Would you let just anyone watch or teach your kids? I should think not. Most people investigate who will take care of their children and teach them in their absence. The same should go for your dog when you hire someone to train them. I have been a professional trainer for a very long time. And I hope some of you will consider me as the trainer of your choice. If not, then read on for some insights into the world of professional dog training.
Dogs learn only 2 ways. That’s it. Period the end. I have spoken. Don’t let anyone tell you different. They learn through “classic” Pavlovian conditioning. Remember Pavlov’s dogs? Where a “conditioned response” is created and the dogs salivated when he rang a bell thinking they were getting a steak. Then there is “operant” conditioning. Which is very similar to “classic” conditioning, only we now introduce “consequence” to the equation. In other words we force the dog to make a decision. Choose door letter “a” you get the treat and door letter “b” you get nothing. My idea of punishment for getting the command wrong is lack of reward. I teach dogs to seek reward rather than avoid corrections.
Which brings me to my next point. Trainers who use harsh corrections. I recently had a client who had a 10 month old German Shepherd. He passed a remark to me that it seemed that lately all he was doing was giving his dog corrections with a leash and choke chain. I replied, “how’s it workin’ for ya?” The problem here was that he was using another trainer that all he knew was to give the dog corrections to get the dog to do anything. The dog had no idea of what the trainer wanted. So to avoid the correction, he did what he thought the trainer wanted. He really was not fluent in the behavior. So he got it right only about half the time. This method is called “avoidance and escape training”. This method has been around for a very long time and was started around the early 1900’s by Colonel Konrad Most, a colonel in the Prussian army. His book, “Training Dogs” was really the only book we had up until around 20 years ago.
Another method that is used, is training with electric collars. Like most tools, everything has its place. And this method puts a new face on an old method. That’s right, you guessed it, avoidance and escape training. Like I said, there are places for this method however you do not teach behaviors with an electric collar.
There are plenty of good trainers, (yours truly included) and allot of bad ones. But how to decide. Check their credentials. How long have they been doing it? Did they go to a school? How did they learn? Check their references. Usually if your veterinarian recommends somebody they are probably good because your vet would never associate with someone who is a problem. What methods do they use? If they use “yank and crank” (avoidance and escape training) run the other way.
Investing in professional training for your dog will strengthen the bonds between the two of you. This will also keep them out of a shelter. This stuff should be fun, not a second job. You will both enjoy a better relationship and have allot of fun doing it. That’s what it’s all about.