I had a student once who exclaimed, “I don’t care why the dog does this, I just want him to stop!”
Clients like this are the bane of dog trainers, not because we don’t enjoy a challenge, but because our goal is to make you happy. If you don’t want to know why a dog does something, we’re not going to force the information on you.
Most pet owners, like trainers, do care about why dogs behave the way they do. But many are afraid to know whatever it is we don’t want to know, and frequently we don’t want to know how our behavior is driving the dog’s behavior.
Dog training can feel more embarrassing than a nude dance class. Your dog reveals all your flaws. To spare your ego, your trainer might let you blame your dog for whatever your dog is doing. Do you need to step up your training , improve the value of your reinforcement, train your dog to wear a head halter? Your trainer might tell you once, but don’t expect him or her to tell you twice, twist your arm, or the leash connected to it. After all, the dog isn’t paying for these training classes!
Am I right?
So here’s your warning: your teacher will grow to tell you what you want to hear, because if she is telling you stuff you don’t want to hear, you will find another trainer.
I just realized recently that my doctor never told me when I was getting a bit overweight. My weight was “average” for a woman my age, but not really my healthiest weight. After I lost twenty pounds I started to wonder why he never mentioned that really, I had technically become almost obese. I’m a healthier weight now and so it’s easier for me to see where I was going wrong before. And I realized, my doctor didn’t blurt out “you’re getting fat!” for the same reasons it is often hard to tell dog-clients, no matter how carefully, anything that sorta means, “you’re not doing it right!”
To advance and grow as dog trainers, we have to believe that we can do better. It’s nice to believe you’re doing great, until it means you aren’t growing as a trainer . Don’t worry, your dog training instructor isn’t going to give you a “C-” ! You’ll just never know what you don’t know. These classes are electives. You really need to go after your education, challenge yourself (that’s why competitions are so helpful) if you want to grow.
Is dog training an adventure for you, or a chore? Cross species communication, reinforcement schedules, behavior science, cognition: dog training is a delightfully enlightening hobby, that helps us make more sense of the world. And since you have a dog anyway… grow with it! And when you can handle knowing more, your teachers will show you more!