If you need training, check the trainer!
On the previous page «Behaviour and Doggish» we looked at the needs of the dog, as well as the importance of a differentiated approach when it comes to normal training or neutralisation of problematic behaviour. With the cornerstones Relationship – Socialisation/Education – Training and the cube, you are now able to test a dog trainer. should you or your dog need training.
If you or your dog needs training, seek a professional trainer – and make sure it is a professional before you expose yourself, and even worse, expose your dog.
Here are some questions you should ask a trainer before you commit:
- What is your philosophy with regard to working with unwanted behaviour?
- How much experience do you have with dogs showing unwanted behaviour?
- What possible reasons do you see for unwanted behaviour?
- What role does the relationship owner-dog play in the context of working with unwanted behaviour?
- How do you neutralise unwanted behaviour with a dog, e.g. dominant-, fear-, frustration aggression, nervous energy, excessive barking, pulling on the lead, dog out of control when off the lead, when everything else is more interesting to the dog than staying with the owner off the lead etc.?
- How much of the work is typically done with the owner and how much is done with the dog?
- How do you correct and reward behaviour?
- What are the areas you are currently working on with your dog, and how?
A. RELATIONSHIP, B. SOCIALISATION & EDUCATION and C. TRAINING
If the answers are satisfactory, then check how they interact with their own dog. Do they have a calm and aplomb way of interacting? Are they apologetic, or have excuses, for the behaviour of their own dog? Does their dog seem happy? Does it make a confident and balanced impression?
If you are content with the answers and with what you have seen, ask the trainer if he/she wants to get a first impression of your dog and take it on the leash.
You need a clear structure in the training and development of yourself and your dog
The dog trainer must be able to clearly show you the concept and the logic of the training, how the individual training modules are connected and how the entire training is greater than the sum of the individual training blocks.
He should also be able to show some of the principles in his training, e. g. when and how is he rewarding and correcting behaviour, and how. You must be in a good position to decide if this trainer is capable of helping you, or not.
You want to hear something along these lines
1. Basic training
A solid theoretical background to dog behaviour. The objective is to reduce the knowledge gaps of the dog owner, which ensures the practical training makes sense.
The dog owner must be able to give the dog what it needs to feel safe and protected and must also be able to provide a conducive and non-confusing learning environment for the dog to learn quickly.
The individual steps in the learning process are imlpemented and validated.
This is not about training the dog, but about training the dog owner.
When the dog owner and the dog show a harmonic co-operation and the dog happily shows connection to the dog owner, the training can proceed.
The dog owner works with his/her dog.
This ensures a solid education of the dog by the owner, not by the trainer, based on mutual trust, respect and understanding.
Builds on the established partnership to finely tune, improve the precision and increase the speed, based on the particularities of the owner and the dog.
At this stage in the learning process, food or toys may be introduced.
This phase in the training and development is extremely important, but unfortunately often neglected.
A couple of weeks after the basic training has been completed, the dog owner, dog and dog trainer meet again to eliminate errors that may have slipped in.
If there is one thing I have learned over the years and what probably was the missing link I was looking for, it is the following
A trusting relationship between dog and dog owner is an absolute pre-requisite for a species-appropriate dog education, training and neutralisation of behavioural abnormalities.
The greatest reward for a dog, in which the relationship to the owner is right, is to be with his owner. But only if the dog owner really manages to be both mentor, coach and friend, i. e. the dog feels protected by him and is part of a stable «pack», which is properly led and lives in a species-appropriate way.
The dog wants to form a unit with its owner and will do it, if he has full confidence to the dog owner. Therefore, one should not confuse one’s own authentic «being» with one’s «doing», i. e. if my dog shows leash aggression for example, the cause of this must first be sought and found in one’s own being and not in the doing, i. e. what I «technically» possibly do wrong. The moment the dog experiences this, the relationship between dog owner and dog changes in a heartbeat, instantaneously.
The dog sends all signals and the dog owner just has to pick them up. Dog and owner must transmit and receive on the same radio frequency. Often the dog owner has to develop his sensitivity so that he can find the transmission frequency of his dog and calibrate it better. This is also the reason why the majority of dog owners need training, not the dog.
A symptom is never the cause. What are the reasons for my dog not having sufficient confidence in me? What does he perceive of me? Stress, restlessness, hectic, distraction, lack of concentration, bad attention and focus, unreliability? The dog doesn’t care about title, profession, wealth etc., he wants to be able to rely on me and needs real and authentic leadership qualities to be able to do this. Full stop.
The dog spends the majority of his awake time observing exactly what is happening around him. He quickly learns which movements or noises from the kitchen or the coat hangers make it worthwhile to get up – the dog is an opportunist. He is also particularly interested in what the dog owner does and how he behaves, his body language, whether he is authentic and congruent – after all, it’s about his safety and whether he feels comfortable and protected. You can only expect from your dog what you show yourself. A dog owner always «leads from the front».
Never underestimate the importance of clear objectives in education and training – what exactly do I want to achieve and am I prepared to do what it takes to implement the objectives? The training of the owner and dog must be built up accordingly.
If I go on a trip without a clear destination, it doesn’t matter if I turn left or right at a T-junction. The dog also notices this and recognises this as a weakness.
- With what percentage do you want him to come when I call him? Will 70% be enough, even if it is close to a busy street?
- How important is it that my dog behaves decently with other dogs and humans? Is 80% enough here?
- How important is it to me that my dog walks quietly and calmly next to me if I ended up with one shopping bag too much?
- If I want a dog with whom I can go downtown on Saturday, if I wear nicer clothes or go to a business meeting, in public transport etc., I don’t want to have to fill my bags with goodies or toys. These are different requirements than if I «only» walk with my dog in the nature and can wear dog clothes with «pockets for all needs».
