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How To Choose a Dog Trainer

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

How to pick the best dog trainer for you & your dog

An elderly man appreciating the intelligence of a blue heeler dog, developing a bond with the dog without the use of treat-training creates a happy and healthy relationship with your canine.
Ken Pattison appreciating the intelligence of a blue heeler dog, developing a bond with the dog without the use of treat-training creates a happy and healthy relationship with your canine.

The elephant in the room in the dog training community needs to be talked about.

Back in the 90’s, and then into the early 2000’s, dog training was quite middle-of-the-road exciting when it came to angry, nasty, or mean dogs. Once a month, or once every two months at best, I would receive a call pertaining to a dog who seemed to be born on the wrong side of the tracks. Many abnormalities in dog behaviour was not all that common. They would pop up from time to time which was always exciting because those crazier out of control dogs, would get the adrenaline pumping. Because the outcome of getting bit by a dog is not fun. As time ticked by and dogs were exiled from pet stores, I noticed an increase in more unruly dogs. More backyard breeders selling premature puppies in parking lots and markets. Obscure meeting places to pick up the puppy from the back of a car or back of a pick-up truck. Pet stores actually were a safe line of defense for puppies and the new owners because most pet stores didn’t want to get a bad name for selling unhealthy puppies. Pet stores could have done better in hindsight. Today it’s a free-for-all with dogs being breed at unprecedented rates. The puppy factories are churning out puppies left right and everywhere. Unhealthy? Absolutely!

The word on the street I heard often was, puppies are having puppies, and this is causing multiple, long-term issues for many dogs. If it is true what I am hearing about puppies having puppies, that would look like a 9-or-10-month-old female puppy having her first litter of puppies. Brutal and wrong on so many levels. I have come across many people during the pandemic who jumped on the money train to get the family dog pregnant and make a few thousand extra dollars per litter. No care for the long-term effects.

Reactive dogs are on the rise

And I know why. Don’t blame Covid.

· Underqualified dog trainers

1. Use treats

2. Prong or pinch collar to resolve pulling, masks over the issue, will not work long term

3. Halti

4. Clickers

5. Treat pouch

6. No pull harness – No such thing, but the market says it works, and it doesn’t

7. Indoor training location

8. Not allowed to come to class if your dog ate dinner before class

9. Shock collars are permitted. Tsk tsk!

10. Praise with food

· Qualified dog trainers

1. Use knowledge

2. Experience

3. Hands on training

4. Outdoor training with multiple distractions

5. Use 6-foot leash and martingale collar

6. Educate the owner

7. No Treats allowed and no gimmicks and pointless gear

8. No treat pouch filled with dog food to carry around

9. Praise with touch and love from your hand

Underqualified dog trainers are everywhere. Many are dependant on using a dog treat to convince a dog to do a basic ask like “sit”. Many of these dog trainers pump up and promote "positive reinforcement" and pushing human ideals onto a different species without doing what a dog trainer should do. Understand a dog and what a dog is capable of accomplishing instead of dumbing down the beautiful brain a dog has. Teach you the dog owner to merely be a walking vending machine with a pocket full of treats is an embarrassment at best. Please review the Wikipedia link I have included to understand the capabilities of what a dog can learn.

What I have found is the caliber of dog trainers is less then subpar. When the strongest tool a dog trainer has is giving food to the dog to do something. Isn’t it a bit of a let down when you can do the same thing with your dog and then you too could be called a dog trainer! It’s a no brainer when bribing, baiting, luring a dog with food is called dog training. It’s actually the furthest thing from being a dog trainer, missing elements with food-based training is educating, creating a bond, understanding boundaries and know what the rules of expectation are in the environment the dog coexists in, with the human species. Treat trainers are not positive trainers. They are dog treat or food trainers. There’s no such thing as positive trainers when it comes to feeding a dog food to do something like a basic simple sit. Positive trainer sound’s nice, the reality is, the term positive training is to convince the dog owner training a dog is simple and effortless. The reality is serious effort and commitment is needed to train a dog properly. You need to be educated and have an in-depth understanding that each dog is unique and requires time to achieve the desired results to fit a person’s lifestyle and needs. The term “positive training” is a marketing ploy to trick you!

Under the guise of "positive training" here is what they will not tell you about the use of dog treats.

1. You’re going to spend unlimited amount of money buy treats for the wrong reason

2. Don’t feed your dog before treat training in a positive dog class. The reason the trainer wants you to starve your dog is so the dog will obviously do anything for the treat but nothing for you. Shame!

