Become a Dog Trainer in an Hour; Owners Beware

Thanks Crass Talk for the Photo

Oh my goodness, there I was minding my own business (well maybe anyway) when a got a pop up on a media site about becoming a dog trainer in an hour.

At first I giggled; just the thought of becoming “anything” in an hour is silly.  It takes time to master the fry maker at McDonalds I assume.  An hour is barely enough time for me to get ready in the morning but your neighbor could be becoming a “professional dog trainer” in that time.

Which, If You Think About it is a Scary Idea…

The person doesn’t have to have experience training even one dog or owning a dog.

Can you imagine having someone come out to give you advice or put their hands on your furry family member without ever having to own or train a dog or any other pet?

I think it is amazing, sad and scary all at the same time.

I often worry about the soundness of the training that goes on at some big pet warehouses; but I worked at one briefly and I was mildly pleased that there was some education that went on for trainers even those of us that had 20 years or more experience.  Don’t get me wrong, it was still pretty minimal; but it was more than an hour over the computer.

The one reason I tend to like the big pet warehouse stores is because it is less likely that your dog will be abused there, or you will have to see abusive training methods.  Barbaric dog training methods aren’t conducive to big business and financial gain for the business entity so the trainers are usually monitored fairly carefully.

Although, that is not to say that it can’t happen!  I remember reading an article a long time ago about a dog dying because he was denied oxygen after making a mistake at a large pet training facility and being strung up and hanged.

The Truth Is

In some respects you pay for what you get.  Those of us who have more experience probably charge a little more, however that is not always the case and some of us still do lots of pro-bono work or work with people who are committed to change but have limited finances.

A lot of these places (big warehouses) don’t have many trainers that are well educated on dog or animal behavior and therefore they are not good at helping you problem solve or understand complex behavior.

They do have trainers who can help you teach your dogs the basics like “sit” and some leash manners in a few basic ways.

Note: for all you trainers getting upset or owners that loved  your experience at a place like this I say “not many” however I also mentioned that for a very short time I worked at one of these facilities too; and at the time I had over 15 years of behavior modification knowledge and training experience and was a CPDT (certified professional trainer) through the Association of Professional Dog Trainers or APDT so it is not unheard of that they have well trained, experienced and educated trainers.

Thanks Holistic Dog Care for the Phot

Thanks Holistic Dog Care for the Phot

The Other Harsh Fact

The other harsh fact that comes to mind is that your dog’s education and safety is up to you; and how much research you do on the people that you trust that care for your furry loved one.

Imagine if your child’s teacher could have had one hour of instruction on the internet; or your elderly loved one’s care giver had that amount of education or experience.

Thank goodness we regulate people who work with our children and our loved ones more carefully.

You have to ask the right questions, you have to check references, you have to set out scenarios, and you have to be responsible enough to watch the trainer train prior to working with your dog.

I always suggest people watch a class before they invest in taking it.  I also suggest that people get references and grill the trainer.

Those of us that are good at what we do and have been doing it for a long time with a vast amount of experience are good at answering questions and understand that you only want the best for your pet.  We don’t mind giving you information or allowing you to watch us train.  We are confident in our experience and what we do.

Other Helpful Tips

Do the Training Yourself

This Collar and Leash is WAY TOO TIGHT for a puppy!!  There is no need for force especially at this age!

This Collar and Leash is WAY TOO TIGHT for a puppy!! There is no need for force especially at this age!

Don’t ship your dog off to boot camp, or boarding and training.  It is very easy to tell people what they want to hear and then abuse or rarely ever touch the dog when it comes for training.  Compulsion and physical force work faster in the beginning and are often the methods employed by such places (although certainly not all) and dogs often spend the majority of the time in crates or kennels.

Plus if you do the training you are teaching your dog to listen to YOU not just a trainer!

I often advocate having a trainer come out to teach you at your house (often this is what I provide) so you can work one on one and tackle your problems with a trainer at your side.

The Trainer Should Be Teaching You to Be a Trainer

You shouldn’t need to rely on any person for a long duration or the lifetime of the dog.  A good trainer will teach you about dog behavior and make you and your dog self sufficient.  This doesn’t mean you won’t have other problems or won’t need to change methods with the next dog (each dog learns differently) but a good trainer should want you to become your dog’s trainer.

