Local dog training company Head and Heart Training has received BC SPCA’s AnimalKind accreditation, becoming the only dog training company in the city to hold the distinction.
The path to dog training for Kathleen Higgins, owner and trainer at Head and Heart, has not been a straight line. Higgins says, “My plan was always to be a conservation biologist, specializing in the captive breeding of endangered species,” but after receiving a master’s in biology from Simon Fraser University and working in Central America, Higgins moved back to B.C. to take a break. Higgins took a job with a small company walking reactive dogs, which she thought would just be “an interim job.” Instead it was the beginning of Higgins’s new path to dog training.
The recognition from the BC SPCA comes as Higgins settles in Maple Ridge on a property that allows her to expand her services as her dog training company grows. Higgins says, “It took some courage to change fields, but I realized that dog training wasn’t that different than what I had originally set out to do: use science to improve the lives of animals.”
The BC SPCA AnimalKind accreditation program recognizes dog training companies that are committed to using evidence-based positive reinforcement training methods and promoting animal welfare. Companies that receive AnimalKind accreditation undergo a rigorous auditing process to verify they follow AnimalKind dog training standards. Nicole Fenwick, manager, research and standards for the BC SPCA, says, “In B.C., anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, so it is difficult for dog guardians to know who to trust.” For trainers like Higgins, the program is a step in the right direction. Higgins says, “It is absolutely necessary that we have an authority certifying which trainers are using science-based and ethical methods, and I am so grateful that the AnimalKind accreditation program exists to do this.”
The BC SPCA launched the first set of AnimalKind standards – for wildlife and rodent control companies – in 2018. Through a partnership with the UBC Animal Welfare Program, the BC SPCA, Vancouver Foundation, and the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies provided funding to establish the program. AnimalKind standards for dog training – the second set of standards developed, were launched in January 2019.
Learn about AnimalKind accreditation, what to look for in a trainer, or find a trainer near you.