3. Treats encourage obesity.

4. Using treats for training creates a dog to beg. Now that needs to be fixed by someone like me who doesn’t use treats. Will cost you more money to fix this.

5. Treat training is useless and you will waste your money.

6. When the dog is full of food, the dog won’t do anything for a treat. I guess you could say you only have a trained dog when the dog is hungry and you have a pocket full of treats.

7. You will need to enroll in more treat training positive classes than you care for. But remember that’s not very positive.

8. When your dog won’t come because you don’t have food for it, you can always ask another dog owner for some treats. Said no one ever!

9. The treat-trained dog is now causing more issues which become behaviour issues. Begging, jumping up, stealing food, getting into the garbage, drooling, and the fun one is becoming food aggressive. But remember, it's POSITIVE dog training.

10. You will not have a bond of trust and understanding with your dog if you do not have food to bribe the dog.

In all honesty, a five-year-old child, can do what a so-called dog trainer who uses dog treats can do. Hold out the food and feed it to the dog. The standard of dog trainers is at rock bottom and you need to be concerned. You are depending on dog experts to receive adequate knowledge to best train your dog, not to bribe your dog!

The intelligence of dogs is fascinating and very much ignored accidentally.

Dog Intelligence

Main article: Dog intelligence

Dog intelligence is the dog's ability to perceive information and retain it as knowledge for applying to solve problems. Studies of two dogs suggest that dogs can learn by inference and have advanced memory skills. A study with Rico, a Border Collie, showed that he knew the labels of over 200 different items. He inferred the names of novel things by exclusion learning and correctly retrieved those new items immediately and four weeks after the initial exposure. A study of another Border Collie, Chaser, documented his learning and memory capabilities. He had learned the names and could associate by verbal command over 1,000 words.[64] Dogs can read and react appropriately to human body language such as gesturing and pointing and human voice commands.

Dog Communication

Main article: Dog communication

Dog communication is how dogs convey information to other dogs, understand messages from humans and translate the information that dogs are transmitting.[70]: xii  Communication behaviours of dogs include eye gaze, facial expression, vocalization, body posture (including movements of bodies and limbs), and gustatory communication (scents, pheromones, and taste). Humans communicate to dogs by using vocalization, hand signals, and body posture.

The intelligence of dogs is fascinating and very much ignored accidentally. Our lives are busy, our kid’s lives are busy, the same goes for a dog. They to require a busy schedule of activities, socializing, exercise and taught what is expected of them. And we must in return learn how to be healthy kind dog owners implementing boundaries, discipline and education with plenty of exercise. Balance is missing in the dog training arena and until treat trainers recognise their short comings to you and your dog. You and your dog are headed for a whole lot of hurt and let down.

On average, my dog clients have hired or used five treat and food reward-based trainers. This means, when I am hired the extra amount of work and new gear a dog owner should be using is only one type of collar. Instead I am seeing up to six different collars and gadgets to take the dog out on a simple walk. This is wrong on multiple levels. As a person in this industry I have seen many gimmicks and fads to train the dog. Quick simple ways to train the family dog. Marketing lies and failures which are costing dogs lives and giving dog owners unneeded stress. Where is the accountability for these dog trainers who wreck your dog and cause more issues then when you first started training?

Stop watching YOUTUBE.COM to train your dog.

Demand results and hold your trainer accountable.

If they can’t train a dog without the use of treats, they are not a qualified dog trainer.

I am not happy with the horror stories I am receiving about how badly behaved many dogs are today. An easy way to skirt the issue is to blame Covid. Covid is not the reason so many dogs are poorly trained. The dog trainers are! You bought a puppy, you brought this puppy or dog into your home with the best intentions to have it trained. You may be in a position like so many dog owners where you feel duped. The multiple leashes and gear you spent money on do not work, the cupboard filled with dog treats to get your dog addicted too has only resulted in more issues and empowered the dog to rule you. This is not what your intentions are, are they? If you need to contact me regarding your dog, then let’s get together. I am in the Vancouver area and I know of a few real dog trainers in other Canadian cities who can help you out. I feel the frustration and anger many of you share with me. I have the methods to train your dog the way you have wanted your dog to be as a good dog citizen. A solid investment of time, effort and excitement is needed from you. I push my clients and we celebrate the triumphs together. Hard work with commitment pays off. Dog training is not always easy, and that’s a good thing. Your dog will test you, challenge you and succeed with you, if you put in the needed effort.

Written by Brad Pattison, Dog Behaviourist, Vancouver Dog Trainer & Puppy Trainer

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