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Background

The main problem with working dog programs are the same today as when the first working dogs were used in the United States in the early 1900’s. The items below are taken from the book Police Dogs in North America by Samuel Chapman.

Operating a well-run detection team requires a lot of persistence and money. There are many expenses and obstacles that need to be overcome, such as: purchasing, training and maintaining dogs, never-ending training requirements, lack of funding, handlers leaving, working dog team is not cost effective, handlers are unproductive with their dog, K9 unsuited for working, consequences of dog bites, and managements’ lack of knowledge on proper utilization of the working dog team.

Choosing a Training Center

Unfortunately, there are very few qualified training centers in America. My experience over the years has taught me that just because you have been doing something for many years, or have worked a dog for “so and so”, doesn’t make you a trainer. Most trainers, if you investigate their background, have simply decided that they are now trainers and have somehow achieved the knowledge to teach others. Their credentials leave a lot of unanswered questions or are very padded with words that sound impressive.

There are a number of things to consider when selecting a training center. Many training K9 trainers have never been through a accredited training program. Many handlers only work dogs during their initial course of instruction, but never learn the principles behind what they are doing. Did that training provide any class room instruction? How many dogs have they worked as a full time job? Many trainers have never been full time K9 handlers and some are reserve officers. How effective were they and what kind of production are they gaining with handlers currently in the field?

It doesn’t matter how many dog teams you have trained or are currently training. What does matter is how productive the teams are for their agency. Is your program cost effective? A dog program needs to be cost effective and should not cost more money to operate than it produces.

Credentials and Credibility

Training centers often promote references, testimonials, years in the industry, combined experience, exciting titles like “Master Trainer” or “Head Trainer”, “Expert Trainer”, “Training Director”, “Member of … Club”. These titles are misleading and don’t really amount to much. “Master Trainer” is one of the most misused titles, which can simply mean they are in charge of training a large number of dogs in the military or a department. Rank, not experience, usually dictates who gets titles. “Expert Trainer” is just as open ended; merely defining what they train. “Training Director” is likely the person who coordinates the training. Combined experience is also very misleading as the statement doesn’t explain accomplishments, just several people with combined years in the industry.

Certifications also hold little credibility. They are merely as credible as paying dues to be a member of a club. Certified doesn’t mean the team has been trained or educated. Certifications state that the K9 or K9 Team has passed minimum requirements to certify under specific requirements established by that certifying authority. Certifications are not an indication of effectiveness or competency and performance.

There are certifications for detection work that can be completed via video. There is no other human present and the student sends a video to the certification authority who then reviews it and makes a decision. I know of another training center where the “Master Trainer” started his own certification authority and all dogs that train under him had to certify through his agency. Most certified teams are just statements made by the person selling the dog. Verify the requirements used to certify the dog and handler.

Member of _____

Being a member of a club can be a prestigious thing, but ultimately it means that they paid dues and are members. It is not a measure of skill, achievement, or experience in the industry.

My training was with a highly structured, quality controlled program in the military and U.S. Customs. There are few training facilities that can compare to that level of instruction. I attended hundreds of hours of schooling through accredited and structured training and have worked over 12 different K9s as a full time job since I was 19 years old. Please feel free to ask for references if you would like to speak with department heads on my ability to bring success to your K9 program.

In my “family dog” training company, I have never utilized testimonials or references to promote myself. Customer reviews are available on search engines, such as Yahoo and Google, and a customer can write a raving or damaging review, offering information over which I have no control. I simply provide a link and ask if they would like to leave a review. Think about it. Would you put a bad review on your own website? A review placed on a site that isn’t within my control is an honest one, good or bad.