by Indi Edelburg, Certified Dog Trainer
When it comes time to add a new furry member to the family, more people than ever are looking at shelters and rescues. Approximately 1.6 million dogs are adopted every year in the US. The image of shelter dogs as sickly, ill-behaved animals is fading away as more and more people realize that shelter animals are simply pets who are in need of a new home! And while shelter dogs can be just as healthy, friendly, and out going as those from breeders, it can be more difficult to assess what kind of temperament a dog has when they live in a shelter environment.
Several factors play a role in why dogs can behave differently in shelters than in a home setting, the biggest of which is simply the environment itself. Despite many improvements in housing conditions since the early days of “dog pounds”, shelters can still be stressful places to be when you’re a confused dog. Imagine being abandoned by your family, dropped off in the middle of a strange place, and put next to a neighbor that barks your ear off all night. No wonder some dogs tend to cower in the back of the kennel or jump up and down like a maniac to get your attention!
So how are you to tell what kind of personality a dog really has while in a shelter? The good news is, there are several things you can do to help determine which dog would be a good fit for your family.
How you meet a shelter dog is an important part of assessing their personality. Many dogs take a while to warm up (or sometimes calm down!) when meeting new people. Don’t write a dog off because he didn’t immediately jump onto your lap when he saw you. The room you meet the dog in is likely full of smells of other people and dogs, which can be very distracting! Allow the dog to get comfortable in the area first before trying to make physical contact. Don’t reach over the dog’s head or hug it around the neck, this can be intimidating even for the most well adjusted pet! Sometimes it’s better to meet outside where a dog feels less confined.
The more information you can learn about your new friend the better. Ask for the results of their temperament test and what staff has learned about their personality. Volunteers are also usually more than happy to share what they know about their furry friends. Some shelters even have owners of surrendered animals fill out a history form with information about the pet’s likes, dislikes, and personality. This is a great tool in determining how a pet might behave in a home setting as opposed to the shelter environment.
Meet and Greets
If you own a dog, ask to bring him or her to the shelter to do a meet and greet with the dog you want to adopt. (In fact, some shelters require this). While it may not be a perfect indicator of how they would react in a home, this will at least give you an idea if the two dogs would be safe in a home together. This goes for humans, too! Bring all members of the family including children to be sure everyone gets along safely.
If you own a dog, ask to bring him or her to the shelter to do a meet and greet with the dog you want to adopt.
Make sure to visit with a dog you are interested in multiple times, and at different times of day. Even in a shelter dogs usually have a loose schedule of when they get potty breaks, exercise, down time, etc. If the dog has an accident in the room when you visited, it might have been right before potty time. Did he seem extra hyper when you met for the first time? Try visiting again at a different time of day. The more time you spend together the better you’ll get to know his or her personality!
Not sure how to assess a dog’s temperament? Many dog trainers are happy to help you pick your new family member by going along and meeting potential pups with you. A trainer may be able to spot subtle personality traits that can help you determine if a dog would be a good match for your family and lifestyle.
By taking the time to really get to know a dog, asking the right questions, and evaluating if your lifestyle would match their personality, you’ll be much more likely to make the right decision when it comes time to find your new best friend. It will mean an easier transition, and, in the long run, a happier life for everyone!
Indi Edelburg is a Certified Dog Trainer who teaches basic obedience and behavior modification to dogs of all breeds and ages and their owners. Indi has worked with numerous dogs including volunteering in a local animal shelter for the past 6 years. She loves helping dogs and people learn to speak each other’s language and live in harmony!
by Olivia Watson, Team Petmasters
Most pet parents would agree that when they request a pet service of any kind, they are looking for a trustworthy, responsible, and above all qualified professional to care for the animal they love. Yet with so many certifications, associations, and organizations surrounding pet professionals, it can be difficult to navigate these titles and the skillsets they represent. So what does professionalism look like in the pet grooming industry, especially for pet parents who may have no idea who they’re handing their precious pup or favorite feline off to for hours at a time?
What You May Not Know About Pet Grooming:
While most grooming businesses, veterinary clinics, pet stores, and kennels employ certified pet pros, it is important to consider that most states do not regulate or license groomers. As a result, their training could range from no certification to the prestigious title of National Certified Master Groomer – one of the highest honors for a pet professional who has passed a series of comprehensive written tests and practical exams.
Certified Master Groomer Linda Easton from International Professional Groomers, Inc. notes that, “Apprenticeship is the way most of us old time groomers learned the trade.” A groomer with no certifications may have started as a grooming assistant or apprentice and learned on the job – perhaps through a family grooming business.
Increasingly, however, aspiring pet professionals choose to get certified through a reputable training program or grooming school that requires extensive knowledge and practical experience.
By acquiring their certification, pet groomers undoubtedly hone their skills and boost their credibility as professionals and business owners.
