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All those letters: credentials and expertise!

Updated: Apr 13

Animal training is an unregulated industry, which means anyone can say they know what they are doing. Unfortunately, there are techniques and tools being used out there which are harmful.

At Shel Graves Animal Consulting, we’re committed to centering animals in our work and to strengthening the human-animal bond. We want everyone to feel confident, at ease, playful, and safe. We want to enjoy animals’ natural beautiful behaviors — not stifle them!

It can be a red flag when someone confidently says they already know everything and then doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t listen, and doesn’t take the time to get to know you or the animal as an individual. 

At Shel Graves Animal Consulting, we’re committed to learning and learning more to help animals. Here’s what I’ve studied and the associations I value:

University of Washington’s Applied Animal Behavior Certificate, UW-AAB 

What it entailed: This was a nine-month certificate program taught by Drs. Jim and Renee Ha. It used the text Dog Behavior: Modern Science and Our Canine Companions by James Ha and Tracy L. Campion.

Why it’s important to me: When I started NEEDING to know more to help rescue animals, I wasn’t as interested in changing their behavior. I was interested in understanding it. I didn’t particularly want to be a “trainer,” but I needed to be a teacher. This was a great foundation.

The Academy for Dog Trainers, CTC, Certificate in Counseling and Training 

What it entailed: This was a strenuous and thorough two-year program taught by Jean Donaldson, author of Culture Clash and Mine! (Swoon!). It included lots of readings, assignments, tests, and skills tests.

Why it’s important to me: This program gave me the skills to modify behavior and to counsel clients with empathy. It helped me answer questions about dog behavior succinctly and certainty. I also met many fantastic, dedicated, trainers who have animals’ best interests at heart and a lot of life-long learners (Dog geeks! Swoon!)

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Certified Shelter Behavior-Dog, CSB-D

What it entailed: Presenting case studies on shelter dog behavior and having my behavior modification plans peer-reviewed.

Why it’s important to me: This is the ultimate in getting feedback that, yes, you know what you know! Also, I love the organization’s Pounce! Conference focused on cats. There’s not enough focus on cats out there!

Ordained Animal Chaplain with the Compassion Consortium

What it entailed: this was a yearlong program that culimated in an ordination retreat 

What it’s important to me: I love this community. I love Rev. Sarah Bowen’s book Sacred Sendoffs and the Compassion Consortium’s Sunday Services. 

Fear Free Certified Trainer Professional

What it entailed: This was an online course talking about working with veterinary offices and providing cooperative care. 

Why it’s important to me: I love the Fear Free program and how it stands for having a cooperative and kind relationship with animal companions. The goal of reducing fear, stress, anxiety, and frustration is one we can all get behind (for all animals!). At the rescue I worked at we put a positive spin on it and came up with wanting animals to be confident, at ease, playful, and safe! I recommend the book From Fearful to Fear Free: A Positive Program to Free Your Dog From Anxiety, Fears, and Phobias and the website and podcast Fear Free Happy Homes.

What it entailed: This was an online series of webinars. I took the bronze series and would love to do more.

Why it’s important to me: I was a (human) hospice volunteer for five years with Hospice and Home Care of Snohomish County and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I absolutely love the mission to offer this service and level of care to our animal companions. This training aligned with what I learned as an animal chaplain. It’s just so beautiful, compassionate, and caring. 

What it entailed: I’m just a member of this organization at this time. I pay dues and take some of their workshops. I'd love to attend one of their Summit events someday.

Why it’s important to me: This organization has great ethics around animal care and I want to be associated with it. When I see others are members, well, it’s a good sign!

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