Dog Owners Need Training Too

Amber Burckhalter, a certified master trainer and the owner of K-9 Coach, recently attended the Association for Pet Dog Trainers conference. Burckhalter is from Atlanta,...

Amber Burckhalter, a certified master trainer and the owner of K-9 Coach, recently attended the Association for Pet Dog Trainers conference.

Burckhalter is from Atlanta, GA and said everyone who saw her Atlanta name tag immediately commented on Michael Vick. Recently there has been another local scandal, this one involving an animal shelter in Fulton county. The director has resigned due to allegations of abuse and mistreatment of the animals housed in the facility. One of the reports alleges pit bulls were being caged with other dogs.

The point Burckhalter was trying to make, not many dog owners realize that the professional dog community isn’t always what it appears. Not only can anyone own a dog, they can also run a dog training facility. Owners need to be trained to learn what to look for and what questions to ask.

Few dog owners realize that within the professional dog community there is a varying degree of what is considered acceptable training and treatment of animals.

Dog owners should aggressively seek out treatment guidelines, professional affiliations and certifications of everyone who comes in contact with their pet, just as parents do their due diligence on the qualifications of a potential child care provider. Owners should ask how the dog professional would deal with their specific situation to ensure that their practices are in line with an owner’s values. Owners should also ask themselves one basic question: Does this sound too good to be true?

Responsible pet ownership goes far beyond annual veterinarian visits and feeding. Owners should try to be more proactive with their dog and its behavior. All dogs should be able to socialize with other animals, children and adults in public to be considered safe. Working with a qualified dog trainer can give the dog and owner all the guidance needed to enjoy visits to the park and visitors at the home. It can also help with behavior problems such as aggression. Training is critical for dogs who have spent time in rescue homes, shelters or other arenas where the history of the dog is unknown.

There is no governing professional group for becoming a dog trainer even though there are associations such as the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), which offer continuing education updates for their members. It is frightening how many people complete an online course and hang out a shingle selling themselves as “dog trainers.” Just because a company has money and slick marketing, does not mean that it has the knowledge or experience to work with your dog.

“Now is the time for all of us — trainers, rescue groups, veterinarians and the public — to work together to take control of abuse and mistreatment of animals through proactive training, research and awareness,” stated Burckhalter. I’ll second that.

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