The different reactions I get when I tell people I’m a dog trainer are always interesting. It’s quite a leap for some, as I also have a full-time, corporate job that pays the bills. Others get very excited and want to know all about it. Some immediately give me the raised eye-brow, ‘aha’ look and say – “oh, so you’re like a dog whisperer”. Nothing raises my hackles faster.
While you will reap the benefit from investing in training your dog, there are a lot of outfits out there using outdated and frequently harmful techniques. So I’m going to let you in on some secrets of the trade to ensure you get the best value for the training you spend your hard-eared income on.
Dog Training Secret Number 1: Dominance died with the Dodo
The wolf theory of how dog behaviour evolved has been proven wrong, by the very person who came up with it in the first place. So the whole ‘being the dominant alpha’ method of viewing your relationship with your dog is outdated. We need to move on from obsolete practices, just as we no longer employ children to do work or allow factories to jump their effluent into our river systems.
Dog Training Secret Number 2: Punishment will always have consequences, no matter how ‘soft’ it is.
There are no secrets. Or whispering. Or any type of voodoo for that matter. Good dog training is based on established and proven learning theories. Such as: a behaviour that is rewarded is more likely to be repeated; while a behaviour that is ignored is likely not to be repeated because there’s nothing in it for the dog. Choosing techniques that punish rather than reward, for example physically hurting or restraining a dog, often have unintended and sometimes worse consequences.
Dog Training Secret Number 3: Exercise their brains and bodies
Essentially there are only three things you need to do to have a happy, well-adjusted dog. One that integrates into your life with the good manners required from a modern companion animal living in today’s society. Exercise, enrichment and training.
Make sure they get an opportunity daily to release some energy through exercise; provide entertainment and stimulation for them, especially when they are being left alone for long periods and, lastly, training new tricks exerts energy and reinforces the bond where they trust that following your guidance means good things are going to happen.
And the biggest secret of all? None of this is or should be a secret. So use this knowledge to your advantage.
Coming soon we’ll explore the questions you should ask of your dog trainer before you hand over your money and dog’s mental and psychological wellbeing to them.