Some organizations, like NADOI, find themselves spanning a long period of years. This is usually a good thing, and means the organization has stayed financially healthy, active, and relevant for a long time. It also means the organization’s members have likely witnessed many changes in the field it represents. Indeed, there have been highs and lows, times of activity and times of calm, and possibly most important, times of change in training tools, techniques, and philosophies. The dog obedience training profession has sure seen those changes since NADOI was founded in 1965.
According to our bylaws and member recounting, one big reason NADOI was started at all was to bring newer and more positive training methods into popular use. Many of the first-used techniques were based on military style training or old-fashioned gun dog training methods. There is no argument that some of these were highly compulsive in nature, and sometimes little thought was given to how dogs learn best. Likewise, there wasn’t a lot of choice in training tools. The mission of those early NADOI members was to help dog owners, both sport and pet, find and use methods that were friendlier to both the dog and the handler.
Those first goals were accomplished by the work of many of our early members (and friends of the fledgling organization) like Milo Pearsall, Olive Point, Charlotte Schwartz, and Lloyd Aguero. Thanks to Pearsall, early training for the puppy became popular, and dog owners learned they could have fun training their dog as well as see good results. NADOI’s history and reputation has always been based on this kind of positive dog training and obedience instruction.
If we fast-forward 25 or 30 years, we see that NADOI witnessed another big change, the advent of the marine mammal trainers and the widespread touting of operant conditioning for training dogs. While most would say that the “science-based” methods worked, the changes were fast and many of the tried and true techniques were left behind. Worse, some were even vilified and those who used them criticized. Traditional, results-based methods were deemed old fashioned and those who used them said to be out of touch with modern training. Newer professional organizations were fairly obvious in what they wanted to promote, while NADOI stayed the course, remained balanced, and declined to push any one method or tool over another. Our organization philosophy is that the experienced and expert instructor is what makes the difference in failure or success with the handler and dog.
Like so many things nowadays, some trainers take a good idea and push it to the extreme. Some of the new methods went this direction and the goal of all training, a well-behaved dog, seemed to get lost. Everyone had fun. Dogs, however, sometimes got left behind in the desire of trainers and owners to make every experience a positive one and completely stress-free. Effective training was sometimes put aside, resulting in more time spent to accomplish basic exercises and solve common problems, and less reliability was the consequence of a whole lot of work. For some dogs, a lifetime of “management” substituted for sound training. It is fair to say that some dogs were just deemed “un-trainable” and given up on because trainers didn’t understand techniques that could have worked well.
Big swings in training philosophy, tools, methods, and the personalities who make them popular will always be a part of our industry. NADOI has never sought to silence or shut down any new or different thoughts or ways of doing things. Our motto of “Experience-Knowledge-Excellence” guides our members to do what is best for each dog and handler team. Our organization will always respect each member’s ability to train humanely, effectively, and with expert knowledge of many training tools. This is at the heart of our organization and sets us apart from others.
When you become a certified NADOI member, you will find yourself getting to know and sharing knowledge with instructors who are really good at many things. You might talk one day to a clicker instructor, and the next you could talk to a member who is expert in the use of remote trainers. You will explore topics that cover a broad learning spectrum as you study for your continuing education credits. When you come to a Gathering, you’ll likely sit down to dinner with members who are versed in many different ways to train and solve problems. We love discussion and are good at persuasion, but we respect one another. This too, sets NADOI apart. Condemnation and attempting to silence others in our field will never be what NADOI strives to do. It is very probable that this tolerance and respect for our peers, and the ability to keep our minds open, are big reasons we are here after 55 years. Hopefully, the idea of balance will continue to guide NADOI and our members for many more years.