STOP! DON’T HIRE THAT DOG TRAINER JUST YET!
When I meet with prospective clients, I often observe that they are stressed because common training tactics are frightening their dogs resulting in serious unwanted behaviors.
Formal dog training began with the military; methods were quickly adopted by the police who needed dogs to do very hard core and intense jobs. It is no secret that the military uses severe training methods with negative consequences, sometimes painful, to manipulate behavior. Animals can be punished in the heat of the moment. This approach causes problems with any dog both physically and emotionally.
Some people claiming to be professional dog trainers are drawn to this style of training because it is easily passed from one trainer to another, without any scientific backing and with no accreditation system. Sometimes harsh methods appeal to people who prefer to take an abrasive attitude towards life in general which intensifies the negative effect. These trainers use the right buzz words like “relationship based” or “positive methods only,” but you may find that they recommend pinch collars, choke chains, and shock collars.
People often seek my help because a trainer has effectively “sold” her services which resemble the methods of several “celebrity” trainers who throw around words like “Alpha,” “Dominance,” and tell clients to “Show the dog who the leader is.” Many dogs that are frightened by these methods choose to defend themselves instinctively by reactive aggression. I am currently working with a new 7-month-old lab puppy who has begun biting her family because she is frightened due to one of these such trainers.
This is a preventable tragedy. It is critical when enlisting help with your dog or puppy to be careful to inquire about the trainer’s educational background. If he cannot show you any form of verifiable certification, he very likely doesn’t have any. Animal training is based on behavioral science. Science is always evolving as we develop methods based on new evidence.
In general terms, you want to have positive, gentle and fun interactions with the dogs in your life. Training a dog should continue for the entirety of the dog’s life if you want a happy healthy dog. After all, who do you like to hang out with? A friend who is prone to erratic and grumpy behavior, or a friend who is optimistic and supportive?
Think of it from your dog’s perspective and be your dogs most trusted and valued resource!