So often this year I was the second, (third or fourth) trainer that people had seen or asked for help for their dog. That’s okay, I am not the trainer for everyone, that’s why there are more than one of us!
Unfortunately for some of these people, the first trainer they chose did not have the best interest of the dog in mind, or did not have a commitment to continued learning.
I am so blessed to not only have a great team of people who work for me, we also have a great group of force free trainers in this area who are all willing to work together for the benefit of the clients we serve. Having this group also gives me the confidence that the client I am referring out, is going to get the same knowledge and understanding of the science behind dog training.
I want to spend a few minutes talking about the science behind dog training. There are whole schools of really smart people studying why we do the things we do with dogs. They spend hours and hours studying chemical makeup of all animals, brain waves, taking notes on how many trials it takes for an animal to learn a skill and how long the animal remembers that skill, and so many more tiny aspects of human interactions with all animals.
I won’t bore you with the piles of peer reviewed journals, or the vet behaviorist articles that I scour through each week. (I definitely could if you are interested!) At the end of the day, the way each and every animal learns stays within the same two models of operant and classical conditioning. (Remember Pavlov and Skinner from psych 101?) And these two models are in play with every tiny interaction your dog has with the environment.
The best trainers, know these concepts inside and out. As dog trainers, we are not just teaching your dog some cool skills to help you live a better life together. We are observing how the dog interacts with you and me, why the behaviors are happening, then coming up with the most efficient, and effective method to help you reach your goals.
We have to look at how the dog is feeling about the activity. This is going to be the difference between a successful training session, and one that leaves everyone frustrated and angry. No one wants to feel frustrated or angry, including your dog. If we are only taking the behavior into account, then we are missing a huge piece of your dog’s life, and one of the most important parts.
When we take the dogs emotional state into consideration, it allows us as trainers to see past the surface behaviors and explore why the behavior is happening. It also allows us to create a successful training plan for our clients. Just because two dogs are acting the same way, the emotional component could be completely different. If we assume they are the same, and apply the same training plan, one of the dogs is going to fail.
When dog trainers stop trying to learn new techniques and explore other options, the ones who suffer are the dogs. It is so important that trainers have a group to bounce ideas off, and explore the other ways that people are successful, so we can better help you and your dog. At The Freckled Paw I emphasize continuing education and forming those relationships so we can all learn more of what is going on outside of our own tiny bubble in the world.
If you are looking for help with your pup, please ask questions of the people you are taking advice from. The dog training industry is widely unregulated. (and scary, there is a guy saying he can fix all your training problems by hitting your dog with a rolled up towel! yikes!) Ask questions, and don’t be afraid to move on to the next person.