The Top 4 Things Your Dog Trainer/Behaviorist Hates Hearing
I have been in this business for over 20 years.
This isn’t an easy job.
I am sure lots of you think that this would be the most FUN job EVER.
But the truth is, often, it is not.
When I was in my twenties, young and naïve, I couldn’t figure out why it was difficult if not impossible to find a dog trainer who wasn’t jaded who had been in the business for a long time.
I’m old now, and probably jaded (ha ha ha) but I am guessing the same is true.
Young dog trainers think they can “change” any behavior and that anything or any dog is fixable.
The longer you work with difficult dogs, I suppose the more you realize that it isn’t about “fixing” because you can’t “change” anyone but yourself (yes that includes your dog) and it is more about teaching people about the proper “control” so that they don’t see certain behaviors or temperament traits.
I wrote an article that I just wandered across (yes sometimes I forget what wonderful articles I write 😉 on the 9 Things Your Dog Trainer Would Like You to Know. And, I believe it is also a good read when you are in a difficult situation.
Most often, I find, at least in my experience that people come to me as a “last hope”, when they should have come to me when the puppy was 12 weeks old.
And, I don’t mind being there for people when they are at the end of their rope, as long as they treat me and mine with the dignity that I (and my colleagues) too deserve.
Remember that we didn’t get you there (at the end of your rope) but we MAY have the key to getting you out of that spot; IF you are willing to make a change.
So let’s get to my list!
#4 I Have Tried Everything
People come to me all of the time, frustrated, with the “I’ve tried everything” line.
And, the truth is if you made any significant change for several weeks you would see change.
Change, brings change.
The problem is that people find it difficult to change.
I’d like to lose 30 pounds, and I know HOW to do it. I know I CAN do it, if I put my mind to it.
I could tell you “I’ve tried everything” but the truth is, if I haven’t seen a change, well then I haven’t. To see a change, I have to consistently, consciously make an effort to exercise more, eat right (the right foods, like no soda or Cheetos), and limit my healthy calories for a long enough period of time for it to matter.
Low calories + high exercise will eventually equal weight loss. That is just the way it is. I would like to lie and say I’ve done everything… but I haven’t. I like food.
In some respects, I think people try something twice and think… well that didn’t work. But if they worked diligently on something for 2 months (for instance) they would see a difference. And, they would get good at whatever it is.
Try it! Strap on a pair of roller skates, or try cooking, or whatever floats your boat but give it 2 months of at least 5 days a week effort and see if you, your body, and your abilities don’t change!
And, the harsh reality is that it would be easier to lose 30 pounds than it is to completely change a dog’s serious bad behavior (most of the time).
Even if you use bad techniques like corrections and abuse… if it is consistent you will see a change in behavior. But please don’t! Please use kind techniques.
You must be willing to make a change and stick with it, even if you don’t think it is working in the beginning.
#3 I Don’t Have Time
I also hear this a lot.
I can’t do it for you. I wish that I could, for some dogs and some people.
But I can’t.
I can’t potty train your dog.
I can’t keep your dog from biting the neighbor child.
Only YOU (or whomever the dogs is living with) can consistently give your dog what he needs, and anyone who promises you different, is lying.
I can, or you can pay for someone to walk him or train him or entertain and make him tired, but it is also going to come down to time.
All good relationships take time.
And, in the scheme of things the time you spend with your dog, training, even working on a high maintenance behavior modification program will be much less than you spend with the humans in your life with whom you have relationships.
Most even severe behavior modification programs only have you work on obedience a few times per day.
I think if you can’t devote an hour or two (in total) to your dog throughout the day; then perhaps you shouldn’t have a dog.
Or, you need to prioritize your life and what you want. Only you can decide.
And, that is an intro into my next 2 problems.
Please, please don’t threaten us.
#2. Please Don’t Threaten…
Sometimes this is the beginning of our conversation, and sometimes this comes out after #3 and 4.
But, I am in awe of how many people threaten, me, that they will “get rid” of their dog.
Or they threaten to use a shock collar on their dog, which is just sad! I can’t stop you, if you are going to abuse your dog… I can only hope you find a better way.
I have learned over the years that, that phrase has many meanings.
Take to the shelter, give to my family, drop on the side of the road, and finally euthanize (more on that specifically in a moment).
I find it off putting when someone starts a conversation with this statement.
As a young dog trainer, I probably did try harder a few times. But the inevitable happened or happens or I saved a couple.
As dog trainers, we are trying to help you.
When you threaten to “get rid of” it already tells us the commitment or lack thereof that you have for your dog.
I would do ANYTHING to keep my dogs.
And, I would do anything to keep them from hurting (like using a shock collar).
I personally want to work with like-minded humans.
If my dog bit someone (heaven forbid) I would be more of the “hide the body of the person” rather than kill the dog or give it to someone else who can’t handle it where it might be abused or unloved.
I would certainly make sure that my dog would never again have the opportunity, but if I had to wake up at 4 am for the rest of my dog’s life (I am an avid “afternoon person” and HATE mornings), then I would do it!
I would hate it, for several weeks and then it would become habit.
But I would walk barefoot through fire for my dogs, like children.
Now, if you tell us that; we will cry a tear of happiness and relief and see you in 30 minutes 😉
I actually hate this one “less” than the vague threat of “get rid of”.
GET RID OF is just that, a threat, usually used many times on many different trainers.
When you are friends with other trainers, you realize how often people call around and have basically the same conversation; just with someone else.
I guess people think they are going to get a different answer. And, sometimes with newer or inexperienced trainers they do. They get these promises that the person can change the dogs behavior or inherent personality… and they can’t.
And, when they can’t they blame the dog owner whether or not the person does the work they say or not.
People can’t really change their personalities and I have a clue for you… neither can dogs. We learn to control and not necessarily change.
When someone calls me and talks about euthanasia, it bothers me, of course because I value life.
But, in some ways it tells me that the person is being honest.
And although the euthanasia discussion is always difficult, it is one that has to be addressed in some situations.
Some dogs aren’t safe and if time, money and commitment cannot be addressed appropriately then this must be discussed.
I have seen dogs that were truly dangerous, and I can empathize with a parent who cannot keep and yet cannot place a dog like this because it is NOT always the human’s fault.
Euthanasia is not the worst thing that can happen to a dog.
We are human
We want to see your dog live WITH YOU if you are willing to do the work.
No one likes being given ultimatums, including us!
We want to see you make changes and succeed!
And, the truth is we secretly hope that our worst fears (and bites) don’t come true!
We want dogs to stay with their people and both to live happy lives!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.