LAST month a room full of dog professionals met at the houses of parliament as part of an APDAWG meeting (All Party Parliamentary Dog Advisory Welfare Group) to discuss if and how dog trainers and behaviourists should be regulated.

Our own expert dog trainer and columnist Sarah Bartlett KCAI CD R QIDTI and owner of pet care company Hound Helpers was in attendance at this flagship meeting.

What many do not realise is that the dog training and behaviour industry is not regulated, nor policed in any way.

This poses a risk to unsuspecting dog owners handing over their well earned cash every day.

Unfortunately up and down the country many dogs and their owners have and still do suffer from the wrong advice and practices, all too often resulting serious injuries to people and other dogs.

The APDAWG meeting featured a varied panel which included Victoria Stillwell of ‘It’s me or the Dog’ TV fame, Jo-Rosie Haffenden of the highly controversial ‘train your baby like a dog’ TV fame, representatives from the Kennel Club, The Kennel Club Accredited instructor Scheme (of which Sarah is an accredited trainer), the Chairman of the APBC (Animal Behaviour and Training Council) and Dr Holly Root-Gutteridge of Sussex University.

All put forward their view on the issues to be addressed to enable legislation to happen and giving potential solutions on how to move forward. The floor was opened to all attending to debate for a short while after the panel had all shared their views.

Sarah has been running Hound Helpers for 12 years now and is a Kennel club accredited instructor in companion dog training and KC Rally. She is also a qualified international dog training instructor, author, judge, and a columnist for dog magazines as well as for the Evesham Journal.

She said: "I was honoured to be there. Though in all honesty when I arrived, I was not hopeful of any positive result from the meeting, much as it is needed. It’s a running joke in the industry that the only thing that two trainers will agree on is that the third is rubbish.

"So putting a large number of us in a room to discuss something we are all so passionate about in a calm and productive manner seemed like too much to ask.

"However I was pleasantly surprised with many great suggestions raised, all very passionate but

also well thought out and I left feeling quietly hopeful for the future of an industry which really should be regulated to safeguard the UK’s dog loving public and the dogs.

"I hope with legislation we will see less of the horror stories in the media of dogs attacking, maiming and in some cases killing both people and other dogs as they will have access to the right help before it gets to this stage.

"The industry is not going to be an easy one to regulate as it is so diverse both in subject or area of training and also in the types of people, how they learn and the many paths that have been accepted to be credible to become a dog trainer or behaviourist up until now.

"However both the passion, control and listening that was shown certainly shows scope and hope for a positive future. This is still in its infancy but I expect to be attending as many meetings as possible over the coming months and be part of the biggest shake up in the history of dog training in the UK – all to help dogs and owners more efficiently and to a set framework or standard."

So what's the best way to find out if you clash or gel with a new trainer before handing over your well-earned pounds?

1. Do what most of you will initially – visit their website, Facebook page etc. The difference this time is for you to actually read their 'about us page' does what they say resonate with how you like to interact with your dog?

2. If they have a mailing list, join it! These emails will help you get to know them better, give you a feel for who they are as a person and as a trainer.

3. If they run classes, go and watch – without your dog. Are they helping the dog who is needing it the most? Or do they just concentrate on the most well behaved dogs in class?

4. Content – If they have videos, free resources etc watch, read and digest. Read any free handouts or downloads they may have, does it fit with you?

5. Their own dogs – What do they do with their own dogs, any achievements? This doesn't need to be a long list of titles from competing, it could be that they have had a reactive dog that they have rehabilitated. If this is something you are looking for help

with then this would be a trainer who would understand your fears and frustrations more than one who hasn't.

6. Look into their qualifications and credentials. Search the organisation they are affiliated with, have a look at their code of practice, is that something that sounds right for you and your dog? Have a look at what it takes to get that accreditation... some only take a week or a weekend!

7. If they have written a book, offer an online training course etc. Make a small investment and purchase if all of the above tick your boxes. If you still want to go ahead after paying for their content and it feels good then you are on a winner.

Do your homework, take the time to find out if that trainer is a right fit for you and your pooch.

I know I'm not the right trainer or in fact the right person for everyone, humans clash all the time. It's human nature – not everyone gets along, nor should they.

If you don't do your homework and it doesn't work out, it’s such a disappointment for all parties, time and money have been spent when none of us have an endless supply of either.