As a trainer, I don’t expect my students to have all the answers about dog behavior and training when they come to me for services. That’s what they pay me for – to know the answers, to guide them down the right path, and give them the skills necessary to achieve their training goals.
Most dog trainers were dog owners before working professionally with canines. Although it’s tempting to put professionals up on a pedestal, the fact of the matter is that we’re all human. I’ve made more than my share of training mistakes. I was shocked and mortified when I first attended a Click to Calm at Clicking with Canines with Monte and Steve told me that I was doing “all the wrong stuff” (yes, those were literally his words) with my dog.
He was right. I was doing all the wrong stuff. Any trainer will tell you that humans are harder to train than dogs, and that a human’s behavior toward a dog will have direct and measurable effects on a dog’s behavior. My prong collar corrections, “chtts”, “thassa bite grabby hands” and attempts at other similarly old-fashioned training methods were failing dismally and Monte’s behavior was the proof.
We all make mistakes. “To err is human, to forgive, canine.” Thank heavens our dogs are so forgiving, because we do a lot of crazy things to them!
Even professionals make mistakes. We find ourselves in situations where we get the training equivalent of “writer’s bloc.” We consult with other trainers and behaviorists for tips on getting past these hurdles.
For the record, I’m ok with dog trainers and dog owners making mistakes. It happens. What I’m not ok with is dog “professionals” putting dogs and their humans in danger.
I have heard many, many awful horror stories from clients whose dogs have not been trained, but victimized by those who call themselves “trainers” and “behaviorists.” I’ve spent many, many hours helping owners as they try to “undo” the damage caused by those they invested their trust, hope, and hard-earned money in.
This really steams my beans on two levels. First, professionals who put dogs in danger are con artists. Second, the dog owners that I meet are wonderful people who care greatly for their dogs. When they hire a trainer, it is because they want someone to help improve their dog’s life. As in all aspects of life, we are taught to respect authority, don’t question the experts. But what if the expert is more dangerous than the dog’s unacceptable behaior?
This happens more often than you think. When I see a client sobbing because a trainer physically or emotionally scarred her dog, my hackles go way up. There is no excuse for professionals who put dogs in danger.
To help inform pet owners on how to critically evaluate a trainer’s experience, credentials, and techniques, I posted a recent blog entry on Ian and Kelly Dunbar’s wonderful internet training resource, Dog Star Daily. Want to learn more about ensuring your pet’s safety and your training success? Read Buyer Beware on DSD today!