A lot of people ask me about what type of dog trainer to hire or which training method is best.
It doesn’t matter.
Here’s what matters: You know your dog better than anyone else knows your dog.
There are a lot of excellent dog trainers, and they’re all going to have a slightly different approach. This is OK.
You pick and choose what will work for your own dog.
Two trainers – two different methods
One of the trainers at an obedience class we took is a scientist and follows the latest research on training.
She uses 100 percent positive reinforcement. As in, she doesn’t even use the word “no.”
Science tells us dogs learn best if we make training a fun game. We give them fun rewards for doing what we want.
This is mostly a good thing.
However, my FIRECRACKER of a weimaraner gets so excited over treats and praise that he can’t handle himself. Sometimes he fixates on the treats the way my Lab goes nutty over a tennis ball.
He vibrates, grabs, jumps, wiggles and bites to get the treats. Did you catch that? He BITES to get the treats.
So what was this trainer’s advice?
Wear gloves, she said. Keep giving him treat-treat-treat-treat-treat for anything that resembles good behavior.
I refused to wear gloves, but I did follow her advice and kept giving Remy treat after treat for a while, even as my husband complained that Remy kept biting his hand on walks (looking for treats).
And then a 2nd trainer spent 5 seconds with Remy and said:
Do not give this dog treats. Take treats away for a while.
She clearly saw my dog as a menace, way too excitable and even possessive. (All true.)
OK, so I had one trainer saying, “Shower him with treats! Positive reinforcement works best!” And one saying, “Remove all treats from this dog.”
So you know what I did?
A little of both!
I give Remy treats quite often, but only for CALM, good behavior.
If he’s too excited, I calmly guide him away from the source of excitement and reward him with praise or treats once he’s calm.
Bringing out any sort of calm behavior in Remy is much more important to me than sit or down or stay or not pulling.
So neither of the trainers were wrong about my dog. They were both correct in their own ways, but I know Remy better than they know him.
Trainer #1, the all-positive trainer, said I’m doing an excellent job handling Remy.
Trainer #2 told me I should be much more firm with my voice.
So I took trainer #2’s advice.
Weimaraners are challenging dogs. Remy’s drive and energy shock me every day.
Being a leader to my weimaraner is a requirement. I’m trying to be more firm.
But when people email to ask what “type” of trainer they should hire or what “type” of dog training is best, I can’t answer that.
Instead, here is my best advice on dog training:
1. You know your dog best. Work with trainers but pick and choose what works for you.
2. Don’t assume the dog in front of you learns the same as any other dog.
3. Be open to different tools and ideas if they can help you and your dog. Who cares what other people think. Always keep learning.
4. For most dogs, tons of exercise is your best tool. And then more exercise. Always more exercise than you think is needed.
5. Use treats to reward calm behavior, not to bring out excitement.
6. Stay calm yourself. No need to use a high-pitched voice, flailing arms, tons of toys and excitement. (Unless it benefits a super low-key dog who needs the motivation!)
7. Gently guide or lure the dog to what you want. Be firm with your voice and consistent with your requests.
8. Forgive yourself when you make mistakes. Forgive your dog when he makes mistakes.
How would the rest of you describe your dog training ‘style’?
Do you also take bits of info here and there from a variety of trainers?
Let me know in the comments!