In all the discussion around straight-passing privilege I feel like no one ever talks about how damaging it is to have friends who shunned you if you dated “gay” suddenly welcome you back into the fold or something when you start dating “straight,” or your gay friends suddenly welcoming you after shunning you when you were dating “straight”, like you’re a dog in obedience school and they’re trying to reinforce your ‘good’ behavior

People giving you the cold shoulder when they don’t like the gender of your partner, but then buddying up to you only when the gender of one partner makes them feel more comfortable than your last isn’t privilege - it just highlights how you are never fully accepted. 

I’m not a dog. You can’t train me to be gay or straight through reinforcement and punishment/shunning. Still gonna be bi.

So You Want to Be A Dog Trainer (in Germany)?

My most recent post (well, repost) of an image explaining terminology in dog training in the U.S. sparked an interesting conversation regarding dog trainer requirements in other countries. 

So I figured it would be interesting to do periodic articles on what it takes to be a dog trainer in various countries, and what you as dog owners should be looking for in a dog trainer from that country. 

And what better country to start with than Germany? 

Since 2007 in Niedersachsen, Germany has taken serious steps to push through responsible pet ownership, and regulating the previously woefully unsupervised industry of dog training. 

Even now, people can call themselves fancy words such as, “dog whisperers”, or “dog experts” and try to con people into believing they are listening to someone who knows what they are doing. There are even still some dog obedience schools, much akin to the PetSmart puppy school classes in the U.S., that don’t really pass the mustard. 

Nevertheless, the Tierärztekammer Niedersachsen, which is the official veterinary chambers in Lower Saxony responsible for any political lobbying regarding animal welfare, has managed to instate a dog trainer certification program with a test that consists of two parts: the theoretical, and the practical. 

I myself have been present as a handler at such an exam. It runs as follows: the testing committee consists of four judges. They come out to meet the volunteer and their dog, and ask some general questions about the handler, such as their knowledge of dogs and dog training, what their own training history is with their dog, how old the dog is, what the dog knows, etc. They then discuss a small training goal that the handler would like to achieve, such as llw, or eye contact with the handler. This will be the task that the testee will attempt to work with the handler on, while they assess how well the trainer-to-be communicates with the handler. 

The test lasts about 45 minutes and runs pretty much how you would expect a training session with a normal trainer to run. As a handler, you are expected to ask questions and ask for clarification, or even say you are uncomfortable with a specific training method, just as you would if you were actually paying for the session. The committee will occasionally interject with questions of their own if they feel the trainer-to-be isn’t being clear or thorough enough, and they occasionally will ask hypothetical questions that are tangential to the current situation. 

Afterward, they pull the handler to the side and discuss how they felt. Would they hire this person again? Do they feel the goal was achieved, or that a good foundation was laid? They then determine right then and there whether or not the person has passed the physical part of the exam, and how well or badly they passed. 

Then, everyone moves to the main building and into the exam room. Typically the handler is not present for this part, but because I was doing this as part of my college curriculum, I was permitted to sit in. The committee asks a series of questions in regards to 1) the four training quadrants 2) stages of dog development from birth onward 3) drive behavior (prey drive, herding drive, etc) 4) reactivity and other behavioral aspects, in particular they expect the testee to completely renounce pack and dominance theory and explain in depth the reasons it is scientifically wrong, and what the dog is actually attempting to communicate with their behavior. 

This part also lasts about 45 minutes to an hour. The testee is sent out, the committee compares notes and the scoring on their scoresheets, and makes a decision. The testee must pass both parts of the exam for their certification, but if they pass one test and not the other, they only have to retake the one they failed. They are able to retake the exam in no less than 6 months. 

The chambers has a list of dog trainers that have been certified by their program, so people have an extensive list of people they can trust to be ethologically sound. While the chambers does not require the trainers to be 100% force free, they need to show a thorough understanding of all four quadrants and how they apply to various dogs and situations. 

As a side note, it is worth noting that everyone’s favorite dog groomer, Cesar Salad, failed the German dog training exam, which officially makes me a more qualified dog trainer than he is. And if that isn’t an ego boost, I don’t know what is. 

If anyone has any countries they would like more information on regarding dog trainer certification requirements and what to look for, let me know and I’ll research it and do a post on it.