I have to communicate these exact goals to my dog trainer, or rather he should want to find out. I must carefully consider how much time and effort I am willing to invest in a species-appropriate relationship, socialization/education and training and whether I am willing to do what is needed, should the dog show a «strong character» – especially if I have defined high percentages in my objectives above.
Developing a dog into a reliable, socially adapted and stable dog requires a minimum of 2 h/day for nine months, with purposeful relationship, education and social behaviour activities, training, exercise and play.
R E L A T I O N S H I P – S O C I A L I S A T I O N & E D U C A T I O N – T R A I N I N G
And yes, I did find what I was looking for
The relationships with my dogs began to deepen and in many peoples’ eyes took on «magical proportions». The dialogue with the dog began to take place in silence and we learned to understand each other and trust each other blindly. The daily walk became a real pleasure, the co-existence a boon and the mutual support became part of everyday life.
Unix was a special dog and we experienced so much together – he was always there. When I was with my business customers, they often asked “Where’s Unix?” When I said he was in the car, they said, “Go and get him, he’s one of us!” In team meetings and workshops he recognised interpersonal tensions before they became noticeable to the participants. The participants learned to interpret his subtle body language and behaviour and with that recognized their own behaviour. Impressive. He was always involved in the work with dogs with problematic behaviour and always knew exactly what he had to do. Thanks Unix!
In December 2015 I took over a German Shepherd dog with severe problematic behaviour from a responsible breeder who had taken the dog back. Rox is on the front page of my website. I now had to take “my own dog owner training medicine”… uufff. He has been with me for 2 years now and we have exclusively worked on the relationship, socialisation and education to build up his trust in people and the environment. Not one second of training! The work has been extremely rewarding.
Of course, Rox has also learned sit! – drop! etc., but he has learned it «naturally» in the context of the relationship work, which works wonderfully. He is also always with me when working with other dogs and has since learned himself what his function is. It is always a special moment when we, as a team, satisfied return to the car, he jumps in and radiates his satisfaction with a visible «smile» on his relaxed face. He’s a fine and lovely lad who hasn’t shown any problematic behaviour for 18 months.
After I had adopted Rox, I subsequently found out, that Unix’ father was the grandfather of Rox – there are no co-incidences in life.
It was a long journey and only when I had enough pieces of the puzzle they started to make sense and I saw the big picture. That would not have been possible if it hadn’t been for a few remarkable researchers, scientists and dog trainers who have devoted their lives to dogs, wolves and their behaviour. Fortunately, they are willing to share their knowledge and skills with others!
Only when I was able to build my own bridge between research/science and dog training it was possible for me to find the central thread and clearly see the logic and connections.
On a final note
Dogs with problematic behaviour were usually not born with problematic behaviour, but are a result of their environment. They were in the hands of people who do not know how to recognise and neutralize problematic behaviour at an early stage. The professional dog trainers do – and adapt the training accordingly, which is sometimes difficult to understand for opinion leaders, dog trainers and dog owners who don’t.
Please honour the dog’s wonderful nature and do your homework thoroughly. The dog deserves it! In the last 40 years I have seen many philosophies about dog training. Without any doubt, however, I can say that there is no more species-appropriate, successful and faster way than using the dogs’ own language. That applies to us humans as well, the language, body language and facial expressions of foreign cultures are often foreign to us. Maybe we intuitively sense a person’s goodwill, but we don’t really understand it. A supposedly friendly gesture or facial expression can be misunderstood by us, or we do not understand it at all. The dog feels the same way with us.
It is never a bad investment to learn more about how wolves and dogs behave in the nature. Learn about pack animals, observe how they behave, their body language, develop your sensitivity to see the small signals that most people do not see. Observe social behaviour, how they interact with each other and ask yourself what you could do better in the relationship, socialisation, education or training. It is the language the Canines understand from birth – please, learn «Doggish».
At this point I would also like to express my appreciation for the real dog specialists, who are continuously expanding their knowledge, skills and experience – most of them know how long and costly the road is.
The more a professional dog trainer wants to share with other people what they can do for dogs with problematic behaviour, the more they expose themselves and are criticised and judged. However, many critics do not have the competence or courage to therapy dogs with severe problematic, or have never been fixed by a 55 kg aggressive Rottweiler with laser precision, where each cell in his body says «only one of us will survive this encounter».
A professional dog trainer does not regard dog training as “l’ art pour l’ art”, but does his utmost to achieve sustainable results in the training of dog owners and their dogs with knowledge, skills, logic, structure and implementation.
Many paths lead to Rome, even when it comes to educating and training dogs or neutralising problematic behaviour. From a conceptual and principle point of view, however, scientists, cynologists and professional dog trainers seem to agree. There are some differences in the details and in the implementation, but all with the same objective.
As responsible dog owner and dog trainers we should devote our time to being open, to look at and communicate the topics in a differentiated way, as well as to appreciate and accept every opportunity to learn. «10 years of dog experience» has only someone who consistently evolves and does not repeat the first year nine times.
Only the results count, that is how we will see more satisfied dogs and non-dog owners than today!
Thank you for reading this far!
It is my sincere hope and wish that I have said a few things that touched you.
I did not write the above to sell dog owner training, but because I see daily how many dogs suffer unnecessarily emotionally. Many dogs don’t feel well, not the ones with problematic behaviour – and it’s not because they are starving or don’t have a roof over their heads.
The dog owners and dog trainers have it in the hands to change this. Let’s do it.
If you need help with your dog, or if you have any comments, suggestions and remarks about my philosophy, I would be happy to receive feedback via mail or phone.
Should you read German, you will find some some recommendations on literature in the German language section.