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Ramblings of a Dog Trainer

I really hate the divide in the dog training world, between old fashioned vs balanced vs positive. It takes so much enjoyment out of the job.

I feel there is good and bad in every sector and in any industry. That’s not to say I agree with suppression training with prongs and chokes, but the trainers that use them would deny they were using suppression anyway, or that suppression is a necessary evil for removing bad behaviour and integrating a dog into society quickly. I also don’t agree with radical force-free trainers who daren’t even apply 5% pressure on the lead incase it causes their dog discomfort. I’m not radical by any means.

Most of my clients come to me to help their dog using mostly positive reinforcement techniques. I love this because it allows me to help them build their relationship over time and work to change their dogs emotional state. I use boundaries and give feedback to a dog where necessary, but there is no instant satisfaction, even though I wish there was.  This means it takes time.

Time that balanced trainers argue is too much time, too unrealistic and too expensive.

So what is the answer? Is a trained dog one that still displays elements of unwanted behaviour in certain situations when not managed and read properly, or is a trained dog a bulletproof perfect dog (on the surface?)

The dogs I have helped train still make mistakes. They are allowed to display feelings. They are allowed choice. They aren’t robots. But…

Do people really want to understand the WHY behind their dog’s behaviour, or do they just want a fix? This is a busy world we are living in and I can imagine quick fixes are wanted. It must be so tempting, especially with the complete over-exposure of quick-fix balanced trainers on social medias such as Tiktok and Instagram. Robot dog is perfect dog, right?

If someone told me I could lose weight over night, I’d want it. But deep down I would know that life doesn’t work that way. To lose weight, I have to stop eating excessive calories, eat healthy and exercise regularly. To train positively, you have to provide exercise, outlets, choices, build confidence and work WITH your dog.

Regardless, to change behaviour, you have to tap into what makes the brain tick.

How you do this depends on ethics.

Do we tap in with startle, pain and/or shock therapy, masking a problem that may or may not re emerge at a later date? I mean, let's be honest, pain works. If someone smacked me when I did something, in the moment I'd stop doing it. Ouch. But is that training... or abuse?Do we suppress a dog for our own gain at their mental cost? Is it worth it for the end result?

Or do we tap into their brain slowly and methodically using science-based ethical techniques that aim to change thinking patterns and respect the dogs personality?

One looks more impressive. One is quicker and easier. One is cheaper. One might quickly save a dog from euthanasia.

The other is boring to watch. The other takes time. The other can be expensive. The other requires human understanding and patience.

One is the best choice financially.

The other is the best choice ethically.

So… what IS right?

I don’t think there will ever be harmony in the dog training world. I think this argument will last forever.

I truly believe there are arguments for both sides, but for me personally, working on relationship and boosting a dogs mental state will always be more important for me than boosting my own ego.

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