New accreditation scheme for dog trainers launched to place greater emphasis on dogs’ welfare

The scheme, which is voluntary, will serve as a competency benchmark for dog trainers.

Liam Willett

Aspiring cat dad.

Published: 12 December 2022, 2:03 PM

A new accreditation scheme for dog trainers in Singapore was launched on Saturday (Dec 10) by the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS). 

Called the AVS-Accredited Certified Dog Trainer (ACDT) Scheme, it is part of the AVS efforts since 2019 to raise standards in the pet sector. 

The new scheme will replace the current Panel for the Accreditation of Dog Trainers (PADT) scheme, and serves as a competency benchmark for dog trainers. While voluntary, it will allow dog trainers to learn how to manage dog aggression and other disamenities in an effective and humane way. 

The scheme also places greater emphasis on assessing trainers’ professional competencies, and recognises certificates from four independent animal behaviour and training organisations – The International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, the Animal Behavior Society and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. 

The scheme is the result of “extensive stakeholder consultations over the last two years and aims to raise the standards and professionalism of the dog training industry”, said AVS. 

“This signals a clear shift towards safe and effective training methods that are grounded in science, ensuring that the welfare of dogs is safeguarded during the training,” it added. 

The ACDT scheme was the result of a series of closed-door stakeholder engagements and focus group discussions conducted by the Rehoming and Adoption Workgroup, and 4,000 responses from an online public consultation.

AVS said that with more rigorous requirements for non-compliance and renewal of accreditation, the new ACDT scheme ensures that accredited trainers continue to uphold these standards.

The scheme promotes the shift from traditional punishment-based training to more rewards-based methods, and helps to ensure that the welfare of dogs is safeguarded during the training process.

In order to be certified under one of the four independent organisations, dog trainers will have to possess a basic understanding of science-based training methods, dog welfare and behaviour, be committed to ethical training approaches, and meet international standards of competency.

AVS says that trainers are encouraged to be accredited to develop their professional skills and keep up to date on the latest science in the field of training.

To ensure that accredited trainers continue to keep up to date with the latest rewards-based training methods, requirements such as achieving continuing education units are in place for renewal of accreditation with the four independent certifying bodies.

AVS will organise webinars and workshops to upskill dog trainers and facilitate them in obtaining the necessary knowledge for successful certification, and to aid current PADT trainers in their transition to the ACDT scheme.

To ease the transition between the PADT and ACDT schemes, trainers who have been accredited under the PADT scheme can continue practising as an “AVS-accredited trainer” for two years from Dec 10. 

PADT trainers who are unable to meet the criteria required for accreditation under the ACDT scheme after the two year period will be removed from the list of AVS-accredited dog trainers.

In the month-long public consultation from October to November, 2021, eight in 10 respondents said the Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive (LIMA) approach should be adopted, meaning punishment based training methods should be avoided.

Meanwhile, nine in 10 respondents agreed that training devices and techniques that cause pain, fear, anxiety and distress should be avoided.

Following the online consultation in 2021, AVS has incorporated feedback from the public and is developing guidelines for the use of dog training devices to ensure that dog training methods are carried out in the least intrusive and aversive manner, with an approach that is rooted in science.

AVS said that they will consult relevant stakeholders to seek further feedback on the guidelines, which are expected to be launched by 2023.

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