I have heard several stories of people who have shopped around for dog trainers. Some of my clients do a lot of reading trying to learn the best or easiest way to train their dog. I have had clients who have been to 2-3 trainers. One uses e-collar, another doesn’t’ but uses compulsive methods, another is all positive. It can be very confusing for the novice, who just wants some help with their dog. High energy untrained dogs can be very aggravating.
Here is my take on training philosophies. It goes like this. The only thing two dog trainers can agree upon is that the third dog trainer doesn’t know what they’re doing. I always get a laugh with that one. I recently spoke with a lady who hired me and was very confused. The first trainer she hired for a board and train talked in a demeaning way to her. He yelled at the dog and was physically harsh when the dog didn’t do as he said. My client went to another trainer and when my client leash corrected her dog, was told “no no no, we do not leash correct dogs. We use all positive methods.” No wonder the poor woman was confused.
The compulsive trainer advised the owner that her dog was too much dog for her to handler. What I saw was a poodle that had been trained using compulsion. The dog growled at me when I came to the door and kept its distance when I interviewed the owner on issues she was having with her dog. We discussed her goals and objectives. We decided she just needed some direction and the dog needed some clear understanding what was asked of him. For instance, “come” meant get over here and come and sit next to me. I explained,” that is confusing to the dog”. Either come means come to my general vicinity or it means come and sit in front of me. One or the other. Dog’s do not do gray areas. Everything needs to be black and white for the dog. Dog’s love rules and consistency.
So let’s go over training philosophies. There is old school, of putting the dog on a pinch, slip, choke or prong collar and snap the leash every time you heel and change directions. Unless you have a very strong, hard dog, the dog will look depressed when performing obedience. It’s certainly not fun for the dog!
Then there are the all positive trainers. All positive are purists who do not believe in leash corrections, spaying water in the dog’s face, nor yelling at the dog. E collars are bad. All positive philosophy is that changing and creating behavior is done positively; behavior, marker, and then treat. Clicker training is all positive. The Orca Whales perform all those behaviors at Sea World due to marker training. There is no other way to train an 8,000lb mammal but with marker training. With these animals though you have to understand they are caged with no distractions or stimulation. I believe this is why some have been known to attack the trainers. They literally go crazy for lack of stimulation, both mentally and physically.
Here is my training philosophy. I use whatever method that works for each individual dog, depending on drive, temperament, and environmental experiences. I use treats and mark wanted behavior. I also specialize in remote collar training. This is my expertise and I get great results. I use body language, touch, and praise. I communicate with the dog giving him all the information, yes and no. I teach the dog the communication of the collar. It is a very stress free method. There is no yelling or frustration on the part of the dog or the owner. My clients are amazed at the progress we make with their dogs and how relaxed the classes are.
The first step when shopping for a trainer is to find someone you are comfortable with. Is the trainer a nice person? Are they arrogant or talk to you like you’re stupid? If they talk to you in a demeaning way keep looking. Personally, I am not going to pay someone to teach me something if they make me feel bad. I want my teacher to pump me up and make me feel good. Think about your favorite teachers in school. They were the ones who believed in you and praised you.
Next, ask if they offer free demonstrations with their dogs? The trainer’s dog ought you knock your socks off. The demo dog should heel, down, sit, come, run away, down from a distance and recite the alphabet. Well, you know what I mean. You should be impressed with the focus and obedience of the dog.
Does the trainer evaluate and work with your dog during your first meeting? Is the trainer confident and interacts with your dog? How does your dog react to the trainer? Good trainers have the natural ability to relate with animals. If your dog is nervous around strangers, you should see your dog relax after only 5 minutes with the trainer. I have heard it many times during evaluations; “You just took the leash and my dog went with you!” For some dog owners that can be a very big deal for nervous and aggression issues.
So, you have found a trainer you like, your dog likes them, and they can help you with your dog. What training options do they offer? Is it one option fits all? Do they only offer group class? Do they only offer private lessons? One size doesn’t fit all. At Adams K-9, we offer group puppy class, private lessons, day care training, and board and train. With the variety of options comes a variety of pricing. The more work for the trainer the more the cost. The options where the owner does most of the training are the less expensive options. One option I do not recommend is group class for adult or juvenile dogs. Group class has way too many distractions going on. There is rarely any one on one time with the trainer and there is no a lot of learning going on. My philosophy is train the dog first and then offer group class to practice with distractions. This methodology works well for us.
If you are in the West Michigan area, schedule a free demonstration with us. We love to show off our dogs and to help new ones. If you are not in Michigan shop around and use your gut feelings. There are good trainers out there you just need to do your homework.