The Value of a Good Dog Trainer
By Luzelle Cockburn
Everyone wants an obedient dog. But expecting your 8-week old puppy or newly adopted dog to be the next “Lassie” is a bit unrealistic (or any dog that hasn’t received training for that matter). For a start, Lassie was a fictional character (I know, this shook my childhood dreams too! Take a minute, make yourself some sugar water, for the shock, and process the unfortunate reality that Lassie never existed. It’s a cruel world!). Lassie was a highly trained dog that learned to perform many actions and was a companion to his owner. And your dog can too. But where do you start? What do dog trainers do? And how do you know if a dog trainer will be able to help you with your dog?
If you want a great dog, it’s up to you to show your dog how to be great! But how can you when you don’t know where to start? What happens if you’ve watched all the YouTube Videos and read all the books and still have a disobedient dog? The good news is that YouTube and books, while they can be a good source of information cannot assess your dog and show you exactly what to do. But a dog trainer can!
Good dogs are made, not born (of course, no dog or puppy is a clean slate, they come with genetic predispositions, but more on that later). Yes that means that your dog CAN learn how to be a good dog (taking some of their breed and personality idiosyncrasies, or as I like to call everyone’s personality quirks idiot-syncrasies, into consideration).
“Yes that means that your dog CAN learn how to be a good dog”
I’ve seen many people in the dog-sports world go through dog after dog because the dog and the owner were not on the same wavelength, and instead of the trainer learning to connect with the dog, the trainer blamed the dog as having some fault or another and justified that to get a different dog. Rather than working through the problem and becoming a better trainer. This is quite common in dog sports such as Obedience, Agility, Schutzhund, and Gun Dog Sports.
“Knowledge trains dogs, not tools” (Gary Cassera) while we may use certain tools to achieve an outcome, like using food, a check chain, halti, prong collar, harness, long line, e-collar, fence, crate, kennel, flat collar, slip collar, leash, etc. to teach a dog, it should never be about the tool. And a good dog trainer will choose a tool that suits your dog AND you. Another saying I like is “it’s not the tool, it’s the fool” because tools in themselves are just sewn together bits of nylon or fabric, or made of metal or plastic and by itself can do nothing. It takes a human to make that tool work, or not.
Going to a pet shop and purchasing a check chain does not mean that your dog will now walk well on a leash. You need to learn how to use the tool correctly and assess if it is the right tool for you and your dog.
Just like hammer and chisel can be used to create fantastic pieces of art in skilled hands, it can waste a perfectly good piece of wood in unskilled hands. Skilled people can use fire and gunpowder, chainsaws, sandpaper, brushes or their hands to achieve fantastic works of art, but, it’s not the tools that are doing the work, it is the artist.
In the same way, a good dog trainer can seemingly help the most unlikely dog to become a calm, happy dog, it’s not the tool they are using that’s doing the training, it’s the trainer. And the results they achieve (good or bad) is not the tool’s fault, but the trainer’s. And dog training is very much like being an artist. But don’t worry if you’re no good at drawing, you can still learn to train your dog, and become the dog man or woman your dog needs.
So expand your knowledge. A good dog trainer is a coach and a mentor. They help you develop your skills to become a better dog-man or dog-woman. Really, you can’t be a good dog owner without knowing dogmanship. It comes part-and-parcel-with the territory.
Everyone you meet may claim to be an “expert” on dog training, but few people adequately understand the essence of dogs. Because no two dogs are the same, just as no two humans are the same (even twins are different). Anyone who’s willing to give out advice on your dog without meeting your dog’s opinion should be taken with a pinch of salt. Or in some cases a whole barrel of salt.
When I got my first puppy, I made this mistake of listening to so-called “experts” and actually made my puppy dog-aggressive. Everyone said “socialise your puppy” but no one said you could actually get it completely wrong! However, the lessons I learned have been invaluable in preventing many dogs from becoming dog- or human-aggressive. So the lesson, while bitter, was useful because it propelled me on my journey as a dog trainer. Though I imagine you don’t need life lessons, you just want to enjoy your dog! So, avoid the bitter pills and “life lessons” that you might not be able to fix and invest in a good dog trainer.
Many people nowadays will say that you can train a dog with rewards only and that correcting a dog for bad behaviour is mean (or whatever emotionally charged term they choose to guilt trip dog owners into thinking a well-timed appropriate correction or appropriate consequence to adjust the dog’s behaviour for the safety of the dog or others is somehow on par with animal abuse). It is not. The reality is, that not all dogs respond well to only using treats.
No one can give advice about a dog they haven’t seen. That is unethical. This is often why many people fail despite watching many YouTube videos. Because while the advice could work for 99% of dogs, it might not work for your dog. I have worked with many dogs with many different personalities, and you just cannot train all dogs the same way.
When working with a good dog trainer, you are not just hiring a dog trainer. You are investing in knowledge that will help your dog become the best dog that they can be and save you the difficult life lessons. They can also help you to enjoy your dog a lot sooner than you would have been able to (if ever) on your own. Your dog trainer is your personal coach to help you find the best ways of helping your dog! They are observing you and your dog the whole time and adjusting to both of you as training progresses.
Why are dog trainers valuable? Because they can prevent you making mistakes that can make your dog more difficult to live with. A dog trainer will also show you how to help your dog and help you get a dog that you can enjoy your life with faster! Don’t wait till the pound is knocking at your door to sort your dog out – it might be too late! A dog trainer cannot reverse a dangerous dog order once it is too late. Get help sooner than later.
Hey, I’m Luzelle!
If it has to do with transforming your naughty, embarrassing, frustrating or worrying dog into an obedient, well-behaved pet that your family can enjoy and love to spend time with, I can help!
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