What to look for when choosing a dog school, a dog trainer or a behaviourist and how to avoid a wannabe
When you are looking for a professional dog trainer, dog behaviourist, dog coach …, please bear the following points in mind:
• Check whether the trainer or club have recognised qualifications.
• Ask to see the certificates or certification numbers.
• Are they a member of a recognized association?
• Do they comply with the law (tax, VAT), as a recognised business or self employed person?
• Do you have a good gut feeling about this person?
If you can tick all of these boxes you should be okay!
A good trainer will probably want to see you privately for one or two sessions in order to assess and help you. If they can not help you, they will say so honestly and very quickly, respecting your needs and your budget. Group lessons are always a possibility but not a necessity.
Be wary of people who stretch out consultations for their own financial gain.
Keep in mind that if you need to consult a professional then you will often have to wait 2 to 3 weeks before you can get an appointment. There is no point in ringing and expecting to see them immediately.
If a therapist or trainer simply belittles you and your dog and attempts to convince you that your only option is to follow his or her expensive training course then show them the door!!
If a person gives you advice, listen to your gut instinct and use your common sense. Would you like to have this method used on you? What are the possible consequences of this course of action? Does it feel right? Will the animal suffer?
For example, some “trainers ” claim that a young dog that bites its owner can be ‘cured’ if the owner forces their fist into the dog’s mouth, pushing down on the lower jaw until the dog screams with pain. This is a true story. This is both wrong advice and wrong of the owner to follow such advice!
When you try a training course or follow the advice of a therapist the test as to whether this is the right way for you and your dog is if the desired end result is achieved. If there is no change in behaviour, you have to try something else! A really good professional will not just have one method or training system. If a method fails, it does not mean there is something wrong with the animal! Everything revolves around the animal and not the trainer or his / her system!
In general owners turn to a vet, breeder or the local dog school for help and advice. Unfortunately there is only too often a lack of real information when it comes to problem behaviour or educating a dog.. This is often due to a lack of training. Veterinarians for example, are only given about a 2 hour course on animal behaviour throughout their basic training. 90% of trainers in dog schools have no specific training on behavioural problems and a breeder is generally not really concerned with behavioural issues. Of course there are people who have had additional training, but it is hard to see the wood for the trees!
The right decision will make you feel good, in your head and in your heart.
Dogs do not do anything without a reason. It is important to determine the dog’s motivation and if a behavioural test is carried out it should be done properly by competent and accredited assessors. The goal should be to find out what triggers a specific behaviour and to know whether by training or by conditioning the unwanted behaviour can be changed to positive behaviour.
Courses and lessons on animal behaviour are only too often given by people who lack proper training and are not behavioural therapists or ethologists.
The students are still being taught outdated misconceptions such as “dogs can only see things as black or white.”
A golden retriever bit a six year old child, was brought to the vet and was immediately put to sleep. After the dog was dead the body was examined and staples and a broken pencil were found forced into the dog’s ear. The child had apparently done this and finally the poor dog had acted in self defence. So a gentle defenceless dog was put to sleep or should l say “murdered?”
When incidents occur and a dog bites someone it is always important to investigate the cause and not just set out to punish the dog. Aggression is a basic instinct and even vital for survival in the case of threats and pain.
The golden retriever had ignored his pain and out of respect for his owners he had not been aggressive. We do not know the warning signs he gave, they were obviously ignored or not understood, and if he could get away from his tormentor he was left with only one option. Sadly he paid the price, with his life.
Dogs do not carry out acts with premeditation.
An American Stafford was taken for his annual vaccination at a veterinarian’s practice. The owners asked for a blood test to be done as part of the annual check up.
Imagine their astonishment went they were told that the blood results indicated that ‘the dog lacks intelligence and is very dominant.’
Medical research can only draw conclusions about medical matters.
Certain behaviours can be due to medical problems, but this conclusion can only be drawn on the basis of medical results in combination with an assessment of the behaviour exhibited.
As a behaviourist, I do not pretend to be a veterinarian and I do not make medical diagnoses.
We can only draw conclusions based on observations and then refer people to a veterinarian to have our conclusions negated or confirmed by medical means. Conversely, veterinarians often know little or nothing about behaviour, emotions and cognitive processes in animals. They can only make suggestions and then hopefully they will refer owners to a colleague who is an animal behaviourist.
To determine whether a dog is actually stupid, it should take an intelligence test; in order to check whether it is dominant, one has to observe its behaviour and carry out a behaviour test.
Due to medical causes a dog could be more fearful or aggressive than a healthy dog or appear to be less intelligent.
A wannabe is not an animal behaviourist or trainer, he / she have only “read the booklets’ …
What is your take on the role of animal behaviourists and dog trainers? I look forward to hearing your opinions!