As a dog trainer and behaviourist, I encounter many many dogs with human and dog issues. Human issues I can change on my own, with training and good interactions. Dog issues require me to bring along my own dogs, in order to create good interactions in a controlled way, rather than subjecting people on the street to aggressive/fearful/out of control dogs.
I think a dog trainer can only be as good as the dog’s they use, and often relying on chance dogs in the street while training is dangerous, and ridiculous.
While training, and adjusting dog on dog issues, the effort an owner puts in goes a long way, if they don’t listen or aren’t willing to work then they may as well have not called me in the first place. Selecting the right methods for the dog and owner, to allow them to progress as well has a lot to answer for.
It’s not one size fits all, as they are all individuals.
Sometimes trial and error is needed to find the right plan, but usually we have improvement in the first session.
We could go scouting the streets looking for dogs to upset the clients dog, and also in the process upset other people’s dogs. We don’t know their situation, upsetting their dog could be un-training a strangers dog, while we train yours. It’s just not fair. One the first session, its difficult for the dog owner to get everything together smoothly, it’s learning a brand new skill, with a dog possibly trying to drag you over. It’s really hard.
I liken it to learning a new language, but having no lessons in it and then being expected to speak it fluently.
It’s damn right daunting for most people, then to be faced with a dog barking and lunging to harm another dog. It’s not that hard to see why people have breakdowns because of their dogs.
So instead of making the owners disheartened, the dog upset and other people plain fed up. I apply some common sense to the situation and use my own dogs.
My dog’s are certainly not perfect. I pride myself on training them to be level headed and calm around dogs, even those trying to kill them at the end of the lead. They are also my working dogs, doing security roles in most cases. They trust me to step in before any issues arise, and I always do. Their calm behaviour and excellent body language, help other dogs learn.
Good experiences go a long way in dogs.
Learning to walk past, walk next to and even be off lead with a calm dog. This sets up any dog for future interactions, and future learning. This learning is something the owners, or me alone can’t provide. I can’t speak dog to a dog, but my dogs can.
Some people might query that it’s all very well and good for me, but other trainers have rescue dog’s with issues….. SO? The dogs I have are rescues, with several from unknown, or really bad known backgrounds. With one being so dog aggressive he couldn’t even be kennels next to my other dog as he tried to rip the bars apart… He is now my go to dog for teaching puppies good dog manners ( A whole different eduction). He has amazing body language and has learned to trust me to stop any situations escalating (My white boy in the photo).
I can use my dogs to set up situations for training, either at the clients house or at my own. We start off with good experiences, getting the owner into a training routine they can work with as well as the dog, get them responding to the training as well. Before setting them loose on the real world, where the dog’s will bark back or give off the evil eye.
The best thing about using my dog’s for training others, is the look on the owners face when they start to understand their dog is scared, or unsure, or just confused about their actions. Learning to be relaxed when on a walk, starting to enjoy their walk again. Instead of it remaining a chore.
Dogs can feel any tension we create down the lead, just like a telegraph wire. So the second you panic about a dog coming, your dog panics. So the cycle begins. This cycle is broken when the owner learns to relax and take control, teaching the dog and themselves that their dog is not going to react to every dog. Suddenly the whole dynamic changes, and people are enjoying their dogs.
I think dog training and behaviour is more than instructing someone, or teaching them what to look out for.
It’s showing them, that their dog can be a “normal dog”. This can often be done with simple one on one training, with a trainer but for more complex issues with other dogs, it needs a dog. Dogs learn from dogs, humans teach dogs.
So a dog trainer or behaviourist that isn’t using trained dogs to help out their training, is making their life harder and that of their clients. I don’t think they will fully help that dog out, unless the dog owner happens to come across a dog for good interactions on a walk.