Have you ever heard of the phrase it takes two to tango? The same is true when it comes to hiring a dog trainer. Some people are at the point that they just want me to fix it. “Here take my dog for 2 weeks and fix it. If it was only that easy. You cannot shape behavior in two weeks. We can put the foundation in for you but it will ultimately be up to the owner to follow through and build on the foundation we have laid for them. Often times people bring their dogs in that are reactive or have a bite under their belt. The first thing I ask is, “are you willing to change how you interact with this dog and do the hard work it will take to get this dog under control?” Sometime their answer is no and they don’t sign up for training. If you are not willing to follow our instructions and interrupt behavior you are wasting our time.
Our Group Polishing Class is offered to families who have trained with us. I can quickly tell who are consistent with their dogs and follow our training philosophy. The ones that do struggle, their dogs do not sit, down, or are reactive during class. They are the dogs that will also not stay on the place board. If you don’t practice at home you certainly are not going to keep up in class. When this happens the owners either don’t show up again because they are not willing to do the road work required during the everyday life of the dog or they step up and start training to improve.
Some people are just over their heads when it comes to training their dogs and that’s okay. As long as they are motivated to work with their dog, enforce the rules, and follow our guidelines they will have a well behaved happy dog. I recently worked with a family and I don’t believe they are following through with the training recommendations. They drop their dog off every morning and the training collar is not on. It’s frustrating to think that all the work we put in will be for nothing. I hope I’m wrong because she came in as a reactive 15 month old German shepherd. If the aggression isn’t controlled she will ultimately get worse and end up with a bite. Reactive dogs need to be put in check and taught control.
The work the owners have to do once we are finished with the training program is to be consistent with the rules. No jumping, quiet, no leash pulling, wait at the door, sit, down, place, and come when called. Don’t give your dog a command you will not follow through on. If you tell your dog to sit, they have to sit, and so on. Reward the wanted behavior and interrupt the unwanted behavior and do not tell your dog multiple times to do something. Say the command and then follow through until they obey.
I have a couple I have worked with that want their dog to be a service dog. Service dogs are working dogs and need to be treated as such. A pet is not a service dog. They paid me to train their dog and paid for additional training and the dog worked with me great. The dog was precise but with the owner the dog would run around in circles and have a gay old time while not doing what the owner said. When I looked at the owner he was laughing at his dog running around like a fool. I scolded the owner, “This isn’t funny he should be coming to you and sitting next to your side. If you want to take this dog in public places you need to be a lot more firm with your dog. Again they have a pet and want it to be a service dog. Pets can become service dogs, but you have to treat it like a service dog all the time. It’s all about control, control, control. I have seen a fair number of service dogs and they are calm, ignore people and obey the owner’s commands. Service dogs do not lunge and wag their tail at every person they come across because they want to be pet. Service dogs want nothing to do with strangers, everything comes from the owner.
It takes work owning a dog. They need to be fed, walked, picked up after, and taught rules. Before contacting a dog trainer for help, make sure you are willing to do the hard work to follow through with the training or you will be wasting everyone’s time and your money.