What's Going On Today With Dog Training and Care For Our Dogs?

The world of dog training and behaviour consulting is unregulated.  That means ANYONE can call themselves a dog trainer or "behaviourist", print up business cards, and away they go - they're in business!  The same applies to all related businesses like doggy daycare, boarding facilities, and breeders.

What little regulation that is in place - is still in the dark ages!

To offer a service caring for and training dogs, all that's required by law is to provide the basics.  If the basics are provided there is little the legal system can do to help animals being housed or cared for inappropriately or from being abused.

In Canada dogs are still considered "property".

If something happens to your dog while in the care of, or in consultation with, others - the fallout and resulting behaviour issues will land squarely on your shoulders to deal with.  For example, if your dog is treated badly by a trainer you hired, while at a boarding facility, daycare, groomer, veterinarian, or even by using 'tools' like a shock collar or an invisible fence and he starts to behave aggressively, maybe bites someone, it is 100% your responsibility to deal with that bite and its repercussions even if the resulting behaviour was caused by someone, or something, else.

For any establishment to be active and offer a service, there are very few rules and regulations to protect you, or your dog, from mishandling and/or abuse.  It is Buyer Beware, or better put - Buyer Be AWARE.

For example:

Under the Province of Alberta Animal Protection Act all that's required is as follows:

Animal care duties

2.1 A person who owns or is in charge of an animal

(a) must ensure that the animal has adequate food and water,

(b) must provide the animal with adequate care when the animal is wounded or ill,

(c) must provide the animal with reasonable protection from injurious heat or cold, and

(d) must provide the animal with adequate shelter, ventilation and space.

Under the Code of Practice for Canadian Kennel Operations written by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association the following is all that's required for housing a dog.

Cages or pens must be sufficient in size and height and of a design that permits each animal confined therein to:

i) stand normally to its full height;

ii) turn around easily;

iii) move about easily for the purpose of posture adjustments; and

iv) lie down in a fully extended position

In other words, I would be able to offer a training, daycare or boarding service, put the dog in a box in my basement only large enough to allow him to move about and stretch out.  I only need to provide enough food and water, warmth or cooling, clean air, ventilation, and shelter to sustain his life, and I can legally charge you for my services!

Roughly 35% of Canadian households have dogs and 38% have cats, which rolls out to be about 8 million households, and about six million dogs in Canada.  According to a Square One Insurance blog, we spend about 6.6 BILLION dollars on our pets.

An article written by Arts Air Angels on Feb. 11, 2016 suggests that we have two million homeless dogs, and 600,000 dogs are euthanized each year.

Veterinary associations are telling us that the majority of pets being euthanized today is because of behaviour problems, not medical issues!

Rescue organizations all over the world cannot keep up with the need to house the millions of dogs given up each year, and many simply live feral.

Today's society expects our dogs to be extremely well behaved, every minute of every day, and our dogs are held to much higher standards of behaviour than ever before, yet - we are seeing far more behavioural problems than ever before.

Some people view their dogs as valued members of their families, some to the extreme, but unfortunately there are many who view dogs as money makers with back yard breeders and puppy mills everywhere.  Watch 'Dog by Dog' on Netfix (about the business of puppy mills in the USA), or visit their website here.

Thousands and thousands of dogs are bred each year, especially the cute/fluffy ones, and of course, the seemingly endless combinations of 'designer' dogs.  The most popular breeds like Labs, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, and especially the Poodle of every size and description, are bred and/or crossed with unlimited other breeds of dogs.

Now-a-days people easily pay thousands of dollars for a 'unique' designer puppy - no wonder they're being pumped out like flies!  A litter of 10 puppies can easily be a cool $20,000.00 in someone's pocket!  Pretty darn easy money, especially in today's economic state of affairs.  Income is probably not declared, so it also has the bonus of being tax free!  And, sorry folks, you 'aint gonna get a refund - even if it's stated on a piece of paper!  The worst of the worst are MASTERS of deception!  You walk away thanking them for their concern and compassion, yet, you are still left with all of the responsibility for the health and welfare of your sick (physically and emotionally) companion.  Even reading the fine print won't help, trust me - been there, done that!

