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Our History

History of APDT Australia

by Susan Wilkins – foundation member

I'd like to just give a brief history of how the Association was established in Australia.
We acknowledge Dr Ian Dunbar's part in establishing the APDT in the USA, which was the inspiration for APDT Australia.


Back in the early 1990s, I had read several training books by Dr Ian Dunbar, and was greatly influenced by his training methods in his BBC TV Series "Training Dogs with Dunbar". His name often appeared in dog behaviour/training books and I instantly became a Dunbar devotee. It was with great interest that I learnt of the Association that Dr Dunbar had started up in the United States and promptly joined it in 1995.


The Association was established in the USA in the early 1990s by Dr Ian Dunbar to enable pet dog trainers to be represented and learn more about dogs, dog training and behaviour.


APDT's motto "Building Better Trainers through Education" were the keywords and by offering members an annual conference and workshops with speakers at the forefront of dog training; pet dog trainers could be better equipped to run classes for pet dog owners and learn more about their own and other dogs.


We needed something like this where information could be shared amongst all trainers, Australia wide. Many trainers were missing out on important educational opportunities. Not only was ongoing education important for the trainers who had passed through the CGC Instructors Course, but for trainers who had not attended courses, who were not triallers, but were interested in becoming better trainers and wanting to learn new ways.


Twenty-four very dedicated trainers gave up their Sunday afternoon in August 1997 to attend a get-together. It was exciting! We talked about APDT, what it stood for and showed several videos from my own collection of APDT USA tapes; including Sue Sternberg, Dr Patricia McConnell and another presenter who covered fear in dogs. It was all cutting edge information and a realisation for those present that we could do this for ourselves through our own association.


The Association was incorporated in November 1997 and the very first meeting was held in December 1997. There was a great turnout for the first meeting and it was decided that making the Association open to anyone interested in learning and education was the key to success. We also received a letter of congratulations from the APDT Board of Directors in the States to encourage us along at this first meeting.


Acknowledgement must be made to those 24 founding members, who gave up a Sunday in August to get APDT underway. Their vision for the future and enthusiasm made this all possible. An idea can start with one person, but it takes enthusiasm and dedication to spread the idea and we did it!


As time has moved on since those early days, minor changes have been made to suit local conditions, but the primary reason for establishing ourselves still remains - Building better trainers through education.


APDT has grown larger than our wildest expectations and has the possibility of becoming Australia's largest democratic dog trainers' forum, run by members for members. The great part is that we did this for ourselves - we started up with no help or guidance from anyone overseas and APDT Australia is truly 'Australian made'!


My great hope is that trainers actively share the information that they gain from attending conferences/workshops or even just from their own experiences. Everyone can benefit and if it results in a kinder way to train through a better understanding of dogs, then APDT will be achieving its objectives.


Susan Wilkins
as published in the APDT Australia Newsletter Issue 44, February-March 2005, page 8.

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