Please enjoy part 2 of this 3 part article to help you find the dog of your dreams!
Part Two: The Trainer Connection
Even the smallest and sweetest of dogs need to learn their manners alphabet. They need us to help them learn that we are kind and benevolent leaders, that we will keep them safe. They need to know that most strangers are friends. They need to learn to trust that we will protect them and guide them with love. They need to learn not to jump on people and how to be a good greeter.
Dog trainers all have their different philosophies. There are reward based trainers, and then there are no reward based trainer. There are trainers that use force and shock collars and there are trainers that use behavior modification based on mutual respect and structure.
I have seen trainers create worse situations for their clients. Research and ask around before you hire someone to train your dog. Ask your friends who they used. Look at websites and videos and if you feel comfortable with the training techniques and the dog’s responses, then call and set up an appointment.
If the trainer’s philosophy is different than yours then DON’T hire him or her. Your dog is a family member and some trainers can be abusive. This can undermine your training program. A successful training program is one that you will follow, one that you commit too. A training session is typically only an hour, and if you don’t do your homework your dog will not learn his lessons.
Jangles is a Boston terrier and a very dear friend of mine. He was a rescue and found his perfect home with Julia. She loves him beyond words and their relationship has continued to grow over the last year and a half that they have lived together. He is Julia’s constant companion. He laid next to her as she fought breast cancer and would never leave her side. His gentle snores helped to calm her and there were days when she needed him more than he knew. When you look into his eyes he will show you the depth of his soul.
He has been her “little man”, and sometimes he can be a little bit of a macho dog. He still has some insecurity from his rough start in life.
Julia has a store and Jangles job is to go to the store and be a good boy. Most of the time this is an easy job for him. He lays curled up in his bed and is a very pleasant greeter dog. There is only one problem, –Jangles doesn’t like other dogs. The terrier in him comes out as soon as someone attempts to come into the store with a dog.
One Sunday afternoon an old friend of Julia’s came into the store. Joe, a famous dog trainer has trained dogs for movies. He is very successful and travels all over the country training dogs. Joe said he could “FIX” Jangles’ problem in a minute. Julia agreed because she worried that Jangles could someday get hurt with his macho response to other dogs. Joe left the store and came back an hour later with his famous German Sheppard. Julia felt uncomfortable but she trusted her old friend. Joe is a dog expert.
As soon as Jangles saw the bigger dog he went into his routine, “I am Jangles the great protector of this store” and at that very moment Joe slapped Jangles in the face. It did stop Jangles for the moment, but within seconds he was winding up again, and once again the trainer slapped him on the nose. Jangles quieted down instantly. As he started to wind up again, Joe raised his hand and Jangles ducked his head to avoid the slap and stopped barking. The German shepherd sat and watched, he did not move.
Julia was very upset and was so uncomfortable with this training method. She ended it with her sweet Jangles cowering by her side. In her heart she knew that the trainer was wrong and she was so upset with herself for allowing this scene to happen.
When I saw Jangles in my office he looked worried and as I went to pet his head he ducked his sweet face away from me, he was hand shy. Every time I would go to touch his head he would flinch and close his eyes. He had started a new habit of nervously marking all over Julia’s house.
When Julia would get upset, little Jangles would feel terrible about himself. He would immediately get submissive and lower his head.
Jangles and I talked about the dog trainer. He said he couldn’t help himself, that when he’s around the other dogs it’s just how he reacts. He said he was trying to be a good dog. I assured him he was absolutely a good dog and that we would help him.
Helping him required managing him and not putting him at risk. Julia no longer takes Jangles to the store on weekends when there is a lot of traffic through the store. His bed is no longer by the front door. There is a big sign that says, “NO DOGS, PLEASE” when Jangles is in the store.
When at home, Julia exercises Jangles in the backyard playing ball. He also gets longer walks and never a harsh admonishment when he slips up and pees inside. He has been doing much better and you can see it in his soulful eyes. The worried look is almost gone.
Jangles needed to be managed, not smacked in the face. It took months and lots of TLC for Jangles not to duck when people would go to pet him. He did recover fully from the training experience. Love, better boundaries and respect helped Jangles to become the best dog ever.
Once your trainer leaves you with a lesson plan, you will have to do your homework to make the training successful. If you disagree or are uncomfortable with what the trainer has you doing, you will only confuse your dog making the transition harder for all involved. A family who argues over training techniques creates conflict over the dog. Trust me, your dog will feel the conflict and his/her behavior and self-esteem will suffer. It is always more successful when the whole family is on the same page when training a dog.
-Stay tuned for Part Three!-
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