Pet Education, Training & Behaviour Council

UK and USA

The Business PETbc supports canine education exchange working in academic and vocational areas in the UK & USA.

Who we are:
The PETbc exchange exists as a forum for the discussion and exchange of ideas and to facilitate networking opportunities, co-operation and participation in joint canine education seminars another hands on activities.

What we do:
The PETbc exchange is run by a committee – which is formed from the membership – who are tasked with organising PETbc exchange events and facilitating information sharing and communication between members. The committee meets to discuss and progress projects, initiatives, research/surveys and reports of benefit to the membership and our US and UK experts in canine behaviour.

When we meet:
The PETbc exchange meets every year for a review of activities we have partaken in and which is organised by the PETbc exchange committee which may also in conjunction with hosts from other like minded organisations from the two countries. In recent years members also meet at other PETbc exchange events such as training courses and meetings on topics of special interest.

Our members:
Membership of the PETbc exchange is open to institutions in the UK and the USA that offer canine education courses in management education at all levels of canine education to Masters level. PETbc council members engaged in the provision of business information at our member institutions are encouraged to contribute to the group.

An American view on dog behaviour and training
My name is Diane Kunas, I live in Seattle, Washington USA. I spent the majority of my upbringing in the Midwest (Michigan and Ohio), following which time I had the good fortune to live, work and study in the UK. My life while abroad was centred around dogs, as it is now back in America. I believe my experiences add value to the services I provide my clients, first and foremost, my methods and techniques are unique to this country, as are some of the philosophies I bring to the equation. It is my intent to share what I’ve learned on this continent as well as send back what I believe may be of educational benefit to my colleagues across the pond.

First, I begin with this disclaimer: there is an abundance of work in the Pacific Northwest (PacNW), it is a dog friendly culture and expense is not spared on their well being. However, given this country’s immense size, and the widely varied climate, population and economic drives of each region, the attitudes and lifestyles vary state to state, as is how we generally operate as a whole. With this said, and while pet products and services are thriving industries, people out here (and other regions and regional pockets) are likely to spend more money on services, whereas estate communities and the like spend more on products. Also consider that it would be very difficult to own an untrained dog in the city, but given a big lawn and an electric fence, having a dog that walks to heel or recalls is a lesser priority (not that I agree with this kind of dog ownership, it is what it is). I state all this to qualify any experiences and opinions I put forward – regardless of what I know, read, hear or witness, I represent a fraction of a much larger civilisation. This may be my Achilles heel, or it just may be a vantage position from which to learn. In either case, this is the forum for the exchange of both and a whole lot more.

What is positive about a partnership – information, canine educational exchange is quite literally learning about what we do not know exists. I mentioned the value of my English training techniques and behaviour management philosophies. But, oddly enough, and while people here genuinely love their dogs and would never intentionally cause them discomfort, they are still convinced that resorting to stricter measures and pain-induced restrictive equipment as needed for their dog is not only acceptable, but safe. Traditional training is readily available (albeit not overly popular) and prong collars are a common sight, and although I have yet to see a truly unhappy dog and I have yet to confront what I might consider blatant abuse, I know that when presented with alternative options, it is always warmly welcomed and received. The more we know, the better choices we can make, and often times introducing change requires a whole new perspective.

On a similar vein, I was asked to promote dog & children safety awareness in the States, and again, found that it is impossible to put your thumb on any one message or annual event. The most predictable ‘awareness’ information is released in the form of yearly dog bite statistics to children (which is not very pro-active, to say the least). It’s not that we’re aloof or disorganised, rather we reside on different platforms with minimal cross-communication. Whether this can be changed is a good question, but what if we saw how it could work? Again, a new perspective.

As far as equipment, when I moved here I could not gain easy access to Mikki Training Discs, Pet Corrector, leather leashes or martingales with slip chains (versus fabric) or a simple, companion-type dog whistle. I had difficulties finding a good [Kong] substitute for Nature’s Diet, among many other dead ends. Luckily, I teach classes on the eastside two nights a week in a purpose built space within a dog boutique and I was able to talk the owner into stocking the items she was able to locate and order, and her supply is in constant rotation. If I demonstrate using such a tool as part of a private consultation, I get my share of puzzled brows when I say the product is only available on the other side of the lake or ocean, (depending on the item). Thus, I did my share of shopping at Crufts this year! Perhaps we have similar items of interest from over here – freeze dried lamb’s lung, for instance, is the all-natural, fool-proof training treat for dogs large and small (they break easily, do not crumble, do not require special storage, and while they do not have an overpowering smell to humans, they do to dogs!). The Wonder Walker (speciality front clip harness) is my preferred (harness) option for dogs who can not wear collars (or for owners who simply can not manage their dog on a collar), and I am sure there are many more.