Some well-known grooming schools for dogs and cats in the U.S. include:
- The American Academy of Pet Grooming
- The Animal Behavior College
- The Nash Academy
- The National Cat Groomers Institute of America
While these schools offer specialized grooming programs, people can also get certified through an association or organization. Some of the bigger names include:
- Intellectual Groomers Association (IGA)
- International Professional Groomers Inc. (IPG)
- International Society of Canine Cosmetologists (ISCC)
- National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA)
- Professional Cat Groomers Association of America (PCGAA)
But what does it mean for pet groomers to belong to these communities?
Membership vs. Certified Membership:
A groomer can gain entry into the above-mentioned organizations by earning their certification or registering as a member. They may become a member because they support the grooming curriculum, code of conduct, or safety protocol but that does not mean they are certified to uphold these standards in a professional setting. Look out for this! Someone who is not yet certified or may be in the process of getting certified could be a member of a reputable association and maintain a paid membership position that does not require the same effort or skill set as an officially certified member.
Two examples of associations that use a two tier membership system are the National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA) and the International Professional Groomers, Inc. (IPG). In the United States, the largest dog grooming association is the NDGAA. Since 1969, they have been promoting proper education in the grooming industry, while trying to unify pet groomers with recognized standards.
To be a registered member of the NDGAA, one must be working towards a grooming certification or have achieved it already. Registered membership is open to all groomers in grooming school or apprenticeship training who are at least ¾ of the way through their program. Therefore, to be a member of this association in any capacity demonstrates serious commitment. Certified members of this association can also choose to go above and beyond the basic title to become a National Certified Master Groomer, by taking extensive additional written and practical exams.
Newer to the grooming scene is IPG, created in 2014 to educate, certify, and uphold professional standards in the grooming world. Similar to the NDGAA, they offer two kinds of membership: those pursuing their certifications on a specific tract: Certified Salon Professional (CSP), Certified Professional Groomer (CPG), Certified Advanced Professional Groomer (APG) or registered members. Unlike the NDGAA, groomers can register to be paid members of this organization that abide by their Code of Ethics but are not certified or perhaps not even in the process of getting certified. So what does it take to earn these certifications and why should you be looking for a groomer who has put in the work?
Pet grooming programs or schools generally include courses in safety, first aid, anatomy, biology, breed and coat type recognition, nail clipping, brushing, ear cleaning, matted fur, and fluff drying. This knowledge is invaluable to a professional who will likely be spending an hour or more one-on-one time with your pet. It is crucial they know how to respond to a pet emergency, and of course possess the necessary skills of proper grooming.
Thus, acquiring a grooming certification requires a considerable time commitment that demonstrates dedication. Though some programs are shorter, most grooming certification courses are about 480 hours total, or roughly 16 weeks. While different programs use slightly different terminology, a Certified Professional Groomer (CPG) is typically the most basic level of recognition while Certified Master Groomer (CMG) or National Certified Master Groomer (NCMG) is the more prestigious title that awards a groomer for a more rigorous training process.
For the NDGAA, the NCMG certification requires a written exam that consists of 400 questions, covering toy and hound groups, anatomy, breed standards, breed identification, a glossary of canine terms, general health, pesticides, and cat questions. To be awarded this elite certification, the groomer needs to be able to put a correct trim on several dogs in different breed categories: Non-Sporting, Sporting, Long-legged Terriers, and Short-legged Terriers. A written exam accompanies the practical exam for each breed group. Most importantly, before a pet pro can begin this process, they must have passed all other phases of their certification with an average percentage of 85 or higher. So is it worth it?
Groomers who share their experiences in online forums often weigh the advantages of earning this elite status. Most pet groomers are hungry to achieve the highest level of professionalism in their industry and like to be considered a master of their profession. These groomers have gone above and beyond to ensure the highest level of care for your pet. So what standards should pet pros be held to once they are considered masters, or certified pros at the least?
Ethical Standards and Guidelines for Pet Grooming:
There are organizations that exist to promote education and knowledge about safety standards and ethics for pet care across the board. Some of them do not offer memberships or certifications, but instead a pet constitution of sorts.
For grooming specifically, The Professional Pet Groomers and Stylists Alliance exists to assure the uniformity of standards of care, safety, and sanitation taught through certification and/or training programs. Major brands like Petco and PetSmart are members of this collaboration that provides a uniform set of standards to which all responsible groomers and stylists should adhere to, regardless of where and how they were trained.
Though not as critical as safety and sanitation, your dog or cat’s styling and appearance is certainly important in a grooming appointment! The American Kennel Club (AKC) provides an aesthetic baseline for what dogs should like according to the standards for their breed. This registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States is the primary criteria used in dog grooming across the states. The American Cat Association (ACA) offers a similar registry of cat breeds that groomers can use as a reference.
Be Paw-sitive About Your Pet Groomer:
Knowing that your groomer has the necessary experience and qualifications is of the utmost importance to your pet’s safety and happiness. Petmasters exists for a similar reason – to ensure that dedicated and skilled pet professionals connect with pet parents and build a community of pet lovers that understands its professionals and vice versa. Now you can be sure that when you pass your pet off to a perfect stranger, they are the committed, knowledgeable purr-fessional you expect!