Part 1: The Most Abusive Tool In Dog Training
There’s a big problem in the world of dog training today and it’s not about any specific tools or methods. So many dog owners, critics, other trainers, and even the media attention surrounding our profession are contributing to it. As a result, countless dogs are dismissed as untrainable and end up in shelters or even worse.
So, what’s the issue?
It’s the human’s inability to have an open mind and see the potential benefits of various approaches.
LET US EXPLAIN
A lot of people are sold on the idea that there is a right and wrong way to train a dog. They think that just because they’ve seen one method work, it works for all dogs and there is no need to try other options.
Thinking of everything in terms of black and white can be dangerous. If we aren’t open to different approaches, we can never grow and, as a result, neither can our dogs.
A great example would be someone who says, “Positive reinforcement is the only useful for trick training,” or “A remote collar can only be used to punish the dog.” And yes, those tools can be used for that, but a trainer with an open mind sees they have so many more possibilities*.
We can argue for hours about this tool or that style but in the end, it doesn’t matter. As we see in politics every day, people are so grounded in their beliefs that they refuse to acknowledge that there’s another way. This same closed-mindedness is harming dog training.
Sometimes, the only exposure we get to a certain topic is what someone else has told us, so it’s easy to accept. But have you done any research or critical thinking to support your belief? How can you make a decision about anything before weighing the pros and cons?
Just because someone has told you something doesn’t work doesn’t make it true. More often than not, it just means it didn’t work for them.
Now and then, a little reflection is needed. We need to ask, “Do I believe this because it’s something that I’ve heard, or have I given it some thought, tried it out, and come to the conclusion myself?”
Trainers who truly want to help their clients will seek to learn about a wide variety of methods at their disposal and pick the ones that are fitting for the situation at the specific moment. If the tool they’ve chosen isn’t proving useful, they don’t give up. They move on to a better one for that particular dog at that point in time. They even realize that sometimes a dog isn’t ready for a certain tool, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be eliminated from the training altogether.
Having an open mind helps you recognize that there are many valid dog training methods, and they don’t have to oppose each other. The extensive variety in the ways we can achieve results is one of the best parts about the job. Each client requires a personalized approach, and there’s an art to finding the best way for a particular dog.
Around fifty percent of the cases that come to Dream Come True K9 are ones that other trainers won’t take or can’t treat, but we’ve never met a dog we couldn’t help.
Our success is not built on the tools. We don’t subscribe to a “cookie cutter” method where every dog is treated the exact same way. We work with the dog and the owner to come to a customized strategy, and that requires us to have an open mind not only to what might work but also to what isn’t working.
This post isn’t meant to be in favor of any particular approach. We’re not here to tell you what is or isn’t right for you, but we don’t want you to automatically accept something you hear to be the absolute truth. Whether it comes from another trainer, the news, or even us, it’s important to form your own conclusions.