I aim to build confidence in dogs.
But first I have to build confidence in their owners!
So I have a cautionary tale for you this week, which I hope will massively boost your ability to be your dog’s advocate and say NO! when people tell you to do something which doesn’t sit well with you.
Dottie told me an awful story. Her young dog Toby was being a bit of a handful - reactive to other dogs - so she went to a local dog trainer for help. This trainer got Dottie to join a gang of strange dogs in a “pack walk”. She equipped her with a slip lead (that tightens without limits) showed her how to yank the lead if Toby pulled, told her other ways to physically “correct” him, and despite her protests and many misgivings, they set out on the walk.
Well, after three hours (3 hours!!) walking, the results were plain to see. Dottie showed me photos which appalled me. Toby’s neck was swollen so much that it looked as though he had a goitre. His feet were sore and bleeding, and he limped pitifully, hopping from one painful paw to another.
Not only was he physically injured, but unsurprisingly, his reactivity had got far, far worse.
What I couldn’t see in the photos, but could clearly hear, was Dottie’s anguish and guilt at what had happened.
When she confronted the “trainer” with these injuries, she was told “Don’t worry, this is normal and will go down after a few days.”
Can you imagine collecting your child from playschool, finding swellings, cuts, and bleeding, and being told “Don’t worry, this is normal and will go down after a few days.”? The mind boggles.
And can you imagine how Dottie felt? Can you imagine how you would feel? She even considered having her little dog put down as she was clearly such a failure that he was now not just reactive but aggressive with it.
We can all learn from this horrible event.
How can I know what trainer is good?
I can understand just how it happened. This trainer advertises her services locally, Dottie applied to her, and she came across as knowing what she was talking about. She clearly fast-talked Dottie into agreeing with the plan she put forward.
She sounded so authoritative! So plausible!
So Dottie quelled her inner voice which was saying, “Is this really right?” and went along with the plans. She went against her better judgment because she was bamboozled by the apparent knowledge and experience of this person - as well as the trainer’s assurances that she loves dogs.
So what could Dottie have done to avoid this catastrophe?
1. Ask questions! Your questions may include “What are your qualifications?” “What do you do if a dog tries to bite you?” “Can I come and watch a session first without my dog?” “What do you think of electric shock collars?”
2. Check up on them! In the UK, force-free trainers should have at least one of the following sets of alphabet after their name: APDT, ABTC, APBC, IMDT, CBATI. In other countries, look out for CBATI, KPA-CTP, Victoria Stilwell, PPG for referrals.
3. Listen to that inner voice! If you’re being told to do something you don’t like the sound of, ask yourself “Would I do this to a baby? Would I do this to my toddler?” If you wouldn’t do it to a child, then there’s no way you should do it to a dog.
4. Be your dog’s advocate! You are the only one he’s got - he puts his trust in you to keep him safe. Be sure to honour that trust.
Here at Brilliant Family Dog you will never be asked to go against your inner voice, your integrity. So you’re quite safe here!
I’m not for one moment blaming Dottie. She has blamed herself quite enough already, and blame and shame are a fruitless endeavour. We can only resolve the past by moving resolutely forward. She has moved on (she found me!) and has got such amazing results with young Toby now that she has said she won’t be looking for another trainer or training method. She is utterly convinced that force-free - and specifically Choice Training - is the way to go.
How can we help other novice dog-owners?
So, even if you don’t need a dog-trainer right now, how about looking at the dog trainers that are in your area? Have a look at their websites and read between the lines! Red-flag phrases would include “balanced training,” “alpha rolls,” “leadership,” “pack,” “pack leader,” “pinch collar,” “e-collar,” (they call electric shock collars “e-collars” to make them sound innocuous, like an e-book) “positive punishment,” “rattle bottles,” “spray collar.” All these words translate to “KEEP AWAY!”
You may be surprised to find that it’s hard to find a trainer who doesn’t espouse these outdated and scientifically discredited attitudes. But being forearmed you may be able to steer a hapless dog-owner away from them.
And believe it or not, you don’t actually need to go to classes to effect enormous change with your dog. Dottie started the change by reading some of my books, then attending one of my free workshops. Used well, the internet is a wonderful place!
So have you checked out one of my amazing courses yet? Video, the spoken and the written word, combine to give you everything you need to know. And you get support and extra coaching too. That’s why students get such great results, and say things like this, from Lisa:
“We had tried lots of different training in the past with very little result, so for my dog to have come along so far in just a few months is really wonderful. This training definitely works! I am now a convert for life and will no longer search for other training. Beverley and her team are definitely the best!”