Why Every Dog Guardian Should Work with a Positive Reinforcement, Credentialed Trainer
Being a pet dog trainer is kind of weird.
You see, our industry wasn't really around until the late 90's, early 2000's. Ask anyone who was raised with dogs in the 60's, 70's, and 80's if they took their dogs to training classes or ever hired a private dog trainer to come to the home and assist them with training their dogs. Overwhelmingly the answer will be "no". Maybe they did one course of group "obedience training" where the dogs got marched repeatedly in a circle, and yanked by the collar until the dog learned to heel, but that was probably it. And using food in training? That was simply unheard of.
Our dogs used to be "just pets"; if they behaved aggressively or became too much work, we got rid of them, whether that was bringing them to the pound, letting them loose, or other, worse outcomes.
But the landscape of dog owning has changed rapidly, in many ways for the better. Now? Our dogs are real members of our families. They live in our houses with us and sleep in bed with us, we buy them organic cotton toys and feed them human grade treats. We set up play dates with their doggie friends, and work hard to meet their needs. Dogs are no longer just "pets". It's a wonderful thing!
On the flip side: we expect more now from our dogs then ever before. Because our dogs' lives are so entwined with ours now, things are more complicated if our dog develops behavior problems, especially if those problems result in fearful or aggressive behavior. Now our dogs go with us everywhere. Drop off and pick up at school? The dog is expected to wait calmly and patiently in the car. Dining alfresco down town? The dog is expected to lie calmly underneath the table as servers pass by with spaghetti bolognese and chicken parmigiana. Going for a hike? The dog is expected to be reliable off leash, coming when called 100% of the time and ignoring environmental distractions for a pat on the head and maybe a milk bone. None of these are easy feats for a dog, and yet they've become automatically expected for the vast majority of our canine companions!
And that is why I do truly believe: investing in good dog training right away, the moment your dog or puppy arrives home with you, BEFORE any problem behaviors develop, is the key to a long, successful life with your dog. I realize I'm biased, but that doesn't make me believe this any less!
I think many people figure they've owned and lived with dogs before, so this time it won't be so different. So they muddle through as best they can until things really start to get difficult and the dog already has established behavior issues. But what if, instead, everyone realized that having an unbiased, outside set of eyes on your dog, evaluating their strengths and helping you to identify where they need the most help, right from the start was the best way to raise your dog? What if we all agreed that just living with a dog isn't enough to become an expert on the species, and that hiring a professional from the start is the best practice for dog owners and guardians everywhere, even if you've had dogs before?
I cannot overstate this: prevention is the best medicine when it comes to our dogs and their behavior. You are so, so much better served enrolling your dog in a group class or signing up for private lessons immediately (whether you're bringing home an 8 week old puppy from the breeder's or a 7 year old rescue!) than waiting for things to start to go south and hoping that a trainer can fit you in within the next month (I've spent most of this year booked 4-8 weeks out in advance, so that's another reason to get in with a trainer early!) By researching (see this video for tips about how to find a trustworthy trainer near you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gCe6WP5dtW4) and engaging a trainer's services the moment you plan on bringing your new dog home, you are setting everyone up for success for the remainder of your dog's life!