I started training dogs in 1964 and became an instructor in dog training clubs in London in 1966. In those days to become an instructor you had to prove your ability to train dogs by competing and winning obedience competitions of else be a police dog handler or ex police dog handler. We all did it for free as a community service. I also started helping people with behaviour problems which, at that time was only guesswork (it actually still is but perhaps more educated guesswork than all those years ago).
Things started to change in the dog world in 1980 when I packed in my full time job in engineering and devoted my time to working with dogs and owners. My friend and colleagues at the time were people like John Holmes (the first ever dog behaviourist) Roy Hunter (who invented dog agility, later taken up by my good friend Peter Meanwell) and John Fisher who was the first of us trainers to break into the area of Dog Behaviour by being Dr Roger Mugford’s trainer of choice. Together with Peter Neville and David Appleby John and I formed the very first dog behaviour organisation which we called the APBC, The Association of Pet Behaviour Consultants. The veterinary profession objected to the word Consultant because they cannot call themselves consultants so John Fisher came up with the word counsellors so we did not have to change the artwork and logo.
There was a meeting called at the BSAVA office in London to discuss how someone would qualify as a dog ‘behaviourist’ which was chaired by John Bower. Present were myself, John Fisher, Peter Neville, David Appleby and Dr Mugford. It was decided by the various veterinarians present that to be a behaviourist one needed an ‘ology’ (a degree) such as zoology etc. That left out John Fisher, David Appleby and myself as we didn’t have degrees. Veterinarians of course would be able to be behaviourists which is when John Fisher pointed out that the three of us were actually teaching veterinarians and veterinary nurses about dog behaviour!! So this is why to join the APBC the criteria says applicants should NORMALLY possess a degree etc etc. We were made an exception to the rule. I actually dropped out of the organisation a few years later when it became top heavy with classroom behaviourists who had never trained (or even owned) a dog in their lives.
And so the split between dog behaviour and training happened as (Pedigree pet foods) wanted to sponsor a training organisation and so John Fisher set up the APDT at a meeting in the South Mimms services. This was attended by many well known trainers who were turned down by the APBC as they did not have a degree. So basically when many of the trainers present realised that this was an attempt to stop them dealing with behaviour problems many walked out of the meeting, Roy Hunter included.
Then we had a group calling themselves ASAB (Association for the study of ANIMAL behaviour coming into the UK to try and get our government to recognise behaviour as being different to training. Believing that I was one of them (The letter I received was addressed to Dr John Rogerson) they outlined the divide between dog training and behaviour thus: If a dog is off lead and fails to respond to a recall command in a local park it can then be seen by a dog trainer. However if the dog tries to attack a dog when it is off lead then it may only be seen by a behaviourist!!! So in response to this I challenged the people calling themselves ‘qualified behaviourists’ through some of the popular dog press. This was the challenge. The behaviourists chose ten of their top people and I would choose my ten trainers. Each group would be given a matched set of dogs from a large animal charity with known behaviour problems including aggression. The participants would the take the dogs home for 3 weeks and then meet in a public place to put the dogs through a series of tests including strangers interacting with the dogs, dog to do interactions etc. Lion Television wanted to film the whole thing as a documentary. I had over 50 trainers contact me wanting to be on my team. The Behaviourists declined the invitation to take part stating that it would prove nothing at all.
So dog training and dog behaviour continued to split and universities then starting to offer courses on animal behaviour. I have lectured at universities all over the world on DOG behaviour and have therefore met many Dr’s and Professors who teach on animal behaviour courses. I have to report that many of them have very badly behaved dogs themselves!
SO now enter the Kennel Club, not wanting to be left behind in the growing need for trainers and behaviourists to have ‘qualifications’.
I used to be a committee member of the government advisory body the Companion Animal Welfare Council where the unregulated field of animal behaviour and training was discussed. The CAWC came down heavily in favour of the KC programme for dog trainers and behaviourists which was more comprehensive than any other accreditation programme. I heavily promoted this programme until we discovered that if you stopped paying your yearly subscription then you lost your previously hard earned ‘qualification’ and had to cease advertising that you held their KCAI certification!
So if you have read this so far you will no doubt Be aware that it is minefield out there for anyone wanting to take up a career in dog training or dog behaviour with over 120 training and behaviour organisations you can join, most of which are going to cost you lots of money. To try to help as many people as possible, I am now offering my 20 module online course for FREE.
When I started up I learnt my trade from many of the greats in the dog world, none of whom charged me a penny for painstakingly teaching me. I am now handing others the same opportunity to learn what I have learnt over the past 55 years. If you want letters after your name then this is not the course for you but if you want to help others train their dogs and manage behaviour problems then all you need to do visit – Free Online Courses.
This Post Has 4 Comments
Since owning dogs since 1981, I have mostly enjoyed doing Working Trials (came in via Obedience) and reached TD Open with one of my Aussies before he injured himself on jumps and then qualified my husband’s Collie TDEx.
I had the pleasure of going on a few of Roy Hunter courses and learnt a lot, I also went on all the John Rogerson courses I could get to, amazing amount of knowledge and fun while learning. Glad to see these courses on line. You never stop learning.
Thank you John. There are some out there dishing out degrees to folk who can not even train their own dogs, then supposedly going off to train innocents and their dogs.
fantastic article i started training around 1986 and did training days with the fabulous roy hunter looking back i regret not going to colchester for roy hunter courses i would like to thank you for the opportunity for your free online course you are one of the true legends of the dog world