Q. John, I appreciate the opportunity for this interview and I hope we can clarify some of the questions that I have received about NADOI. There still seems to be the belief that NADOI dictates training methods and advocates one particular method of training.
A. Nothing could be further from the truth. An instructor, in order to be effective, must be comfortable with and must have confidence in whatever method he is using. In fact, nobody can, or should dictate to him what method he can or cannot use. The only thing the Association insists on is that whatever method is being used is in the best interest of the dog, the handler and the sport.
Q. There also seems to exist a great deal of confusion which is indicated by the type of inquiries I get as to the requirements for NADOI membership and more specif- ically what NADOI is looking for in a potential member.
A. I think I can shed some light on that. There is, of course, the minimum required experience of 104 weeks of instructing and the applicant must be able to demonstrate to three examiners and the membership chairman that he has the requisite knowledge to instruct at those levels for which he is applying, that is, KPT, Novice, Open, Utility or Tracking. Aside from this purely technical aspect, however, and perhaps of equal if not greater importance, is the applicant’s attitude and approach to training. Here let me make reference to an article authored by the late Richard D’ambrisi when he was Obedience Director of the American Kennel Club and which appeared in the October 1972 issue of the AKC Gazette. In discussing the purpose of obedience activity he observed: “It cannot be stated too often or too strongly that physical abuse of any dog at any time should not be tolerated by any fancier… Harsh, cruel and violent training methods are unnecessary… proclaimed dog lovers, in their pursuit of instant success, embrace and practice training techniques that at best can only be described as violent. In reality such training methods can be the cause of dog abuse in the name of training.” He also reminds those of us active in the sport of our responsibilities to keep our ideals high and not to engage in conduct detrimental to the best interest of the sport.
We share this philosophy and we look for it in those applying for membership. We also look for a willingness on the part of the instructor to improve his training methods and be receptive to new ideas which make it easier on the part of the dog to learn what his owner is trying to teach him. We look for a willingness to continue learning and a willingness to approach different ideas with an open mind. To us this is very important because we feel that, as in any human endeavor, there is always room for improvement and there is always room for new ideas. Nobody knows it all, but the first step toward greater knowledge is a willingness to learn. Finally, we look for an understanding attitude with the ability to teach. It matters little if the applicant is not the world’s greatest handler and does not have a high scoring dog. We do not judge them by the scores they get with their own dogs but by their ability to teach. I am sure that you know as many people as I do who may or may not compete actively and who do not have very high scoring dogs, but who are excellent teachers and vice-versa, those who have high scoring dogs but for some reason are unable to pass their knowledge on to others.
Q. A number of people have remarked to me that everything about NADOI is so terribly secretive as though the Association were afraid to come out into the open.
A. If this was the case, it was because NADOI is a relatively young organization and for some people it was difficult, no matter how hard they believed in what it stands for, to stand up and be counted. I do think, however, that we have reached a turning point. We are making a conscious effort to publicize the Association, to publicize the membership requirements.
Q. John, there is a great deal of talk that NADOI is opposed to any form of correcting a dog and hence uses a rather wishy-washy, if not to say ineffective approach to training.
A. This, or course, shows a basic misunderstanding of the goals of the Association. Among the things that NADOI stands for is that you should give the dog a chance to do whatever you want it to do before you correct it, that is, look at it from the dog’s point of view. I think and so does the Association that in obedience training today too great a reliance is placed upon the correction and instructors are too quick to view it as a cure-all in training a dog. We do believe that the correction has its place and should be used when needed. The key is when needed. Let me elaborate on this point. If you are faced with a dog that is aggressive toward people or other dogs, obviously you would not hesitate to use a correction, and a severe one at that, if you have to in order to train the dog to behave in a manner acceptable to you. By the same token, if you were faced with a dog that is essentially willing to do whatever you want it to, why use the correction?
Q. In the area of membership applications, there is one aspect which has troubled a number of people and that is that those who are denied membership are not informed of the reason for this decision. Would it be possible for you to comment on that?
A. It is true that in the past, applicants who were not deemed to have met the requirements for membership were not informed of the reason or reasons why they were not accepted. Personally, I consider this a serious shortcoming particularly in view of our Code of Ethics in which we pledge ourselves to help train new instructors; and yet I must admit, there are good reasons for this policy. We are, however, presently working on this in an effort to remedy the situation. I am hopeful that we can make a change along these lines. If an applicant shares our philosophy of instructing and training but does not meet the technical requirements of experience or expertise, then I think he should be informed of how he can overcome this deficiency in order to meet the membership requirements. In a situation like this, I would like to see us make concrete suggestions to the applicant of what he has to do to meet the membership requirements and have other NADOI members help him do so. Only in this way do I think can we live up to our Code of Ethics.
There is one final comment that I would like to make. As I said before, NADOI is a very young organization, but it is growing and it has tremendous potential. My greatest wish is that we can live up to this potential and that we will be able to justify the faith that many instructors have put into NADOI and that we can continue to live up to their expectations. Our goal is the continued improvement of dog obedience training and instructing. This goal, of course, we will not fully reach so long as there are people and dogs because by the very nature of things, we can always improve. Hopefully, we will always have the willingness to do so.