I’ve met thousands of people who have dealt with dog trainers but still have complaints. When I ask why they’re still having problems, their answers often are either that the trainer didn’t address their problem or the trainer suggested methods the owners wouldn’t do to their dogs.
To the PEOPLE: Good people, YOU’RE THE BOSS! I may know more about dogs than you do - or I have no value to you - but I WORK FOR YOU! If you hire me to paint your house, do you let me choose the color? Of course not! Than when you hire me to train or handle a beloved pet, why let me use methods you dislike? As your employee, I must achieve your goals in a way you approve of and will do yourself. If I do not do both of those, I do not deserve your money.
To TRAINERS: We work for THEM! Without them we have no business! Our job is to satisfy their goals with their dogs; to get their dogs responding to THEM, not to US! Few hire us because they want to enter competitive obedience rings; the vast majority want problems solved. Did we solve them? A dog can Sit and bark; Down and chew the rug; Come and bite mailmen; Heel for some and drag others. When owners come to you with problems, will obedience solve them? After decades of doing this I don’t need a lecture on the value and benefits of obedience training! But DID YOU SOLVE THEIR PROBLEMS?? If not, they have a legitimate complaint - and you make it harder for all of us! Why should they trust or believe you if I and others have taken their money but failed them in the past?
People, why do you pay dog trainers up front? Who else do you pay before they finish the job - or before they do ANYTHING? If the trainer is trying to feed a family, having several students drop out for various reasons is a bad idea, so front money always helps. How about a deposit? Perhaps even half, the remainder upon successful completion using satisfactory methods? That is not unreasonable.
Unfortunately the popular media continues this problem. "The People’s Court" had an owner suing his dog trainer because of unsatisfactory results. In defending himself, the trainer demonstrated the dog’s response to HIS commands. Judge Wapner then said the dog looks trained; what’s the complaint? THE COMPLAINT IS THAT THE OWNER PAID THE TRAINER TO GET THE DOG TO OBEY THE OWNER, NOT THE TRAINER, AND THE DOG DIDN’T! The Judge missed the whole point! You don’t hire ME to get control over your dog; you hire me to get YOU control over your dog. If I don’t, I shouldn’t get your money - especially when solving most problems is so simple many owners do it just with my audio tapes.
Good owners, those of us you hire to work with your dogs - trainers, behaviorists, groomers, veterinarians, boarders, walkers, sitters - work for you! Of course we get to suggest methods; that’s why you hired us. But our choices must meet your standards and bring you success. That’s also why you hired us. You wouldn’t board your dog in a kennel where they physically abused dogs; why pay trainers that do so? Sitting doesn’t cure jumping; Heeling doesn’t cure pulling; Staying doesn’t cure digging; Down doesn’t cure barking. Sure, obeying you can be a constructive means to achieve your goals, but we must address your goals. Get what you pay for - or why pay?
Excess barking is an annoying problem. Having been San Diego’s Dispute Resolutions Officer, I’m well aware of the scope of the problem! But few realize that excess barking hurts the dog. Chronic, excessive barking has a deleterious effect on the immune system; too much barking for too long can so weaken it that the dog falls victim to infections, stress or pathogens that it would normally shrug off.
To determine if your dog is doing the barking and just how much barking is happening, get an inexpensive portable sound-activated tape recorder and use a c-120 (2 hour) blank tape. Don’t be surprised to learn that your dog isn’t doing the annoying barking, or that the "Barking all day!" is really 8 to 12 minutes! Positioned properly, the tape will tell you that without question.
Dogs can be effectively trained to control barking. I was solving barking problems years before devices were invented. My Audio #5, BARKING, covers this thoroughly.
Some main points:
Consider the welfare of the barker along with the valid complaints of annoyed neighbors. Treat the barking PROBLEM, not just the noise SYMPTOM; treat the DOG, not just the PROBLEM.
NEVER DEBARK. Debarking severs or removes the vocal chords.
Pros: Immediate; reduces noise.
Cons: Immune system damage continues; expense; barks are upsetting raspy "whispers;" must be repeated if severed - scars form; increases likelihood of dog fights because friendly, playful sounds no longer audible; no intruder deterrence or warning; often increases attention-getting soiling, chewing, jumping and pawing; may not awaken sleeping owners in emergency. A bad idea, not a remedial option.
Collars: Avoid electric shock collars; citronella collars are gentler and more effective. Avoid sonic sensors that "hear" barks; dog gets zapped when ANY sound occurs. Instead choose a tactile sensor that feels throat vibration; only dog wearing it can activate it.
Pros: Immediate; work in owner absence.
Cons: Silence often collar-dependent; expense; demand proper use and regular maintenance.
Warnings and alerts are among our dogs’ most valuable services to us. Treat barking correctly and enjoy its benefits while eliminating problems. Enjoy!