Dog knowledge is integral to canine professionalism. It’s really not enough to love dogs, we have to know what they are saying to us and be able to communicate back to them in a way they understand.
At risk of criticism here I’m going to say that no-one really knows dogs, other than the dogs. In addition, we can understand one dog, but not another. We must keep learning throughout our lives and choose our sources of information carefully.
Whether you studied dogs straight from formal education or have taken a career change later on really makes little difference. You may have a base education from school or college, yet the knowledge of our dogs is changing so much every year that topping up your professional development is of paramount importance.
Domestic dogs are a unique study opportunity for ethologists. We can study the animal who is not human, in their natural environment which is domestication. We don’t have to travel beyond our borders like we would if we were studying wild wolves. Thousands of years of evolution have bought the study subject directly onto our sofas. Whilst we can’t be certain how they feel, dogs seem happy to live with us in the most part and we are certainly
happy to live with them.
If you have never formally studied dogs before now, it’s a great time to be doing it. Science loves them at the moment and new studies and theories are released every day. The options of study are vast too, but it’s important to choose carefully.
Dog training and behaviour as a profession is currently self-regulated. Because of this, methods are varied, and education is a mixed bag. The theory that dogs are wolves still has a vast hold on the dog training and so does force and punishment. Methods are changing though, in line with science and eventually regulation is likely to come into force for dog trainers. Hopefully, it will be organised and based on proper learning theory and understanding of how damaging force and punishment is to dogs. Eventually the truth about outdated pack theory will surely be eliminated by proper education too.
To continue an efficient professional development, it’s a good idea to split your learning between theoretical and practical education, on a regular basis. Home study is an excellent choice, which can be supplemented by practical workshops or volunteering on a practical basis somewhere – maybe in your everyday job if you’re already a canine professional.
Be savvy about the market. There are a lot of course providers with lots of promises out there. Dig deep with your research, find out what methods are taught and remember that if the methods are outdated, that particular education will soon be useless to you