Dogster had a wonderful piece a couple of days ago on a law proposed earlier this year in metropolitan New York City that would require all dog owners to pass a mandatory, state-regulated “obedience course” for dogs. The thoughts and opinions in from the guest blogger are right on with my own views and I couldn't say it better myself. So, I won't, here is the heart of what she said.
While I believe it was a noble effort by lawmakers to reduce the number of dangerous dogs and bite incidents in NYC, this is a law I just can’t get behind. Here are just a few of the reasons I believe that similar laws should be avoided or dramatically changed before implementation in any community:
1. State regulation of approved schools/instructors — It’s very important that pet owners realize not all trainers are created equal and that no training is often preferable to bad training. What sort of screening guidelines would be in place for eligible training companies? There are a great many “professional” trainers that I would not allow to touch or train my dogs under any circumstances.
2. Such a law could make pet owners resent training. — I find that the clients who are most enthusiastic about training are the most successful. A well-trained dog never does the bulk of its learning in the classroom — for training to be effective, it must be worked on at home, throughout the dog’s life. If people resent the fact that they MUST do training, they are unlikely to follow through with it.
3. “Obedience” classes are not for all dogs. — Just because a dog may know how to sit and lie down on cue does not mean it is a safe dog who doesn’t present a bite risk. In fact, most of the aggressive dogs I work with already know sit and down. Obedience classes are not the best learning environment for dogs with real aggression issues; allowing such dogs into group classes without laying down significant layers of behavior modification puts all dogs and humans in that classroom in jeopardy.
4. Knowledge, for people and dogs, is a “use it or lose it” enterprise. — I started learning French in 6th grade and continued studying it through college. Years later, I can’t have a coherent conversation. Similarly, an obedience certificate today does not mean that your dog is necessarily less likely to bite someone three years from now!
As an alternative, I’d love to see owners given incentives and positive reinforcement for being proactive and making training a priority. Potential incentives could include:
• discounts on homeowners’ insurance policies
• discounts on pet health insurance policies
• exemptions from breed-specific legislation (an issue worthy of its own blog topic!)
About the Author: Casey Lomonaco graduated with distinction from the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior, and is a member of the following professional organizations: APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), CGC evaluator — AKC (American Kennel Club), TDF (Truly Dog Friendly), and the No-Shock Collar Coalition.
What do you think? To Bark back, bark on the link: Bark!