Please Stop Making Excuses – Part I – General Training

By Lynn –

In the past two weeks, I’ve been subjected to and heard from others various excuses about dogs. They are pretty much nicely summed up in 3 categories: training, school and acquisition. I’ll post all categories in separate blogs and update as necessary.

The first, training, came to me from a fellow blogger who does a lot of foster work and behavioral rehabilitation wish said fosters. While she may not use the same tools we prefer to use here, she has a common sense approach similar to the one here which, in the end, results in a well-behaved dog who is more likely to be adopted. Recently, she was asked by her vet to do some consultations with some of his clients who were considering euthanasia for their dogs, all for behavioral reasons. I’ll let her tell the rest:

The first question I had for him is…why would you need me? Aren’t there other trainers in the area more experienced than I? His response was that the other trainers in the area aren’t interested in working with these dogs or have worked with them and failed.

I am not the only one outraged by this response. In fact, I don’t really think I can put my feelings into any better words than my blogger acquaintance did: There is something seriously wrong with the dog training world when they “reject” the dogs that need training.

Trainers who believe with mind, body and soul in the power of behaviorism discover limits when removing attention or throwing away a treat doesn’t exactly motivate the dog to drastically change its behavior, even after several repetitions, even over days or weeks. It has its uses; it also has its limits. Most trainers who use positive-only training are also adamantly vocal about what they think they know about dogs, and what they want rather than what is necessary. I’ll let Roger Hild explain it to you, mostly since he’s gotten it written out already and says it so much more succinctly than I ever could. (Please note the reference to Dr Ian Dunbar! Seems that the poster child of the pure-positive movement might be a wolf in dog’s clothing!)

To the pure-positive trainers who insist that their way is the only way or else the dog must die: Please stop making excuses for your inability or resistance to work with dogs that are in dire need of behavioral remediation. If you cannot get results such as my acquaintance is being asked to attain, either 1) get out of the training business so as to spare people the misery of money lost with no obvious behavioral improvement, 2) educate yourself so that you might be able to successfully help/rehab these dogs, or 3) understand that not all “cruel” trainers are out to break a dog’s spirit, and learn to REFER owners out to such experts. Your business will probably not suffer for it.