Certified Professional Trainer
(614) 987-7495 (614) 987-7495
Dog Training and Behavior
Several years ago I watched a 40 hr. presentation by a popular UK trainer. At one point in the presentation he discussed dog parks, and the many behavior problems they create. He said in this presentation that one area positive training advocates "got wrong" was being advocates of dog parks. He called it an absolute mistake. I've always believed this, and do not find they benefit our canine companions.
While I've written past posts regarding the many problems with dog parks, I think the bigger issue is how society generally sees excitable behaviors in dogs as natural, entertaining, and a normal part of life. I disagree. I see many owners that spend considerable money and time seeing their dogs are chauffeured to dog parks, play dates, and day care. I understand they are doing what they have been told benefits their dog, and they generally find their dog becomes physically tired after these outings. Unfortunately, the uncontrolled and excitable interactions common in these settings are creating more excitable dogs.
While I have no issue with play and fun as part of a balanced day, the important word is "balance". A dog being temporarily excited around another dog is not unusual, but a dog that never calms around other dogs is a real problem. And this "problem" is becoming endemic because many owners see it as normal. Some owners even encourage excitable behaviors. How much better would our dogs be if we were "teaching calm" behaviors? What are you teaching your dog as acceptable behavior in and out of the home, around people, or around other pets?
If we care about our dogs (collectively as a society), perhaps it's time to shift our image of a dog's life as one of endless play to one also balanced with thought and work. If you're allowing excitable behaviors, they will definitely build with time, If you are teaching your dog to be calm in varied settings, then you will have a much more enjoyable pet. Calm pets enjoy a richer life because they are welcome in more places, and can participate in more activities with owners. If you need help, good trainers have many options for helping owners teach their dogs how to focus, think, and behave - even in challenging situations.
So what's it mean to me to say I'm a dog trainer? Here are a few random thoughts from a working list.....
I am a dog trainer, not a magician. I will work to help you get the most from your dog, and to have the best life you can with your dog. I want your dog to earn a life full of privilege and participation. Training is hard work, not magic. But training can be rewarding and have many "magical" moments.
I am dog trainer, not a theorist. I deal with real dogs and offer solutions that have proven practical benefits. I find theories interesting and worth consideration, but the real world proves an abundance of theories flawed. I rely on good communication and leadership with dogs, not medicines or therapy. I continually assess a dog's response in the real world, not in a sterile environment.
I am a dog trainer, not a competitor. I will respect your past experience with dogs, or your request for help if you lack any experience. Please respect that I likely work with more dogs each week than you will in your lifetime. Because of this I may have a broader perspective of dogs, but I also know I can learn from you and your pet. My hope is we will learn from each other.
I am a dog trainer, not a parent. We can discuss how children should behave around dogs, how they should interact with dogs, and how you can help them build healthy relationships with pet(s). But there is no substitute for a parent guiding a child down the path of respectful ownership of a dog. This parental guidance can provide a richer life for your children and your pet(s). I cannot teach a dog to take abuse from a child.
I am a dog trainer, not a salesperson. I do need to be paid for my time and services, but I am not looking to sell you services you don't need. If I don't feel I can help you, I will still offer honesty. I may refer you to others with different skills or resources, or we may need to have a discussion regarding realistic outcomes for your dog.
I am a dog trainer, not a psychic. I do not know how many visits your dog will require, or how long it will take to reach your goals. I know that every dog is unique, and I continue to learn varied training skills to better meet challenges. I live with two dogs, 10 and 6 years of age. Their training is still not "finished".
When I was in school for dog trainers, one of my instructors often referred to "Golden Deceivers". At the time I'm not sure I fully grasped his meaning, but with many years of experience, I often look back on some of his stories and chuckle. The term doesn't really refer to a particular breed, but a personality quirk that comes up at times when training dogs. About 5-10 times a year I'll have a client who believes that training is somehow making their dog worse or aggressive.
