Online dog training consultations: A vet's POV and a call for regulation in training
I don’t know about you but I have a bone to pick with the issue of online dog training. A dog trainer and former vet tech, Julie Bjelland Lokhandwala, is now offering live consults through her website, WebDogtrainer.com. It seems she’s found her niche for expanding the scope of her business via the Internet in ways most of us never thought possible—perhaps because it’s not.
To me, dog training online seems much akin to practicing vet medicine in the same format—it just doesn’t work. Not only is there much that can be misinterpreted when personal interaction is only available via video, but there seems something vaguely spammy about selling one-on-one dog training services through this medium.
Maybe it’s just me and my silly belief that training is as hands-on as medicine—even more so in many cases. After all, we vets can evaluate labwork and X-ray images from overseas and still practice medicine, but trainers must interact personally (it would seem), much as I have to actually feel an animal to perform a physical exam.
Via Internet, I’m not so sure that anything less than real-time video streaming of a dog-owner interaction could be both responsible and effective dog training. Even then it seems sketchy.
But what if the trainer is actually not providing “advice” in a very specific way? What if it just points owners in educational directions? In that case it sounds A-OK. But it’s not really dog training as we know it, then, is it?
Perhaps what I react to when I see sites like this is the same thing that annoys me about vet advice sites:
According to our code of ethics (not to mention the legal constraints of practicing veterinary medicine), advice should not be rendered unless a veterinarian-client-pet relationship exists (often abbreviated as VCPR). So the question is: Does the Internet provide a robust enough platform on which to base a diagnosis? If it doesn’t for vet medicine (except for very specific fields like radiology), then how can it in the case of dog training?
While vet sites offering advice in exchange for your credit card number, expiration date and security code are ready to do business with you, they’re technically illegal (which is probably why so few exist). Not so for dog training—it’s the Wild West when it comes to sit, stay and fetch.
And that brings me to the larger point of this post: Where’s the regulation in dog training? After all, most of us know that trainers can do significant harm to a dog under a variety of conditions. Why has there yet been no standard licensing body formed to regulate the actions of those who have the power to provoke fear aggression or anxiety disorders in our dogs? Why (at least) is there no consumer protection concern looking for ways to control abusive practices when it comes to charging money for services rendered in this field?
For all I know, this dog training website does a much better job of training dogs than any other option out there. I may in fact be mistaken in singling out Ms. Bjelland Lokhandwala as potentially exemplary of substandard practices in her profession. But something tells me the Internet is not the ideal way to make connections with animals—not until they learn to type coherently, anyway.