Having watched the animal training and behaviour evolve for over twenty five years I have watched dubious ways of creating an apparently professional profile mushroom out of all recognition and some things go full circle back to the days when virtually no courses were properly accredited. Everyone seems to be chasing the cheap, quick fix when none actually deliver genuine results.
At one point course accreditation was an important factor in demonstrating quality but slowly many course providers have found that the profits that are lost by not being accredited is not enough to justify the extra effort and cost involved in maintaining accreditation. This leads to a business decision to drop external quality checks leaving them free to lower their standards and make more money. Equally I notice the rise in businesses offering accreditation services that are not regulated and therefore of the same standard as others. UK Rural Skills for example are not a regulated awarding body, unlike NCFE, Lantra Awards and others who are regulated by Ofqual, the government Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation.
Unregulated awarding bodies are cheaper, conduct far fewer checks and controls on course providers and are not overseen by a higher authority but the course provider can legitimately say that their courses are accredited which makes it look as if their courses are on a par with those who are properly regulated. It also means that the provider can artificially inflate the levels of their courses to make them a more attractive purchase, this explains the widening selection of apparent level 5 and 6 courses. It does mean that the students looking for the right course need to be aware that such courses are not recognised as valid when compared with properly regulated accreditation. Another organisation that is of little or no value in our sector is the CMA, this stands for Complementary Medicine Association, it is an American business that displays articles on subjects such as Men’s Health and Natural Beauty yet is presented by at least one Dog Training Education provider as a governing body that provides ‘Global Recognition’ for their course. Forgive my scepticism but how this adds any value whatsoever to their course provision escapes me.
Of more significance now is the ever increasing number of logos people and organisations can collect and display to create an air of industry recognition and professionalism. To the un-initiated such an array can look impressive because they do not understand which of them has any real value and which are simply bought with little or no checks or monitoring. Self-declaration of expertise is valueless, for example, anybody can declare that they will not use force when training dogs for instance but there are many other ways of causing stress or mistreating a dog and if someone is not properly educated and trained the chances are such practices are quite likely to take place despite the good intention of the person with the flimsy validation.
For years I have also warned people about the bogus post nominal letters that some course providers say their students can use to make themselves look well qualified but still that practice continues. Ofqual describe this practice as a ‘misleading representation’. The people that proudly display such letters have no idea that they are actually advertising the fact that they are poorly qualified, the unsuspecting pet owning public buy into the charade as well because they don’t know any better. In mainstream education the use of such post nominals is seen as laughable. What is really alarming is that many people wanting to be dog trainers and behaviourists put their money and efforts into this without understanding that they are being misled, they genuinely believe that they have real and meaningful credentials.
In 2008 the training and behaviour sector unanimously agreed that regulation was needed (it is probably the only topic that attracts total agreement) but actually that is not quite what many want. What has emerged is a desire to appear regulated with minimal effort or controls, in other words, freedom to do whatever each organisation sees fit in the way of education of its members in the most profitable way. The latest trend is to equate a code of conduct with professionalism but this is only a part of what it takes to be a professional and simply signing up to a code of practice camouflages the more important issue of thorough education and training to produce competent practitioners.