew membership in one of the four main industry professional organizations. Usually 2-3 people go over their pros and cons and the other 30+ messages are people hemming and hawing about the organization in question. Then invariably the thread is closed or deleted because an ideological fight gets started. Yes... this unfortunately is how juvenile so many professional conversations end up. It's why method and training style discussions are banned on many groups, or have strict guidelines on what can be discussed. It makes for a busy moderator job and in the end, prevents civil discussion and consideration... because who can be civil or considerate on Facebook, but I digress.

The four major players in the dog training industry when it comes to professional organizations are APDT, IAABC, PPG, and IACP. There are other certification organizations and communities, but these are the big four and most dog trainers hold membership in at least one. Membership to these groups can be greatly worthwhile when breaking into the field. However once you have chiseled out your spot in the industry, your needs change. For me I needed to look at the content that each group offered. For a lot of these, their content overlaps quite a bit. But some nickel and dime you for it. 

All* of them produce some content for their members. Usually they consist of some kind of newsletter, online courses, a conference, and an online community or email list. Much of this content is not actually included in membership dues (with some exceptions) so to get the full experience, a member can expect to shell out anywhere from $50-$2000+ a year in additional content expenses. Therefore shopping around for the best deal on content becomes a serious consideration. (*I fully disclose that I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of IACP. Therefore I cannot speak of their offerings.)

The other major consideration is the filter with which the information comes to you through. Each of these organizations has a niche, otherwise they would not exist with any kind of real membership. With niches can come support but also isolation.  As mentioned before about the infighting, each membership carries with it a certain ideology or lack there of. When one chooses membership they become branded with the policies, procedures, stances, and behavior of its members. 

I let this membership lapse because membership brands you, and I no longer wished association with a group that was more polarizing and isolating than most.  I'm not here to get into an ideological argument so I will leave all those details out. But the reason I quit was an easy one. I do not believe that polarization is beneficial, and we as an industry do not need a branch dedicated to just one style/methodology. I can still agree with much of its emphasis and purpose without being indoctrinated. And in an industry desperate to come together, having an island all to yourself doesn't fix the problem.

I wrote on the dog training industries problems three times already. Those articles can be found here:

Dog Training is Broken

Filling the Cracks - Making Dog Training Better

Alphabet Soup - A Fatal Problem in the Dog Training Industry

In all of them I have pleaded for a dialog, a mutual understanding, and a middle ground. This is part of the reason I let the membership lapse. Because I want my associations to match my personal and professional positions. 

I could go on spouting my biases and why I belong to who I belong to, but I won't waste your time. You will chose your membership for your reasons. And telling you what to do is no better than people telling me what to do. It doesn't make better trainers. Only education and dialog creates better trainers. 

So shop around, ask questions, and learn.

Study as much as you practice.
— Louis Madarasz

Finally, once you chose your membership, be the best member you can be. Because your colleagues are watching. So are prospective new trainers. And lastly so are owners. No more linked abstracts to a poorly done studies, that the person linking it has not even read... No more ideological arguments with zero respect for all involved in the conversation... No more isolation. Instead take your hands off the keyboard, listen for a while, embrace each other in our love for the human animal bond... and grow.


(Side note: I want to thank these renewal notices for getting me back into my blog. It's been a while recovering from my broken foot and then finding a balance with a booming business. So thanks for hanging in and waiting for new articles.)

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