How rogue ‘trainers’ are risking the lives of our beloved household pets

Dogs, rabbits and even tortoises are being put at risk by unqualified “pet trainers”, animal ­welfare experts warn.

Well-meaning owners looking for help with unruly pets have been charged hundreds of pounds by “trainers” who advertise their services online, despite having no expert knowledge.

The Animal Behaviour and Training Council is calling for pet trainers to be regulated, with a governing body to enforce high standards. The charity highlighted one example of a trainer who pinned a puppy to the floor by its neck.

The owner told the charity: “My dog Bobby clearly did not like this and tried to get free. Even more pressure was applied. This resulted in Bobby gagging and choking, and unleashing the most horrendous noise I have ever heard him make.”

In another example, a trainer told the owner of a springer spaniel puppy to take its food away, so it would learn to respect her as the “pack leader”.

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But this caused the previously well-behaved animal to become aggressive when eating, and it had to be removed from the ­family home.

Another “expert” told the owners of an aggressive rabbit to stroke it in a way that actually caused it more stress.

The charity said: “The owners were very upset with the advice they’d been given, realising it was based on making their pet fearful.”

And the owner of a tortoise which attempted to bite him was advised to turn it on its back, which caused the animal “high levels of distress and fear”.

In fact, the pet had mistaken its owner’s feet for another tortoise and the biting had been part of its mating ritual. In a submission to MPs, the charity warned that pet owners face “something of a lottery” when attempting to hire a trainer.

It said: “Frequently, all they have to rely on is the unsubstantiated word of the person providing the service, which often includes a string of meaningless post-nominal letters and a smart website to support the claims of competence.”

It also warned: “The consequences of incompetent training or behaviour mod­­ification can significantly affect animals’ welfare and lead to mental suffering.

“The training and behaviour sector is unregulated and the majority of practitioners have not had their ­knowledge and skills assessed.”

The proposals will be considered by the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee. It is holding an inquiry into pet welfare.

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