Frustrations of a Professional Dog Trainer!

As a professional dog trainer, most of what I do is really training the dog owner, in contrast to simply training the dog.

And what really gets my goat (okay, okay… this is a dog training newsletter!)… is that time and again, dog owners refuse to fess up to the fact that 98% of their dog’s bad behavior is a DIRECT result of what THEY do!!! Let me give you an example, and hopefully you’ll start viewing your relationship with your dog in a different context. Bad clients (vs. good clients!) call me all the time and voice complaints such as “My dog is still jumping on people,” or “My dog is still chewing on the furniture,” or “My dog still steals food from the table!”

Shifting The Burden Of Responsibility To The Dog Owner!

And to be honest… I don’t really care what bad behavior the dog is doing. Why? Because the dog, when it comes to behavior problems, is only responding to the conditions and stimulus he receives from the outside world. Ever wonder why dogs don’t jump head first into LARGE rose bushes??? It’s because LARGE rose bushes have LARGE thorns, which cause a LARGE amount of pain to your dog when he jumps into one. So, maybe once or twice, he’ll gallop into the rose bush… but after a few times… NEVER AGAIN! And it becomes an issue for the dog no longer.

If you’ve ever set a really HOT cup of coffee down on the floor, you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps the first time your dog sees the cup, he’ll go up to it to investigate. “Yeowwww!!! That’s HOT!” he says to himself! And maybe he’ll check it out a second, and perhaps a third time… just to make sure. But once he’s sure that the cup of coffee is BURNING HOT… FORGET IT! He’ll move on to something else to play with. So, when a dog owner calls me and says, “My dog is still chewing the end table…” I immediately ask, “Well, what are YOU doing, when he’s chewing the end table???” “Is he getting a good correction (a negative association) when he chews on the end table?” Usually not.

“Is he CONSISTENLY getting a good correction when he chews on the end table?” Usually not. And for clients who’ve already gone through my program, and have learned how to give the dog a motivational correction… there is ABSOLUTELY no excuse for the dog to continue doing such behavior. As for the above example, if the dog IS NOT getting a good correction, then he’ll simply keep chewing the end table.

But if the dog IS getting a good correction, but still chews the end table when the owner isn’t around… then this dog needs to be crated to make sure that EVERY time he chews on the end table, he gets a good correction. And when he does have access to the coffee table and the owner IS NOT around… the truth of the matter is that the owner shouldactually be spying on the dog, and ready to run in and administer a correction as soon as the dog tries to commit the crime.

Once the dog has proven himself to be 100% reliable, then you can start giving him more freedom and leaving him supervised. But until that point… … Imagine if the dog in the above example were to try investigating the cup of coffee and found that instead of being BLISTERING HOT… the coffee was only luke warm! Well… pretty soon you’d have a habitual caffeine addicted pooch! Or, if it was randomly hot and luke warm, the dog would never quite leave the coffee alone… always checking to see if he could get a swig of your Java without scorching his tongue.

So remember that the next time you say, “My dog is (fill in the blank)…” the REAL QUESTION you should be asking yourself is “What association (positive or negative) am I attaching to the behavior my dog is doing, and am I applying proper timing, consistency and motivation to make sure that the association will affect my dog???”