In my last two “Finding a Trainer” columns, I emphasized the importance of actually talking to the trainer, not only to expedite the exchange of information regarding your needs, but also to get a feel for them as a person, as well as to verify their credentials.
To illustrate this point further, I will share an extremely unsettling riddle, told to us by one of the residents who worked on my wife’s seventh and eighth spine surgeries:
Question: What do you call the person who graduated last in their class at medical school?Answer: Doctor!
No, we didn’t laugh, either.
Now, apply that to professional dog training, where there are no regulations or accredited degrees, and one can see the crapshoot that dog owners face when trying to find a legitimate trainer.
I have four rules for successful dog training, and for choosing a trainer. The first is probably the most important, and useful, when vetting potential trainers: Follow the Golden Rule. If you wouldn’t let them use their technique on you, or a child, then you shouldn’t do it to your dog.
Despite the claim made by some trainers that you “don’t teach/treat dogs like children,” the principles of learning are identical for both species. If a particular behavior yields positive results, it is going to be repeated. If a behavior yields unpleasant results, it will not be repeated. Not exactly rocket science here, folks!
And let’s not forget about Uncle Pavlov, one of the godfathers of modern psychology. He is the man who quantified classical conditioning. Most notably, pairing (combining) the ringing of a bell with food presented to a hungry dog. After a few repetitions, the ringing of the bell made the dog salivate. We all use this technique, in various ways, everyday, especially when teaching.
Training your dog should be fun, not a chore, and certainly not an unpleasant experience. I have “cured” a number of people, and trainers, by offering to teach them German commands using their dog-training techniques on them, most often the choke-chain, yank-and-crank-style trainers. Funny, I haven’t had a taker yet! I wonder why?
As I have stated numerous times, never be afraid to ask a trainer specifically how they train, or how they fix behavior problems. Go online, look up trainers in your area, and make some phone calls. Then you will see why I am so vehement about using the Golden Rule as a litmus test when searching for a trainer.