Trust Your Gut

If you don’t want to do something or aren’t comfortable DON’T DO IT!!

Dogs are easily traumatized and can be ruined by using some harsher methods, or just by someone who doesn’t understand dogs, behavior, body language and different ways to teach.  And it takes a long time to desensitize more on that click here for Understanding Desensitization in Dog Training.

Just because someone suggests it, even if you like the person, doesn’t mean you have to do it.  I have often opted out of suggested methods that leave me uncomfortable.  There are many ways to train a dog.

If You Are Dealing with Aggression

Laying on Dogs or "Dominating Dogs" can be Extremely Dangerous Thanks to Blog Spot BP for the Photo

Laying on Dogs or “Dominating Dogs” can be Extremely Dangerous Thanks to Blog Spot BP for the Photo

And if you are dealing with aggression be even more careful.  Many people recommend violent treatments for dogs with aggression issues and these unorthodox methods can put more people, your dog, and everything you own in jeopardy.

This is why I normally recommend a veterinary behaviorist (that is not to be confused with someone who simply calls themselves a behaviorist or a behavior specialist as that is not regulated either).  I recommend you find a veterinarian who has gone to vet school and then specialized in animal behavior.  Just like a cardiologist is better apt to deal with a dog with a heart condition; a veterinary behaviorist is better able to help a dog with aggression or severe behavior problems.

I will leave you with a story that illustrates many of these concerns.

I worked with a severely aggressive young (about 9 months) German Shepherd dog several years ago.  The dog had issues with the couples’ children and listening and being aggressive with them.

I put the dog on a behavior modification program and began changing the relationship the dog had with the children, getting the children involved in play and training motivationally (the kids were 8 and 12) and with the clicker and having the kids get involved in feeding etc.

However after one week (although the dog was improved already) a family friend recommended another trainer who would use compulsion and do boarding and training.

I begged and pleaded and explained why this could be a bad idea; but the dog was sent off for a few months of compulsion training at a facility.

When the dog was returned, it was returned with the suggestion that the 8 year old child “lay on top of the dog for several minutes each day and several sessions” until the dog’s behavior and attitude toward the youngest child changed.

I was later told everyone didn’t want to do this; but they trusted the trainer (I have no idea about his true background).

After a few days, the dog mauled the child biting her in the face and causing her a need for reconstructive surgery; and of course the dog was euthanized after his 10 day quarantine.

The recommendations of others carried out by you can still have a dramatic affect.

Since it was only a week; I can’t be sure that the dog wouldn’t have still had aggression issues or would have bitten, but I am pretty confident in saying that the things I taught them in the way I had taught it would not have put them or their children at additional risk.

The whole situation is and was one of the saddest in my career.

It is ultimately up to us to do our research and use common sense when it comes to our dogs.  Using physical force can have very definitely severe consequences.

Be careful who you employ to teach your dog!

And for help at home check out our programs and our store for positive reinforcement training that you can learn to do at home.

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  1. Angie Talavera says:

    I really get excited when I see an e-mail from you. I am implementing alot of your methods of training on my new sheperd/husky puppy. Her name is Rosi and I would be so willing to go on one of your training shows. I really like that you say be kind and patient, there truly is no other way. Rosi is so smart I cannot break her spirit because I am not the most patient person in the world and she is stubborn. Can you put a lesson on the next email on how to stop the stubbornness before it gets out of control. You can come here and train me to train my new service dog with the program I bought from you, lol, but, I’m a little scared on not doing this right and ending up with a dog that drags me down the road. Is fear normal for the new parent? Thanx so much for sharing your knowledge.


    Minette Reply:

    I got a puppy from one of my best friends (he is a well known breeder and judge of dog sports) and has great dogs.

    I am still scared of doing the wrong thing or “ruining the puppy for titles” or not titling him. It has kept me from doing a lot of training with him.

    He swears he doesn’t care and I know he doesn’t but yes I think fear is pretty normal…

    Another friend told me you just screw them up and fix them until you learn 😉 we all make mistakes so once you realize that is a part of life then it gets easier


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