Jolene teaching classes early in her career.
Fun Fact: The animal behavior industry in the United States is unregulated. This means that you could create a website tomorrow claiming that you are a trainer and charge people money and that would be completely legal.
With this in mind, no wonder finding a trainer can be so confusing and overwhelming for the general public. Not only are there different training methodologies (positive reinforcement vs balanced vs aversive), there are also different certifications that trainers can get to show they know their stuff. Unfortunately because the animal behavior field is unregulated, this also goes for the certifying bodies. Not all certifications are equal and vary when it comes to what is required in order to obtain them. Some certifications require applicants to pass a multiple choice test, while others require applicants to prove their knowledge of learning theory, provide case studies, and upload video of their work with animals. Jolene and I have a variety of certifications that require a number of these things. Here are some examples of reputable certifying bodies:
How is the general public supposed to know all of this? How do they wade through the overwhelming amount of information to find the right fit for them?
In our opinion the only way that solid, reliable information reaches the general public is for professionals that have reputable accreditations to put it out there. Sometimes there are local organizations of trainers that can make it easier for the general public to find the correct information (like Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin), but not all places are lucky enough to have groups like that.
Training is an investment of time and money, and we have so many clients come to us that have not seen a return on their investments. We have always told clients that honesty and transparency is a cornerstone of how we do business, and to ask LOTS of questions prior to committing to anything. It is incredibly important to us that potential clients are comfortable with any trainer that they choose, even if it’s not us. If you’re going to invest time and money, shouldn’t your trainer be able to prove that they know their stuff? Testimonials are certainly helpful, but being evaluated by a non-biased third party (like the organizations above) to determine if they know what they’re doing is the clearest way to determine if the trainer you are considering is worth your investment.
Another reason that we recommend these certifying bodies is because they require that anyone who is certified through them complete a certain number of hours of continuing education every year, which is incredibly important in any scientific field. New research is constantly coming out, which means that behavior professionals should be open to change and learning new concepts. Jolene and I have had many moments over our years in the field where our worlds were “rocked” and we had to change how we addressed certain behavior concerns or explained concepts to clients. Trainers who do not pursue continuing education get left behind and often rely on outdated and archaic training methods.
The fact that the animal behavior field is constantly changing is one of the reasons that we love what we do. It’s certainly never boring!