Today is Sunday and time for a little relaxing, so me and the pups are on the couch and I thought I would watch a little TV while they had their siesta. I turn on the TV and I find this dog show about this so-called dog coach, teaching people how to handle their problem dogs.
YEAH! What better way to relax than to watch dogs?!?
However, a couple of minutes in I am not relaxed at all! Rather, I feel my heart pumping very fast and my blood pressure rising! What I am watching is not only very disturbing but also a VERY wrong understanding of how dogs learn and how you should train a dog.
I see pulling on a dog’s cheek to make him/her obey. I see rough hand handling to make the dog move, not to mention the very tight leash around the dog’s neck! But what is worse is that this so-called “dog-coach” is telling the owners that this is how dog’s communicate and that this is the only way they will learn!
Not once is a dog given a reward to do right, cause we are after all the leaders so the dogs should just obey us of course!!! ( feel the heavy sarcasm!)
What signs to look out for in your search for a good trainer?
Now, it has been scientifically proven that dogs do not aim to be our leaders, they do not try to control us or any form of situation (Read Debunking the alpha dog myth and Pack leader or companion). This understanding of so called “dog communication” is an old fashioned way of thinking before science told us better.
Therefor, my first prayer is that if you get a trainer and they start talking about being the leader or tell you that your dog is trying to take over. RUN, run as fast as you can and do it fast!
Furthermore, if you do not see any use of treats, praise or reward in their training but instead they use force to get what they want, like the above mentioned example, run even faster!!!
Now I see the appeal in wanting to get a quick fix for your dog, which these type of trainers offer, but this is not fixing the underlying problem (yes, there always is one!).
This type of “training” is scaring your dog into obeying you, cause after all who would want to be pulled on their cheek! However, this will destroy the trusting bond that should be between you and your dog and will lead to a very stressed, fearful and distrusting dog (Read more about the human-dog bond here).
Also, your dog will never understand what he/she did wrong in the first place, and worse yet what they are doing right. All they know is that if I lie down in a corner and are very still, I will not get hit, pushed or pulled.
Hello, what is your credentials as a trainer?
What I find even harder to believe is that this show is shown on national TV right in prime time, but where are all the shows where the lead person actually has an education and has studied dogs and their behavior, and most importantly is backed up by science?
This is why you should always make sure that your trainer is qualified. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer or expert, but if they do not have a proper education or credentials to back up their title then stay away from them.
It is our job as dog owners to educate ourselves in dogs. The knowledge is out there. Several ethologists, such as myself (Book a consultation) are standing on their tippy toes from the eager of sharing their knowledge with you. Not to mention all the dog instructors out there who makes an honor in keeping themselves up to date with the newest knowledge on how to train dogs, and YES it is in a positive, force free and effective way.
My second prayer for you today is therefor please please look into the trainers background. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do they use positive methods (treats, praise)?
- Are they force free?
- What is their background/knowledge?
The most important thing you can do is listen to your gut feeling. If you are not comfortable using these methods with your dog, then there probably is a reason.