When we’re not sure how to do something it’s generally a good idea to enlist the help of a professional. If you’re not sure how to install your new bathtub, you call a plumber. If you’re not sure how to fix your car, you take it to a mechanic. And if you’re not sure how to train your dog or deal with some of their behavior issues, you call a professional dog trainer, right?
Well, not so fast on that last one. With the plumber and the mechanic you know they have had to take a certain amount of training to become certified in their trade. There’s regulations and licensing. Dog training, however, is completely unregulated. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer and start a business.
And so many dogs are ruined and traumatized by overly confident, arrogant dog trainers with absolutely no training or education. “I’ve owned dogs all my life,” is not a qualification. Nor is being a former police officer or member of the military with a canine unit. Just because you’ve been to elementary school doesn’t qualify you to teach it.
The first thing to look for when choosing a dog trainer is to find one who describes themself as “Force Free” or “Fear Free.” A Force Free dog trainer uses kind and humane methods to teach desired behavior. no force or punishment is used. Force and punishment can be defined as yanking, popping, or checking a leash; using verbal or physical punishment; or even worse, using so-called training collars which buzz, make a noise, or even give the dog an electric shock. Force Free trainers don’t use pain, fear, or intimidation, none of which are useful teaching tools, anyway.
All animals respond to reward and positive reinforcement, including dogs and puppies. Zoo keepers train elephants, snow leopards, and bears with positive reinforcement. If it works for them, it will work for your dog too. Fear and stress make it harder to learn, not easier. Not only does research support this, but I think we know it instinctively. Isn’t it easier to learn in a pleasant, friendly environment where the instructor is patient and understanding, and you’re rewarded for your efforts; rather than one where you’re yelled at, hit, choked, or even given an electrical shock every time you make a mistake or even react in fear? That, friends, is the difference between Force…