I set high standards for myself and for the people that choose to hire me to help them with their dogs. These standards come from years of feeling fear, shame, and confusion in my interactions with animals. Interactions that were based on repeating and mimicking what I was taught and cognitive dissonance that eventually became impossible to maintain. I reached a point in my personal life that changed everything and set me up to be teachable and ready to accept that I had made mistakes. While I can’t go back and undo my past, I can be rigorously accountable and remember those animals in each interaction I have now.
I want to share why FSDT is the high standard that we adhere to and how it is different. My goal is transparency and to help you advocate for your dog based on an understanding of facts about this industry and facts about animal behavioral sciences.
Most dog training curriculum revolves around how to mimic or implement a protocol to change a behavioral issue with the focus on obedience. Although obedience is a vital part of the process, learning about the dog as a whole, or the science of behavioral modification, is not included in the curriculum, and taking a dog away from a handler or owner to “train” it, is not the same as being able to teach a handler or owner how to build a relationship with their dog.
Most “certifications” require a subscription to an ideology as defined by the creator of the ideology, regardless if it contradicts psychology, and the science of behavior. Gaps in scientifically accurate curriculum are filled with subscription based diagnosis, and excuses for why the training did not have favorable outcomes, including neurosis.
Because there are no standards in this industry, there are thousands of dog trainers. Consumers can surely find someone who will tell them what they want to hear, vindicating personal feelings, and attitudes, without any competency substantiated. The rhetoric is “everyone has their own style”. Certainly we all have different personalities and abilities, but in this industry, a person can create their own truth and sell it, with no consequences for the destruction they leave in their wake, calling it their “style”.
Because this is a results based industry, it often doesn’t matter what is done to achieve results.
For example: In my pre FSDT days, I worked with a reactive german shepherd. Every time she would bark, lunge, or even look at another animal she would get cranked on, and yelled at. She got to where we could walk or run past anything, reaction free, within a very short amount of time. Her owner only had to pop the leash to get the same results. People who knew the dog raved about how amazing I was, and how they never thought the dog would be able to behave like that. Well, the owner was not willing to handle her dog the way I did and after a while the behavior returned. Of course I blamed her for not doing what needed to be done, and I always justified my behavior with something like “a bite is a bite” or she is a german shepard this is how you have to handle her, or she will turn on you, or hurt someone else.
I have more stories like this than I would like to admit. I learned to train this way initially with horses, then dogs, from the people who I perceived to be doing the most advanced work in the field. Celebrity trainers, military, and police trainers. Unfortunately, this methodology is common (The Koehler Method) and is in large part responsible for the positive only marketing platform.
Things that seem so common sense now (making sure a dog understands the expectations, BEFORE adding compulsion, praising the dog for an achievement, rather than to soften the blow of overcorrection, not relying on intimidation as motivation, not correcting confusion, not punishing emotional responses) were never a part of the conversation. Symposiums, 72 hour courses, jobs based on what tools I used, and pats on the back for not being afraid to “handle” (roughly) certain breeds, were the norm.
Here are some qualifications from a job search site for “balanced dog trainers” in our area. There are a TON of openings for “positive only” trainers and what is important to note is: the term “positive only” is a misuse of operant conditioning definitively, misleading consumers, with their use of LIMA being fraudulent and fundamentally incorrect. ****Stephen Lindsay defines LIMA in his texts Volumes 1-3.
I removed the names of these companies as the point is not to point out individuals rather an industry wide problem.
Formal training is (14 days) provided FREE of cost in Southern Ca. Your only INVESTMENT is to provide your own travel, lodging to “town” Ca and purchase kennels to use at your home for board and trains. The training course certifies you as an official “NAME OF COMPANY” TRAINER, absolutely FREE! After a short probationary period, trainer will make up to $20 hr per private lesson as well as $900 per 2wk board and train successful completion. This rate will increase to 1000.00 per B/T and 30.00 hr after 6 months of employment with no negative remarks/counselings.
How is someone going to learn how to off leash train a dog humanely in 14 days?
Great to Have, but Not Required:
- At least 1 year of previous experience working in a kennel, dog handling, or working with dogs in a professional setting
- Vet tech certification
- CPR certification, humans or dogs
- Dog training experience is a plus
Experience is a plus?
Here is an ad for a certification program.
Fundamentals of Dog Behavior and Training 1
Starting at $4905.00 includes:
- 5-days (40 hours total) of Training from “celebrity trainer” and his Training Team
- All tools and workbooks required for program
- Student dog spots available
- Certificate of completion
- Orientation Dinner on Wednesday Evening
- Catered lunch each day of class
- Graduation Celebration on Sunday Evening
- Professional photos throughout the event
- Drinks and Snacks available throughout the day
- Discounted hotel room rates with the host hotel
- Access to the Training “Celebrity trainer’s” private Facebook page
- Installment Plan available
The main “gain” is celebrity affiliations rather than an education. 5 days.
FSDT requires a working knowledge and understanding of the historical studies and compilations of data that are recognized and qualified by ethologists, biologists, and psychologists. Information that is pulled from the genius works of history’s giants like B.F. Skinner, Pavlov, Dmitri Belyaev, Lyudmila Trut, and Clarence Pfaffenberger (to name a few), and how it relates to LIMA as defined by Steven Lindsay. Obedience is broken down into phases that reflect an understanding of the above and how it applies to our goals for our personal or working dogs. In short: obedience without sacrificing relationships or disrespecting the dog. No rushing, no hacks.
My certification included the following and took just over a year to complete. My mentorship continues to this day. I am still learning! During the course, I had to show a fundamental understanding of the material AND competent application on multiple dogs. I continue to submit videos of our sessions for critiques, especially as I learn new things like scent detection, and how to accomplish specialty training without deviating from LIMA and FSDT, without cutting corners.
In the Beginning
Know Your Traits
Back to the Roots
Effects of Neutering
Health and Behavior
The Importance of Attitude in the Profession
Applied Behavior Analysis
Intro to Applied Behavior Analysis
Extinction, Spontaneous Recovery, Generalization, Discrimination
Shaping and Chaining
Innate vs Learned Behaviors
Escape and Avoidance Conditioning
Non associative learning
Biological Constraints on Learning
Intro to Leadership
Phase 1 Habitation
Phase 2 Habitation
Phase 3 Habitation
Recognizing a problem
The nature of anxiety
Making the plan
What does it really mean?
Phase 1 Training
Phase 2 Training
Phase 3 Training
Phase 4 Training
Forming and Changing
Short term and long term
Animal Rescues and Shelters
The Working Dog
Every dog and handler I have worked with since my FSDT journey started has been an amazing reminder of what it was like and how much better it is now. The problem in this industry is that no one is required to make the effort to understand or learn anything about canine behavior and psychology, or be truthful and ethical in their practices or marketing. You deserve better and your dogs deserve better.