In these cases, owners typically have a very friendly and pleasant dog that "loves everyone". The "deceiver" comes in to play when a few of these dogs begin training and find they will be expected to work, obey, and listen. They, of course, would prefer to play, not listen, and go about their own daily agenda. Some of these "friendly" dogs can then begin challenging owners with some pretty significant push back. "Deceivers" are "everyone's friend" when they can do as they please, but not so friendly when required to work within an owner's agenda.
In these situations an owner will be faced with a critical decision - work through this problem and teach the dog an owner's agenda takes priority, or allow the dog to go back to doing as it pleases. Since an owner is the one who has to live with a dog and be responsible for its behaviors, that's a decision that rests squarely on his/her shoulders. Yes, many owners may rationalize "well, our dog isn't really too bad". But allowing a dog to dictate final decisions also puts the dog in position to rule your life for 10+ years.
Owners need to understand that in these situations they are being tested by their dog. Giving in teaches a dog that bad behaviors earn them anything they want. Persisting with obedience helps develop mutual respect which gets you to a much better place. This isn't about being a drill sergeant for your dog, or in any way being cruel. It's simply about teaching your dog to live well in the human world, and not dictate the terms of life in your home.
The reality here is that effective training improves dogs, it doesn't make them worse or mean. But real training means obedience, and obedience at its core means a dog must realize he/she cannot always do as they please. Dogs that do "push back" in training are simply showing some true colors. Say hello to a dog that's a 'Golden Deceiver".
As is customary this time of year, I like to post some stats from the year past. I want to thank all my clients for making last year a very rewarding one. I always enjoy meeting and working with new clients and their dogs. Here's to a Happy New Year to all!
Number of Dogs Seen: 420
Number of Clients: 352
Miles Traveled: Over 10,000 miles
What was New: Began offering visit packages.
Busiest Month: October
Slowest Month: February
Please support local business!
As the end of the year draws near, many will begin formulating resolutions for 2015. For those contemplating resolutions involving their dog(s), I'd like to share a few thoughts I believe can help dogs and owners live better lives togeher.
1) Spend time with your dog productively. Have you ever considered how much training can be accomplished during a 20 min walk? Or how much better your dog could be if you spent that 60 mins at a dog park instead training, teaching, and learning together? Teaching a dog obedience provides mental challenges, and develops language you can use to guide your dog successfully through this world. Taking what time you have to spend with your dog, and using it wisely, can pay huge dividends.
2) Teach your dog to be calm. We have a society that preaches the wonders of socialization. Good socialization teaches dogs to behave in society, bad socialization makes excuses for bad manners and excitable behaviors. Unsupervised interactions at dog parks, doggy day cares, with guests, and with children - are all likely to set our dogs up for failure. Interactions without supervision and instruction allow dogs to develop bad manners and problem behaviors. Interactions WITH instruction, however, can produce calm and thoughtful companions.
3) Part of effective teaching means saying "NO". Hoping and wishing a dog will do what you want solely out of love is a not the real world dogs (or we) live in. It's great to love your dog, but love means helping them earn a privileged life. That comes from being a good leader, taking on the responsibility of teaching your pet, setting limits, and correcting problems. Your dog will thank you.
4) Training is a modifier, not a cure. Training your dog will help it to be its best, but it doesn't change the core personality of a dog. Training won't necessarily make a timid dog bold, or a mean dog friendly. But it can move dogs toward better behaviors, while giving owners better 'language' and control with a pet. Modifying problem behaviors without effective training is wishful thinking, not an effective strategy.
5) Real training is a way of living, not a course. The best trainers will teach YOU how to get the best from your dog. I get calls every week asking "how many visits will it take to train my dog"? The better question is "how many visits will it take to teach me how to live well with my dog - EVERY DAY"? If you don't work with your dog routinely, don't push forward obedience, and don't find new challenges to tackle with your dog, then you have room for improvement.
I hope all of you have had a restful holiday season, and I wish all of you the very best in 2015. Consider these suggestions for a more rewarding and mutually respectful relationship with your dog in the year ahead.
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