My Great Dane came from the empire of Ty Marshall.  I got sucked in - AND I KNOW BETTER!!!!  My emotions took over, and I gave this horrible, horrible man my money!  I just couldn't leave that terrified, helpless puppy in their care - I just couldn't!  And, that emotion is exactly what they depend on!  See these links for more on Marshall and his continuing efforts to run puppy mills:



Craigslist, Kijiji and the like, are loaded with dogs and puppies for sale, and although pet stores have mostly discontinued selling puppies, there are still a few holdouts that I know of (Top Dog Store in Calgary, AB is still in business).  These people and businesses paint a wonderful picture of love and responsibility, but - there is not a responsible or respectable breeder in the world who would sell their puppies to a pet store, or ship a puppy without first screening and meeting their prospective new people!!!  See this article from Companion Animal Psychology, On Puppies, Pet Stores, Behaviour Problems.

Although there are some great breeders out there (Puppy Culture has a Breeders map for wonderfully raised puppies), there are far more who do not have the education or experience for all the things needed to raise healthy, happy, well socialized puppies, and we, the unsuspecting public, are left with the fallout, the cost, and the heartbreak, related to the seemingly limitless health and behavioural issues arising today.  

The ultimate victim though - is the puppy itself.

Many of these wonderful little bundles of joy are not socialized well before leaving the breeder, and many end up in Humane Societies or Rescue - jostled around from place to place, home to home.  A puppy or a dog living this sort of life will likely become a problem, or even a danger, because of anxiety and fear issues developed with such an unstable beginning, and an unstable life.  A good place to start to learn about how good puppies are raised is Puppy Culture, and you can read this article in the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants Journal about Why Is My Dog This Way, Does It Matter If We Know, And What Can We Do?, especially to understand epigenetics, and the fallout stress and fear in the parents and from how they're housed and raised, can effect the thousands of puppies sent out in to well meaning homes. 

Just as damaging, and probably more so, are the famous TV "trainers" and the plethora of other "trainers" spewing seriously bad information to millions and millions of people around the world.  Cesar Millan has an almost cult following, but the information he sells is outdated and "should not be tried at home" as the disclaimer on his programs state.

When looking for someone to help you with the challenges you're having with your dog, please look for someone with an education - from a respectable organization - with experience in canine learning theory, behaviour, psychology, biology, physiology, etc.  Choose one who does not subscribe to outdated theories like: dogs are pack animals and must be dominated to train them, or that you need to be the 'alpha'.  The use of choke chains, prong and shock collars, and other harmful and painful tools and corrections - are not needed to help our dogs learn to get along in our world.  In fact, using tactics and tools like this will likely make the problems worse in the long run!  Here is the position statement from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behaviour (AVSAB) on the use of punishment and tools intended to punish as a way to attempt to change undesirable behaviour in an animal, and here is the position statement from the Canadian Veterinarian Medical Association.

When you see that a trainer or behaviour consultant is claiming that they are 'certified', please ask where they got their certification from.  If the certification comes from an accredited or respected organization they would likely have that information clearly stated in their advertising materials.  I have listed several links to reliable organizations on the Learning Resources page.

In my practice I view our dogs as another sentient being we are sharing this planet with.  Everything on this planet deserves kindness and respect.  I look at a dog from every point of view.  Being holistic means that the whole is more than merely the sum of the parts.  All of the parts are intimately interconnected and work in synergy.  One part cannot function well when another part is dysfunctional.  EVERYTHING affects behaviour, and behaviour is, in fact, communication.  If a dog is fearful, for example, they cannot function well in an environment they don't feel safe in.  None of us can.  The solution is to change the way the dog feels about its environment, reduce the fearfulness and develop confidence.  Anyone feeling safe, secure, and confident will learn much easier, feel more comfortable, and will behave much better than someone feeling insecure, anxious, or afraid. It's Psych. 101.