Although I have been working with dogs for years, launching a dog training business is new to me. As I’m getting up and running, I’ve been hearing stories from people about what their “trainers” have told them. Frankly, it’s been a shock to realize how much bad and dangerous advice is being given out by supposed professionals. This post is to give you some things to look for to help you avoid disaster for you and your dog. If you talk to anyone who tells you the kind of things listed below, keep looking. Sadly, the examples below are actual statements from “trainers” that people have been told.
Your Whippet can’t pass obedience trials because they can’t sit down like other dogs
This speaks to a trainer who knows only one method to train a dog to do a task. Dogs like Whippets and Greyhounds can’t lay down the same way other dogs can. All this means is that you need to show the dog how to lay down in two steps, rather than just one. If anyone tells you there is only one way to train a behavior, keep looking. There is always a way to train a behavior you want.
The only command your Border Collie needs to know is “No”
An attitude like this is someone who is all about authority and isn’t at all interested in the dog’s capabilities or needs. Border Collies (and Standard Poodles) are the brightest, most capable breeds around. Having someone like this work with your dog pretty much guarantees you’re going to have a dog with behavior issues. Bright dogs need stimulation and direction. With proper incentive, they love following commands – it’s a game for them. Working breeds like this love and need to learn a wide variety of commands. Taking the time to train your dog for many tasks gives you a companion that you’ll wonder how you ever lived without.
Use a prong collar (or choke chain) to leash train your 4-month old Beagle puppy
If you have someone tell you that prong collars or choke chains are required for strong dogs – especially for a young puppy – you’re talking to someone who has no idea how to train a dog to walk on a leash. They think force is required. I’m here to tell you – it’s not. Dog training, for any behavior, is never about forcing a behavior. Ever!
Pit bulls are dangerous and can’t be trained
This one made me want to scream. In fact, pit bulls are often the sweetest dogs you will ever have the joy of knowing. They are bright, capable, and love to please. Yes, there are certain things you need to be aware of simply because of their strength – not because they are inherently any more dangerous than any other breed of dog. There is no such thing as a breed of dog that is inherently dangerous. Yes, there are breeds that need special attention or a certain type of owner. But no breed exists that should be automatically discarded because of their genetics.
Only use Positive Reinforcement, or Clicker Training (or any other single-approach training method)
If you have a trainer tell you there is only one way to train your dog, keep looking. They may be lovely well-intentioned people who know their chosen training method well and are good at it, but there is no one training method that works for every dog. A good trainer will be experienced with many different training approaches and will be able to select the best method or combination of methods for you and your dog. You wouldn’t believe how many people have told me their trainer said their dog wasn’t trainable. There is no such thing as untrainable dog! Hearing this makes me crazy.
If your dog misbehaves, yell at him or hit him
Sadly, there is far too much of this attitude still around. If a trainer tells you this, run, don’t walk, away . If you yell at your dog or hit your dog, you will end up with either a fearful dog or an aggressive one. For sure, you will not have the companion you’re hoping for. They will either be miserable, unhappy, and insecure or they will become aggressive. This approach never creates a happy, stable dog or a true bonded relationship with their person.
I could go on and on, but this list should give you an idea about what to avoid when you’re looking for that right trainer for you and pup. A good trainer understands these things:
- There are many effective, humane ways to teach any behavior.
- Ultimately, dog training is about communication – how you and your dog learn to work with each other.
- There is never a need for physical force or violence. Using power over your dog is not how your dog learns anything. It will never create a bond that’s meaningful.
- There is a huge difference between discipline and punishment.
- While it’s true that different breeds have different general characteristics, ultimately they are dogs and every dog is distinct and unique.