A lifelong relationship between you and your dog begins with trust and respect, and is strengthened through a great friendship, solid – consistent training and mutual respect.
Anyone can be a dog trainer. Whether or not “ANY” one should be allowed to be a dog trainer is a very hot topic these days.
If you want to train your own dog, and you feel comfortable doing it, you don’t need a trainer. But I’m not really talking about this situation here. Unless, or course you happen to run into issues during the training. And if this happens, then I would hope that would seek out professional help from a local trainer. (More about this later).
What I am really talking about in this blog is: in most areas, there are no educational or ethical requirements that must be met in order to become a “professional” dog trainer to the public. If someone wants to start training dogs as an occupation, they don’t need to get a diploma or even a basic training certificate. They don’t even have to attend a local workshop or pass an online training course. Nothing. They can just open the door and have at it!
This, in itself, might not even be the biggest problem. The big problems come when these individuals start working with your dog. Most dog owners have no clue what is or is not acceptable practice in the training world. And because you will find as many different training philosophies as you will “dog trainers”, how can you be sure you are getting the right trainer, the right training and that your dog is being trained correctly?
I’ve seen dogs kicked, tripped, pushed to the ground, pinned down against their will, jerked, slapped and even rapped around a tree by the leash … and all in the name of “training”. I’ve seen this happen right in front of their very well meaning owners and the owners thought it was perfectly fine to let the trainer do it because, after all, he was a professional… What?
Personally, I have never had to lift a finger to my dogs. And I don’t used just one training method. This is because one method will never work effectively on every dog. Training should be about connecting with your dog, and should never be about a single method that a trainer prefers. If someone ever says, ”Here’s what you need to do” without spending ample time observing or interacting with your dog, he’s the wrong trainer for you!
Fearful and shy dogs need a much softer approach. They need encouragement to build their confidence and self-esteem. Excited and hyper dogs need a calming influence and an approach that is a bit more on the firm side. Some dogs respond better to treats while other may do fine with only verbal encouragement. While still others may need a slip chain and a little light physical correction during training. Some dogs take longer to “get it” and because of this they may require a lot more patience and consistent training. Other dogs may pick up on things in just a few short sessions.
When asked for my help or advice, I always begin by asking the owners what their goals are for the training. I then take the time to evaluate the individual dog’s needs and determine its personality. During this time I also strive to gain the dog’s trust and we develop a friendship. I also begin to develop my training strategy in order to make the dog WANT to be influenced (trained) by me.
The keys to successful training are to first “connect” with the dog, then to find out what the dog likes, then use those things to shape good behavior.
I like to use the following example: Your dog LOVES to play with tennis balls, so it makes perfect sense that when it does a behavior correctly, you give it the ball to play with. This way the dog sees the ball as a reward or payment for a job well done! It will not take very long for your dog to “WANT” to work for the ball. That’s because it knows that it will get to play with it when it does what you ask it to do.
I never punish a dog for doing something incorrectly. I have found that they learn much faster if you encourage them. If you use Heavy-handed tactics or yell at them it will only make them fear you and that quickly removes the trust and respect you have worked so hard to establish.
If a correction is needed, when making it, it is imperative that you stay calm, cool and collected. DO NOT take bad behavior or an incorrect response personally. Instead, try to find a different way to communicate with the dog. The reason he doesn’t do the behavior correctly is because he doesn’t understand what you are asking of him. A simple “NO” or a light leash correction followed by returning your dog to its starting point is usually all it takes.
Dog training consists of five basic elements. Following the guidelines below is important if you want to have a happy and well-behaved dog. If you follow these guidelines your training sessions will be relatively stress free and a positive experience for both you and your dog.
- Build Trust and Respect Between You and the Dog
- Determine Which Training Strategy to Use
- Incorporating Your Training Strategy
- Set Up a Training Schedule and Set Goals For Each Session
- Reinforce Training with Daily Refresher Sessions
Tomorrow: I’ll explain my 5 basic elements of dog training in detail