“I don’t know what’s wrong with my dog. She’s nothing like my old dog!”
Does this sound familiar? I work closely with a network of professional dog trainers, and the other day, while talking with a client of a dog trainer in Atlanta I work with, she made this exact statement. In fact, many of my clients and my trainers’ clients have said, or would agree with, some variation of this statement. Personally, I’ve been a professional dog trainer for over 26 years, which means I’ve been around long enough to be able to tell you that this was not always the case. In fact, this is a statement that I’ve only been hearing for the past 10 years or so.
If you would agree that your current dog’s behavior is far worse than your old dog’s behavior, let’s take a look at this timeline. We’ll assume your previous dog lived an average canine lifespan of about 12-14 years. Let’s also assume you waited a few years to get your next dog, or that your current dog is a few years old. Based on this timeline, you would have been training your former dog in the mid 90s.
The dog training industry was very different at that time. If it’s been 10+ years since you last trained a dog, you’ll likely be searching the Internet for a little help. I ran into a similar situation in my personal life just a few years ago when my daughter was born. It’s been a long time since I’ve cared for a baby – probably a good 20 years. Being so far removed from baby life prompted many a Google search during the first several months of my daughter’s life. Thank goodness for the Internet!
This is about the same experience as someone with a brand new puppy, or a newly-adopted dog. Most dog owners open up a new browser window and initiate a Google search only to be overwhelmed by a staggering amount of (mis)information. The trouble is, the internet is chock full of ineffective (and in many cases, downright inappropriate and dangerous) advice. It’s dominated by dogma-rich, head-in-the-clouds, unrealistic dog training advice designed to make the owner feel good, not to make the dog behaviorally balanced.
The average dog owner is unaware that such advice is often harmful to their dog, and can often make their dog worse. With high hopes, they try a sampling of recommendations found online, or suggested by well-meaning family and friends (many of whom have also received their dog training “expertise” from the internet, or from working with their own dog, who is already behaviorally sound). This buffet of dog training advice typically confuses the dog, and raises the dog’s stress level. As a result, the dog’s anxiety grows, and their behavior grows worse, as well. Sadly, this is extremely common (just yesterday, a dog trainer in Baltimore that I work with took on a textbook case that highlighted this fact).
Worse yet, the dog owner hires a well meaning, but woefully misinformed “dog trainer” to help with their dog’s behavior problems. These days, anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves a dog trainer, which makes quality control a major issue. The majority of trainers out there today (and trust me, there’s at least a 300% increase in dog trainers in any given area compared to the 90s) lack the proper tools, understanding, and approach
to create real behavior change. In fact, these trainers are so incapable that they often recommend euthanasia or surrender without ever meeting the dog! Unfortunately, this is a story I hear every day. After working with a trainer like this (assuming they make it this far), the best we can hope for is a new set of strictly rehearsed behaviors. We don’t see the resolution of dog behavior problems, so we certainly aren’t seeing the kind of lasting behavior change that will allow a dog to live harmoniously in his/her home.
The result of the misinformation and downright irresponsible dog training methods recommended today is a generation of basket case dogs. I can confidently say that the dog behavior problems my dog trainers routinely address today are far more severe than any dog behavior problem I ever saw – even as recent as 5 years ago! This is particularly true in cases of anxiety and aggression. In my early career, the number of calls I received for aggression and anxiety issues was a fraction of what we get now. I keep statistics of all of our calls, and this year alone, 59% of our calls have been for help with a dog’s aggression issue, and of those over 30% have already worked with a dog trainer. Interesting, isn’t it?
When I first started training dogs in the early 90s, dog training followed a common sense
approach. In the mid-nineties, the profession experienced a profound shift when a national dog training organization was established. This organization and the army of doe-eyed, inexperienced dog trainers equipped with impressive sounding titles, and acronyms after their names, eventually came to preach a strict adherance to a one-sided methodology that is, at best, reckless. The recommendations, methods and approaches asserted by this seemingly credible organization and its members are attractive to the general public. Their advice seems easy, encouraging – warm and fuzzy. It’s easy to see how such an organization has so significantly altered the training expectations of everyday dog owners.
The generation of dogs trained under the old, common sense (“old” and “common sense” are NOT code words for dominance-based or harsh training ideologies… whatever happened to structure and consistency?) approach to dog training has since passed on, and we’re left with a canine generation that has been raised on the unrealistic ideologies of this “new” dog training approach.
If your dog is a member of the Basket Case Generation, don’t worry – there are still professional dog trainers out there who are capable of resolving dog behavior issues! They are often maligned by their unsuccessful and uninformed competitors, but they can help your dog, and because these trainers are results-oriented, they always rank among the most successful dog trainers in their communities.
I would be happy to talk with you about your dog, and refer you to a results-oriented dog trainer who can help. Feel free to contact me by email, or at 800.649.7297.