FAULTY JUDGEMENTS: We Must Look At The Dog Not The Tool

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Lets be honest: There are good trainers, okay trainers, and bad trainers.

Regardless of tool used, good trainers have happy and trained dogs and poor trainers don't. They might have one of the two; happy or trained.

A good trainer is not limited by what is in their pockets, or what equipment they use. The only tool that they need is their mind. With their mind they can motivate, they can condition, they can control and they can train. They possess feel and timing; knowing what to give, when, and how much. 

They can see what they like, and motivate the dog to give them more of it. They can minimize what they don't like, by building an alternate behaviour or emotion, or just asking that it goes away. They make their dogs believers- that they are the best in the world, and that their relationship can take them through thick and thin. The weakest dog will look strong beside them, and the strongest dog will look proud, and contained. 

They know when to push for more. They know when to settle for less. And they know when to call it a night. They know when to rush in and help their dogs, and they know when to let their dogs work it out. 

There are no recipes for training dogs. Nor are there any absolute rules. We must sometimes break our own rules to reach our goals. Some dogs need to be allowed to have certain bad behaviours that we never allow, because taking it away will make the dog a shadow of his former self. If that badness is the only oomph that the dog has, it needs to stay until more oomph is created. Specific badness is sometimes needed to grow confidence, however, your control must be taught at the same time so these dogs don't explode on you once your confidence building is a success! And I would only advise doing this under the advise of a veteran, successful trainer.

We must know not to insult a strong dog with gushy crooning praise, unless it is done at home, in private, when they might secretly love it.

We must know to believe the praise that we speak to an intelligent dog, otherwise we are lying to them.

We must know the give and take when getting a control-freak bitch to cooperate with our own agenda. 

We must also know how to make that same control-freak bitch love us, when she doesn't need us. She must want us, and we must be worthy in order for that to happen.

Training a dog is a relationship, the same as it is with a child, a partner, or anyone else that is intimately in your life. While there are rules, they all might need to be broken in certain scenarios. And what worked brilliantly on Monday might be completely wrong and offensive for tuesday - only your feel and timing will guide you on the difference.

The relationship is everything. If you have a good relationship with your dog they will be happy, and clear in understanding regardless of what tools you do, or do not, use. If you have a poor relationship, you can make the kindest tool a weapon, or the most violent tool a reward. 

So let us not judge a dog by the training tools. Let us listen to what the dog's say about how they are being trained. I've seen many a kind, ball-toting person whose dog tells a very different, sadder, story. And I've also seen very tough, intimidating men, whose ten pound dogs walk all over them, grinning, and kick their rear feet up at their gruff commands!

The relationship tells all. Let us no longer judge the tools.  For a fuller understanding, we must, listen to the dogs.

Monique Anstee
Victoria, BC


Excellent information. So true. Thank you.

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