Service Dog Training Companies, Not All Are Created Equal
As a service dog training company in Los Angeles and Miami, Fun Paw Care takes on a great deal of responsibility for families and individuals with disabilities, educating our community and dogs. We are force-free trainers, (CDBC) Certified Dog Behavior Consultants, Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT) and stay certified by taking continuing education units every year. Not all service dog trainers take their profession seriously and are created equal. To be a skilled service dog trainer, you should have a great depth of knowledge in canine ethology, psychology, cognitive ethology, dog training, evolution, physiology, neurobiology, sociology, learning theory and animal husbandry. This comprehension and skill set is required above and beyond what a normal, balanced and traditional dog “trainer” should understand in order to fully grasp all of the above and to adequately serve individuals with disabilities and dogs in the most humane, scientific, up-to-date and efficient way. To teach or recommend hurtful, incorrect, inaccurate pseudoscience would be a grave disservice to the community and all animals involved (human and canine). It would also contradict with our morals, ethics, our guarantee, ideology, and mission statement. If you have a disability or you love animals, you should care about this article.
I naively thought this was obvious and the “norm” for anyone in the service dog training business, especially for one of the most well-known service dog training 501- c3’s in the country. This brings me to the company, Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). I was recently reading an article published in a local newspaper extolling all of the great things that Canine Companions for Independence was doing for people with disabilities. I was so happy to hear this that I eagerly went to their website. While perusing around their website I came across glaring errors (see below) that make me wonder, “how are they in the business of education and service dog training?” If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes, I would think someone was playing a joke on me.
It is a shame that an established company with over 16 million in revenue and 44 million in net assets for 20111, does not teach correct, healthy, effective, dog training methods or espouse up-to-date, accurate information. Canine Companions for Independence is espousing outdated, unscientific, inaccurate and harmful dog training advice2 for families and dogs. In his cushy job making $224,204 in 2011, CEO John Corey Hudson is apparently not interested in spending (his overpaid “nonprofit” salary) on continuing education units (CEU’s) and learning about proper dog training techniques and ethology.
CCI’s harmful advice and training tips on how to train a dog2 do a disservice to animals at both ends of the leash. It is astonishing that in this day and age when a mature company (established 1975) is still teaching the public with information that predates their existence. CCI has an abundance of resources and backing but not the wherewithal or adequate staff to research, educate themselves and to read about the most basic fundamentals of dog training and ethology. Since information is ubiquitous, there is no excuse.
Dominance theory application and advice is one of the main causes of the inhumane treatment of animals, rehoming and relinquishing dogs to shelters, dog fights, aggression, fear, and the destruction of trust and relationships.3 This is why dominance theory is strongly denounced and not recommended by any knowledgeable professional or organization. Dogs are not pack animals, and you should not attempt to dominate them any more than you would your child or other family members.
CCI’s web page sounds like a page directly from blinkered reality show host Cesar Millan. You can read dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles put out by veterinarian behaviorists, certified applied animal behaviorist and certified dog behavior consultants (CDBC) about the correct way to train a dog and choose a behavior professional and what not to do. To embrace nonsensical, suppositional, harmful information (dominance theory) promoted on a website is irresponsible and abdicates responsibility to the individual, society and our beautiful sentient being pets and working animals. Please visit my website’s resources page under “HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST DOG TRAINER & BEHAVIOR PROFESSIONAL” to read credible, up-to-date information on the science of dog training and behavior and not hypothetical conjecture.
Dominance theory is asinine that only a reality show host or a traditional or balanced dog trainer would practice. I am shocked that CCI, trumpeting an otherwise great cause and valuable service, has the following advice on their website.
Is an Uneducated Company and Person Teaching the Public and Your Service Dog?
- Be the Pack Leader (No)
- Always determine when a game will start and finish (No)
- The pack leader eats first (No)
- The pack leader always has the highest and best sleeping places (No)
- The pack leader controls grooming and physical contact (No)
- Objective (Not necessarily)
- Sit or stand up straight (No)
- Hold your head up (No)
- Use correction only to stop undesirable behavior patterns (No)
Just for a second, imagine doing all of CCI suggestions to your 2-year-old son or daughter.6-7 That is just how ridiculous this is to do with any animal. Dominance theory3 has long been debunked by science. Furthermore, there is no evidence that anthropomorphic behavior or spoiling your pet causes dominance, misbehavior or behavior problems4. It is sad that some companies do not take education, their career, and profession seriously and are not reliable stewards of information5 and education. Should a company (for profit or nonprofit) be teaching this type of misinformation? If they are, responsibility has gone by the wayside.
By an act of omission or commission, this gives a tremendous black eye to an otherwise worthwhile and much-needed service dog training organization. It would behoove CCI to put a knowledgeable person on the board or in charge of training and behavior so that such gross negligent information is not provided to the public. I, nor my company, can in good faith support CCI until this incorrect, harmful and offensive information is corrected and your constituents, volunteers, partners, trainers and host families are provided with correct, accurate, up-to-date, information on ethology, cognitive ethology, husbandry, how to dog train and raise dogs. It breaks my heart that in 2014 I am still writing articles about the ridiculousness of dominating your dog when I would hope proper dog training techniques and learning theory would be well known even amongst laymen.
Canine Companions for Independence
2965 Dutton Avenue
P.O. Box 446
Santa Rosa, CA 95402
tel: (800) 572-2275
TTY: (707) 577-1756
Corey Hudson CEO
Alan Feinne CFO
National Director of Canine Programs
Board Chair Anne Gittinger
Dr. Pauline Parry
Honorary Board Members:
Peter Pergolis, LPCCI
Dean and Gerda Koontz