The explosive growth in recent years of the “wonderful world of dogs” has been accompanied by a growing need for standards of conduct as well as general guidelines for those associated with it. A particularly important area relates to obedience training and the instructing of obedience training classes. A member of the public who is interested in attending an obedience class with his pet has almost no way of knowing whether the instructor is qualified to teach. Worse than that, an unsuspecting pet owner may fall into the hands of an instructor whose training methods may inflict serious psychological or physical harm on the dog. Unfortunately, much of today’s training is needlessly harsh and needlessly physical and not always in the best interest of the dog or owner.
The formation of the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors almost a decade ago was an effort by a group of dedicated and knowledgeable people to do their share to elevate and improve dog obedience training and instructing. First and foremost, the Association serves as a means of endorsing applicants for membership as qualified to instruct. In so doing, it assures the public that a minimum standard of experience in instructing has been met when an instructor is accepted for membership in NADOI. Membership is open to any qualified and experienced instructor who can meet certain requirements. To be eligible, the instructor must have at least 104 weeks of instructing experience. Assuming he has taught every week, this represents a minimum of two years of instructing; it must also be of a class nature with at least six students per class.
Once an applicant has satisfied the basic time requirement, his qualifications are carefully evaluated on the basis of an extensive questionnaire. The training of his own dogs is examined and he is expected to describe in detail the way in which he trained them as well as the way in which he instructs his students. He is required to list all the equipment or training aids he has used and is currently using and the precise manner in which it is used. His general knowledge and understanding of different situations is tested, such as how he would handle an aggressive dog, a shy dog or the essentially willing dog. He is expected to know that dogs are individuals and hence will not always respond in identical fashion to efforts to train them. He is also expected to know that the differences among the various breeds affect their trainability for various tasks. His methods of instruction are examined and evaluated for general soundness and effectiveness. Finally, references are contacted and their opinions as to the applicant’s qualifications are reviewed. Whenever possible, the applicant’s conduct of a class is observed. The entire application is then reviewed independently by three separate examiners, each of whom arrives at his own conclusions and makes his recommendation to reject or accept the applicant. The file is then forwarded to the Membership Chairman and from him it goes to the Board of Directors for final action. The entire process takes from six months to a year, sometimes longer. Since there are no paid positions in the Association, all this is done on a volunteer basis. An applicant who meets the membership requirements and subsequently joins the Association agrees to abide by its Code of Ethics and its Standards of Conduct.
In addition to its endorsing function, the Association is dedicated to furthering and improving dog obedience training and instructing. For example, since its inception the Association has strongly supported the concept of class instructions for puppies from 2 to 5 months of age in an effort to avoid many of the problems which can crop up later. Members pledge to help others to become competent instructor and in their own way to do everything they can to improve obedience training. Local chapters, which are spread throughout the country, bear most of the burden of the Association’s educational activities in the form of Chapter- sponsored weekend training seminars and related activities. The Association’s monthly publication NADOI NEWS also assists in this educational effort by providing a forum for an exchange of ideas, methods, and techniques.
The Association’s philosophy on training closely resembles that of the American Kennel Club. Like the AKC it condemns needlessly harsh or physical training methods and one of its goals is to work toward the elimination of such methods. It hopes to accomplish this goal by example and education and by creating a greater awareness among those already engaged in obedience activities as well as the general public that such methods are not necessary to the effective training of a dog. As a matter of fact, they may be actually harmful. While NADOI considers needlessly harsh training methods unacceptable, it does not advocate any one particular method. As long as the method used is in the best interest of the dog, the handler, and the fancy, it would be considered acceptable.
©1973 J. J. Volhard