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What is it we want for our dogs?

April 14th, 2010

For anyone who knows me, they know I have no great respect for current dog “training” methods.  This is not to say that I don’t respect some of the dog trainers, but they are the trainers willing to change, learn, expand and all for the sake of bettering dogs’ lives and helping owners.

It’s a very sad commentary, and one that frustrates me no end, that the majority of those who call themselves “trainers” don’t know squat about dogs and have little respect for dog owners.

I know this to be true as I’ve actually heard these “trainers” make seriously disparaging remarks about owners, their abilities, and the fact that they shouldn’t own dogs, so bad are they at working with them.

They also make these same dismissive remarks about other “trainers”.  These “trainers” are so fearful of anything different, anyone better than they, that they go to great lengths to dismiss them, be vocally negative, and refuse to think there might be a better way.

I am unable to understand the unwillingness to improve, particularly when the bottom line is the dog.  These “trainers” are willing to sacrifice dogs for their own ego and fear.

If this is how these “trainers” feel, why are they in the business of training dogs when dogs are half of the equation and owners are the other half?  To lack respect is to ensure failure for both dog and owner.

One thing I do know is that honest-to-God dog handlers, those who can work any dog under extremely diverse situations, have (as long as I can remember) had little respect for obedience “trainers” and have said, repeatedly, that these people “can’t do, so they teach.”  I must say, for the most part, I agree.  However, I also know that there are several dog trainers that CAN and are willing to learn a better way and I applaud them.

The Dog “Training” industry is firmly entrenched, believed and touted.  The reasons for this have been previously discussed in a earlier blog, The History of Modern Dog Training.  However, behavioral studies have shown the intrinsic failure of the overall methods and the dog’s ability to absorb and retain what is being taught.

The study shows that dogs being trained fail to master and owners must practice, practice, practice, because current & traditional methods are proven to only be retained by dogs for two days [1]

TWO DAYS.  Well no wonder owners can’t get “it” and must practice till the cows come home.  The owners can’t get “it” because the dogs can’t get “it”.  The “trainers” are teaching failure.

This begs the question, “How long does one need to practice in order to make an action, foreign to inherent behavior and understanding, a habit?”  A long, long, long time seems to be the answer.  And there is absolutely NO guarantee that it will succeed.

That lost time is the window that results in many, many dogs being released to shelters and euthanized due to behavioral problems that the “trainers” can’t seem to overcome.

So, what IS it we want for our dogs?

What I hear, constantly, is “I want a well-behaved dog”.  I never hear owners say they want their dogs to learn tricks, obedience, or compete in anything.  They simply want a dog that listens, thinks, works with them and the family, and can monitor his own behavior with simple reminders or warnings.

That doesn’t seem too much to ask.

This, then, behooves all of “us” that know, understand and use this easily understood method — a method that dogs have always used and “trainers” constantly put-down out of fear — to embrace it for the dogs’ and owners’ sake and stop this insanity that results in abandoned dogs and leads them to their death.

What do we want for our dogs?

We want “trainers” that are brave enough to step outside the unthinking masses of the failing methods and offer a better, more successful way to the dogs and their owners.

We want owners to step up, take some responsibility, stop looking for the “easy”, do-it-for-me, I-want-to-feel-good-forget-what-the-dog-needs way and demand “trainers” who can produce instead of talk, and work with their dogs to create a life that is positive and integrates the dog correctly.

We want the industry to stop supporting failing methods strictly for the consumer-driven profit margin.  (This last one is pie-in-the-sky until owners walk away from the failing methods and “trainers” that cost them time and money without producing success.)

Can we do this?  Yes.

Will it happen?  Perhaps when dog owners and brave trainers turn away from failure, embrace success, and draw others to them BECAUSE the DOGS profit in every aspect of their lives from it.

Dog “training” is mired in the dark ages.  The horse world has altered and works with horses from the horses’ behavioral response, and is highly successful now.

Perhaps it’s time for the dog “training” world to grow up and admit their failure.  To begin to work with the dog, instead of the “trainers'” egos.  To put dogs first, everything else second.

One of the most important questions you may ever ask is, “What do I want for my dog?”

Your answer, your actions, will determine the future of all dogs.

[1] Thorn, J.M., J.J. Templeton, K.M. Van Winkle, and R.R. Castillo (2006). Conditioning shelter dogs to sit. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 9(1): 25-39. ISSN: 1088-8705. NAL Call Number: HV4701.J68)

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  1. From Cindy, Newton, Levi, Nitro, Milo Shipe, April 29, 2010:

    Susan, I LOVE IT! I just started working a bit of “obedience” with my new guy. Soon I will start working him towards agility. I WILL use the method you showed me and I WILL succeed if it kills me. I don’t have the patience of a saint, but being a sheltie, I’m hoping he picks it up quick. I was one of those who was taught to practice, practice, practice (but only for 5-10 minutes at a time), but you’ve shown me and told me over and over what really works (and I HAVE seen it in action first hand so I KNOW it works)and now I’m ready to give it a try with a dog that’s not full of other issues to overcome.
    Here’s to you, and may your words fill my brain as I go at it with Qui-gon.
    FYI – he’s already heard AAHHTT more than a few times. His IS headstrong, but he’s lots of fun!!!

  2. From Willia Timmons, January 3, 2011:

    Good job! what a great post! Thank you very much.

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