Another potential client contacted me this week to “fix” her dog that she dropped off at a “boot camp” for two weeks.
I have heard this scenario many times over the years. Her dog was aggressive and a trainer told her that “she needed to show it who is boss” and she believed him. She dropped her dog off in the care of this “dog trainer” who assured her that her problems would be solved when she picked her dog up. Two weeks later she went to pick her dog up and to her horror her dog was not only still aggressive, but was visibly shaken and scared. This trainer used choke chains, prong collars, “shake cans” and alpha rolls and surprise, surprise – caused her dog to be more fearful and aggressive.
There are no quick fixes in dog training! So many people want to ship their dog off to someone and get back a dog that is “fixed”. It usually isn’t that simple. When a dog is fearful (fear and aggression usually go hand in hand) doing things to that dog that cause more fear or pain are often times not going to work! Shipping your dog off to a boarding / training scenario allows the dog to perform for the trainer on-site. But your dog will revert back to its old self as soon as he goes home. In order for your dog to change, YOU must first change.
One tool a good trainer uses in training is to BOND with the dog. Dropping off a dog to a kennel / boarding facility to “have him trained while I’m gone” immediately changes the circumstances……most trainers out there see time as money. So in the interest of accomplishing the training at hand in an expedient manner (more hourly rate for the trainer), they bypass the bonding process. This basically leaves them with only a couple of options…..FORCE training or aversion training. They typically use force to train your dog using avoidance techniques (old-school, yank-and-crank methodology), where the dog performs in order to AVOID the physical corrections it will receive.
I believe in using food, rewards, and luring at the beginning of a learning exercise for behavior. I phase this out to include corrections after the behavior is learned by the dog. At the other end of the scale are the dog trainers who intimidate or force their dogs to do what they want (the William Koehler trainers). I call them the old school “yank and crank” trainers.
They put a choke or prong collar on a dog and force it to do everything. Most professional dog trainers use these methods because for them “time is money” and they can get a dog trained much quicker by forcing the dog to perform. The bottom line is with enough force a dog can be trained to do almost anything.
The problem with yank and crank trainers is the dogs seldom like their handlers. In fact softer dogs are often afraid of their handlers. These are the dogs that tuck their tails or lay on the ground when asked to do something. These are dogs that look nervous when they are near their owners. That’s because they never know when the hammer is going to fall.
The problem with this type of dog trainer is that their training produces inconsistent results along with dogs that don’t like or respect their owners. You will never reach repeatable behaviors and consistency in training if you don’t have a good bond with your dog, or if your dog does not respect you as a pack leader.
I like to use motivational methods (food, toys or praise) to take a dog through a learning phase. The most effective motivational method is called training with markers. This is where the dog actually learns the meaning of a command – for example it learns the meaning of the word “COME.”
Once the dog understands the meaning of the command the trainer then adds the three D’s of training; adding duration to the behavior first, followed by distance, then finally adding distractions to the program. A good example of this is a dog that has learned the meaning of the word “DOWN” but now must learn that “DOWN” means stay down until the handler gives a “RELEASE COMMAND”. This means the dog must stay down even if the owner or someone else tosses a ball in front of the dogs’ feet or drops a hot dog 4 feet from where he is lying.
If a dog is disobedient under distraction or does not follow directions under this MARKER system, then we teach the dog that there will be correction for being disobedient. The key here is that corrections are never given unless the owner 110% knows the dog understands what is being asked of him but refuses to follow the command.
As far as yank and crank methods, depending on the dog, you can get a “false reading” of success by scaring a dog into not giving signals any longer. This is accomplished by abusing (trainers often call this “correcting”) a dog when they growl, snap or bite. Then the dog becomes scared to show signals, but is not “cured”. You can then end up with a dog that seems to attack out of nowhere because they don’t tell the world when they are scared, they just seem to snap.
I AM NOT saying that all board and train options for dogs are abusive. There are plenty of wonderful trainers doing great work with dogs that are in their care. But, unfortunately there are a lot more that do abuse dogs. I ask you to BE AWARE. If the boarding / training facility you are working with does NOT tell you to plan on spending several hours with them when you pick your dog up, then how will you know HOW your dog was trained??????? How will you know how to communicate the newly learned behavior requests to your dog?
I always strongly urge people NOT to board and train. However, if you want to send your dog for training, do your homework, watch the trainer, check references and trust your instinct. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Scott Cook, a professional K-9 Trainer of 45+ years, has been an avid Canine Enthusiast since childhood and it is worth mentioning that he successfully trained his first dog (a rescue dog with behavioral aggression issues) at the age of 11!
His passion, enthusiasm and love for the dog is evident in his many years of experience as well as his hunger to learn more and it is all this that has made him what he is today! He has had extensive training in the area of canine behavior and training! His studies have included 2 summers in the kennels of the New Skete Monestary, 1 year mentoring with Dr. Ian Dunbar, 1 year mentoring with Ed Frawley, and 2 years association with Michael Ellis!
He is a current Professional Member of the International Association of Canine Professionals and owns and operates his own dog training business with 45+ years of professional Canine Training experience in his kitty! You are in good hands with Scott!
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