I’d also like to take a moment to write about Dangerous Dogs, BSL and other regulations. Pit bulls are not banned in this country – this does not mean they are not a problem via illegal fighting (and all the trappings), irresponsible (naive) ownership and unwanted pits over-crowding the rescue centres, etc. Some dog parks ban pits and those that do not will give you a clear picture of how pits typically play, and it’s not often the type of play you want to expose your dog to. People will cross the street to avoid a pit and most dog friendly apartment complexes ban pits … Nevertheless, I see more pits (or pit crosses) than any other breed! And, all the pits I meet, know or work with have been lovely, overly-affectionate, eager to please and loyal-to-the-death pets. People who own them (as loving pets) swear by them. The laws here are pretty lax, too – there are leash laws, but they are regularly ignored. In fact, I’ve seen more police enforcers turn a blind eye than harass a broken law for the sake of it rather than because there was, in fact, potential danger involved. Bottom line, we have pits and we have loose laws and we have very little dog-related crime. Is it the PacNW culture? Most certainly! Detroit (Michigan), for instance, has such a horrific pit and underground dog fighting problem that all pits ceased from a suspected operation are mandatorily put down, regardless of age or adoption potential as it is assumed that they are bad and damaged from the onset, and most probably are. I see plenty of pits in the northern suburbs of Detroit and, for the most part, no problem. It’s a people problem. Not new news, but how can this be communicated differently to the UK? I am not suggesting to lift the pit ban, rather consider what the regulations are and are not doing by example. What information can I share to help do this?

What else is of interest to the UK? Having lived in the UK for a substantial period of time, and as a (UK) distance tutor, the perceptions of American dog owners is vast and for the most part not favourable, or misrepresented – Cesar Millan has assertive methods, Paris Hilton treats dogs as accessories, we generally rely on metal collars and electrical devices and have high kill shelters … If I can only personally speak on behalf of the Midwest and West Coast, and what I learned as part of my Masters research and study, I want to be challenged to learn more – I want to hear what is believed to be true and I want to either shed some light, be presented a better way or directly theorise the consequences of our actions. if there are indeed consequences. Are the perceptions reality or are hidden truths to be had? For instance, I’d like to randomly take 20 or 30 behavioural reports from this past year and compare notes with the same from a UK colleague … how different are our problems and how much of what we deal with are essentially human inflicted? How many of our problems are due to naive ownership (lack of education & training) or because we have no where to take our dogs to meet other dogs, run off leash or otherwise satisfy innate drives, or because dogs are a status symbol or emotional crutch rather than the domesticated animal species they are?

Much of my work (whether it be aggression, anxieties, ‘selective hearing’, and so on) is a direct result of the latter. In fact, the majority of these dogs are toy breeds (purebreds or crosses, “designer breeds”). In addition to my ongoing field [professional] work, toy breeds were subject to further study as part of my Masters thesis on breed specific behaviour: toys scored higher for unhappy owners, specific problematic behaviour and multiple problematic behaviours, and my sampling was deep and varied to include both US and UK dog owners. Briefly, toy breeds are typically companion dogs without a specific bred ‘job’, however, and in accordance with the Kennel Club descriptions and further breed guides (Lowell, 1990, & Alderton, 2002), toy breed temperaments are collectively described as “spirited”, “self-important”, “sturdy”, “Terrier-like”, “bold”, “lively” and “assertive” (in addition to collective “gentle” and “affectionate” terminology). Nonetheless, and as toy breeds are more easily managed than larger breeds, they are more apt to be ‘unmanaged’, or live without structure as supported by my survey results: 80% of all toy dogs surveyed have three of more human identified privileges ; 33% are not required to sit and wait for any listed life rewards ; 33% receive little or no regular exercise and 48% do not engage is any form of working purpose. In regards to discipline, 67% only subscribe to positive training methods; 83% have never used physical force and 35% never use loud sounds to monitor their toy ‘s behaviour. Therefore, one can conclude that unwanted behaviours are developed and nurtured due to unnatural canine living conditions (amongst other possible contributing factors as discussed further in the whole of my work).

Most of the dogs I see out & about, however, are well mannered, but I should also note that in an early article I wrote that Seattle (proper) has 10 off-leash parks (with designated “shy” or small dog areas) and 10 daycare centres – that’s one every eight miles. In addition, I live in Seattle and have seven pet care centres within 1.5 miles of my home (four franchise and three private owned)! If I was not a professional, I can not imagine choosing a training class, canine practitioner or even a dog walker – it’s far too overwhelming! I have a web site, but otherwise do not market because I am almost always fully booked. Simple cause & effect – the dogs that get out and get trained are relatively problem-free. I had one (classroom) training option in Ohio, but then again, dogs, for the most part, stay home. I also suppose it’s easy to become disenchanted with walking your dog when it’s either below freezing or in the 30’s for up to six months of the year … We all have different problems (or ‘obstacles’) for different reasons, but no matter what, there are infinite solutions, and sometimes it takes a forum of minds to put forward the education required for the circumstances, regardless of where we live and where we are from. I only see this as a positive exchange.

Diane Kunas, MA, MCFBA
Canine Practitioner
Continental Canine Behaviour, Ltd.