Which Came First, The Trainer or the Dog?

By Shelley Crawford –

Think back ten thousand years ago. Before some lone wolf began to make the miraculous transformation from being a predatory wolf into being a domesticated dog. The dog we all know and love as man’s best friend used to be the big bad wolf. One of man’s worst enemies and to some people still is. Scientists think this may have happened when one of our distant ancestors found an orphaned wolf puppy. Maybe one of these ancient humans thought it was cute, as a puppy. Maybe they thought they’d fatten him up and eat him. But, as luck would have it for the pup, he ended up being a better asset than food. It’s hard to say. I’m sure there are many studies this topic.

When that fateful first human/wolf encounter took place it was the start of a beautiful friendship. There’s a first time for everything, right? This was also when the first dog trainer was also born. To domesticate a wild animal is a huge undertaking. Imagine training a lion or say a giraffe (just for fun).
Some where along that journey we humans figured out some animals adapt better to our human needs and the wolf pup fit the bill. How did early man learn to domesticate the wolf? They didn’t have training books or classes or crates, leashes or prong collars.

Fast forward to today. Dog lovers, in some respect, all end up becoming dog trainers of sorts. “If you don’t train your dog, he’ll train you”. Lloyd, an old dog trainer friend of mine used to always say. That would be a what I like to call a “Lloyd-ism”. An “ism” is something that another person has said that is unique of that person and sticks in your brain forever.

I have many people to thank for my “isms”. The many trainers and dogs I’ve met along my relatively short journey learning how to train dogs. One trainer friend of mine is Sandi. My favorite “Sandi-ism” is her bit about, “Your dog can hear the fridge door open from across the house, and you think he can’t hear you say “Sit”?” She says this when the owner/handler repeats the “Sit” command over and over, louder and louder. Sandi is my “Positve Only” method trainer/teacher/friend.

Conversely, the one person who have to say would be my “go to person” for any problem, any dog, any age any, breed is Kandi. Kandi is a no nonsense, get the job done trainer. She is hopelessly in love with dogs. Most of my “isms” are “Kandi-isms”. She is the one person who has taught me more than all the dog training books, DVD’s or training seminars combined. Kandi is the one who transformed me from an owner/handler into an honest to goodness dog trainer. My favorite “Kandi-isms” mostly all relate to prong collar training. I used to be one of those “All Positive Only” method dog trainers. I used to beg to differ all dogs could be trained with, then weaned from, treats. Boy was I wrong. I’ll go into that later.

Kandi and I met about ten years ago at a time in my life when I had a very successful landscaping business in South Florida until 9/11/2001 changed everything for me and my business. Before 9/11 dog training was the last thing I had on my mind. I was working long hours landscaping. My house was broken into twice and I just wanted a big trained dog. I dropped off Jett, my newly acquired one year old boxer male, at the kennel for 3 weeks obedience training. I had good faith that this kennel would care for my dog. Prior to this Kandi and I had never met. I met her briefly a few times at the kennel during visits to watch another trainer work Jett. I had no idea she was actually the trainer for Jett. She never got credit for the wonderful work she did. Some other trainer did.

About a year later I ran into her. She didn’t work for the kennel anymore due to the deplorable conditions the dogs were kept in. I had no idea about this. The working conditions for the trainers were no better. She has withheld the awful things that happened to Jett during his 3 weeks spent at the kennel for training. I’m grateful to her for that, to this day. Kandi and I became friends and have been friends ever since. We talk on the phone like sisters just about every day.

At another critical moment in my life I realized “Positive Only” methods may work for some dogs. I got Panzer, my boxer puppy, through a breeder on line. I expected an easy time of it with an 8 week old puppy. I had a clean slate. I had experience training dogs using all “Positive Methods” only. I didn’t believe in using the prong collar. That’s not how I was trained to train dogs. But Panzer was a very different dog. This dog was a bugar bear (Kandi-ism). Panzer was a very difficult puppy brought into the house with Jett, now a senior dog. Jett had been known to become (shoot to kill) aggressive if provoked by another dog.

Shortly after I got my boxer puppy, Panzer, I fell at work (landscaping) and broke both my knee and my arm. I couldn’t walk or use my right arm. Here was Murphy’s Law again. Panzer was 14 weeks old and doing “Mary Lou Retton” gymnastics all over the house. He jumped, tore clothing, snarled at my 2 chihuahuas and more. He was basically a holy terror on wheels. Panzer was getting bigger and stronger and his behavior was getting worse. Jett was going to end up killing Panzer. I couldn’t do much about it because of my injuries.

I called Kandi. I explained to her my predicament with Panzer. I decided to drop him off at Kandi’s boarding school which is a 4 hour drive from where I live. She runs a training program from her home. A perfect way to solve my problem. Panzer was both on leash trained with the prong collar and off leash trained using the e-collar by Kandi. By the time I picked Panzer up my knee was nearly healed. Although still a puppy and still a bugar bear, to this day, he is a million times more behaved. I was healthy enough and ready to take him on again. Only this time using the prong collar. What a difference the right tool and the right trainer can make. I’ve trained him to do a lot of cool stuff since then. None of which could have ever happened using a pocket of treats.

I used to be “All Positive” until I had to deal with Panzer. Kandi had to pull all kinds of tricks out of her hat from her years of experience in horse and dog training. I didn’t have that kind of experience. She had fixed Panzer to the point where I could take the leash back and move forward with his training. Although I still have to reinforce Panzer who’s now 2 years old. Reinforcement is for life. He’s still the same bugar just with a lot of training. From Kandi, I learned that treats just don’t cut it when it comes to training “hard” dogs . Since then I’ve done a complete 180 degree turn around and changed my entire training philosophy. I’ve learned to use the most appropriate method for each individual dog. I learn new things every day. I continue to strive to learn as much as I possibly can to help as many dogs and their owners. Much thanks to Kandi.

At what point do we learn to “train” our dogs verses “handle” them? How did the first trainer of the wolf puppy know how to train it? Who taught her/him? Or did the wolf train us to give him a warm fire and a scrap bone by being dutiful willing servants a.k.a. a dog not the predator wolf?

Some of us are born with a certain gifts. Some of us learn from many sources and sift what works for us. We all learn something from just about every person we encounter whether they train dogs or just have a problem with their dog. Sometimes it’s the dogs who teach us. That’s what makes DogProblems.com such a great resource. It’s like having a support group for training dogs with issues. The best way to learn is to learn from other trainers and that learning never ends.

There would be no dog with out a trainer. There would be no trainer without a dog to train. So, which came first the dog or the dog trainer? I think Kandi knows.