The Cooperative Care Certificate Program is Here!

It's here! It's finally here! After countless hours of effort and angst, I have a new thing to show the dog training world. And of course, now I have even more angst about whether or not the training world will love my new thing as much as I do! When you create something out of thin air you become quite protective and attached. It's time to let go now though and share the Cooperative Care Certificate Program, developed and maintained in partnership with Fenzi Dog Sports Academy.

Check it out at www.cooperativecarecertificate.com

The Cooperative Care Certificate is a virtual video titling program for dog owners and trainers. People who are interested in earning the certificate will train 10 essential husbandry exercises to a passing level. The essential exercises are 1) chin rest, 2) lie on side, 3) restraint, 4) wearing a muzzle, 5) handling feet & nails, 6) handling mouth & teeth, 7) medications, 8) injections & blood draws, 9) eye exams, and 10) ear exams. . . That covers a LOT of ground! In addition, there are 3 levels of increasing challenge for each exercise. 

Why Earn A Cooperative Care Certificate

You may be wondering why you should care about earning a Cooperative Care Certificate. There are a number of reasons! First, you will be focusing on helping your dog learn some of the most useful life skills out there. Helping your dog become comfortable with his grooming and veterinary care is a huge benefit. All dogs will need this type of care throughout their lifetimes. You are giving your dog a great gift by helping him learn to tolerate these necessary procedures. 

Second, earning the certificate is external validation of your training skills. Your video submission will be reviewed by an expert in the area and you will receive feedback on how effective your training has been. Having an external marker for training success makes it clear that you have achieved your goals. 

Third, earning the certificate and sharing that information is a good way to help others see the value and importance of cooperative care training as a valid skill set. This achievement would be particularly helpful to those who want to teach cooperative care procedures to others.

How I Became Focused on Cooperative Care 

When I become interested in a dog training topic I tend to go very deep into it. The more I work with the concepts and ideas the more I find to pull apart, examine, and study. This has definitely been true of cooperative care work. It's been 6 years since I first thought to myself "we need to focus more on this type of training for our dogs". Many of us in the dog sports world have trained some pretty impressive behaviors and skills, yet revert to force and pressure for basic care like nail trims. 

It seemed to me that we were neglecting the important life skills like handling & husbandry and focusing more on training that was activity or sport specific. In terms of quality of life for our dogs we had it all backwards.

As I dove deeper into the concept of cooperative care I found that there were some common misconceptions and misunderstandings about what it is and how to go about encouraging cooperation from our dogs. The first misconception is that in cooperative care work we are teaching our dogs what we want them to do. That's actually only a small part of the process. Our bigger focus is on how our dogs feel about the handling and procedures that are necessary for their health and well-being. If they feel comfortable and safe then they are going to allow us to do a variety of things that might seem scary under other circumstances. I think of it as making deposits into the bank account of trust and good will that I'm building with my dog for their cooperative care work. I want to make huge deposits into that account so that when withdrawals are necessary I don't become overdrawn. I strive to make husbandry procedures commonplace for my dogs. I want them to think "that's just another weird thing that happens to us, but it pays off well!" 

The second misconception I often see is that people are so focused on the goal of getting the job done that they aren't sensitive to their dog's body language and feedback. 

For example, being able to cut your dog's nails is good, unless your dog isn't comfortable with the process. There's tolerance, where you allow or endure something even if you don't like it much, and there's cooperation, where you are relaxed and calm throughout the procedure. Both of these are better than resistance! 

And sometimes tolerance is the best we can do. 

That doesn't mean we should keep pushing when our dogs aren't comfortable though. Just because you CAN do something to your dog doesn't mean that you SHOULD. Continuing to push a dog that is barely tolerating something is going to lead to resistance soon enough. Working towards comfort and cooperation is a process and that process takes time. It's important for your dog's mental and physical well-being that you are sensitive to all the small signs of discomfort that you see.

The Goal of the Cooperative Care Certificate Program

Our overall goal in developing the Cooperative Care Certificate is for people to become more aware of the need for this type of training, and for dogs to become more comfortable with all sorts of husbandry procedures. The Certificate Program provides an organized way to structure your training steps by breaking down the essential exercises into small reasonable pieces. Even if you don't plan to earn the title it's still a nice approach for your training plan.

If you want to connect with folks who are also interested in this type of training feel free to join my Facebook group "Cooperative Care with Deb Jones". You'll find lots of help and support there. I also have a YouTube channel of the same name with plenty of video examples. I hope you will take a look around the new Cooperative Care website for more information and ideas as well. We have plenty of resources for you there. Poke around in all the little nooks and crannies. Try out all our links. Then get started on your cooperative care training with your dog. Can't wait to hear what you think and how it goes! 

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