The pros and the cons

Your dog’s trainer will have a lasting impact on your dog’s behaviour. It is, therefore, necessary to know the red and green flags to look out for while choosing a trainer. Photo by Antonio Francisco on Unsplash

Trainer red flags

  • Does not train you (= the pet parent):
    Of course, the main priority is to train your dog, but you have to learn how to take these lessons outside training sessions too. After all, you will continue sharing your home with the dog long after Fido learns to fetch.
  • Uses a lot of jargon but is unable to explain it:
    We’ve all resorted to such gimmicks to impress people, but there are actual lives (animal and human) at stake here. It’s not a bad thing if your trainer uses jargon, but they should be able to simplify it for you and explain where it fits into giving your dog the best life.
  • Unable to explain training decisions:
    You shouldn’t micromanage your dog’s training. However, your trainer should be able to explain why a particular method is being followed. A good trainer is well-aware of dog behaviour. They will be able to explain why your dog needs to be trained a certain way and the expected outcome of the training. They will also help you troubleshoot things if their training isn’t giving the envisioned results.
  • Uses aversive methods only during their part of the training:
    Aversive methods should not be used for all dogs and should not be used by everyone. However, if your dog has been trained a certain way, you need to learn to replicate it and understand why that method works for your dog. If your trainer is training your dog with aversives without ever teaching you how to handle such techniques, it will cause issues for you and your dog. Of course, you may need to wait a bit before you can learn them.
  • Asks you to mate your dog to ‘fix’ aggression:
    Then why do you have a trainer for your dog? On a more serious note, mating accomplishes nothing except a litter from which this shady trainer will benefit.
    On the other hand, neutering a dog without working on aggression may cause more issues. Train aggression first, then neuter your dog (I highly recommend it for dogs of an appropriate age). If the behavioural issue is testosterone-related, such as marking, neutering can help. Neutering may help with aggression if it is the outcome of something that neutering can control.
  • Shows off being bitten by the dogs they’re training:
    A dog bite is nothing to be proud of. As mentioned in the previous blog of this series, a dog bites only when they have been pushed too far. Dogs are not meant to bite. So, if a dog has bitten a trainer — the experienced professional in this situation — they must have done something wrong. Even if it was an aggressive dog, the trainer should have invested their time in understanding the dog’s nature and triggers. They should not be showing bites off.

Trainer green flags

The right dog trainer will use methods that set you and your dog up for success. Photo by Simone Dalmeri on Unsplash

Behaviourist vs Trainer:

Board and train

Board and train programs should be explored for cases where the dog is very aggressive and managing the dog’s training is beyond the family’s capability. Photo by Jana Shnipelson on Unsplash

Dog parent red flags

  • Expects overnight solutions:
    If that’s what you want, buy a bag of oats. Your dog is a living being and while dogs are extremely intelligent creatures, learning a behaviour takes time, especially if bad behaviour has been practised for a while.
  • Micromanages training:
    It’s great to know what your trainer is doing and why, but you also have to let them train your dog. Sometimes, trainers try certain things which may not work for your dog — that’s okay. Let them correct that. Don’t hover — you can be involved without interfering.
  • Paranoid/ Overprotective:
    We all want the best for our dogs and want to protect them from all things nasty. However, your dog is a dog! They need to play in the mud and walk on the grass. I understand that ticks are a big issue, and you can’t always give your dog a bath, but don’t let that prevent you from letting your dog be. Find preventive measures for ticks, plan muddy walks every once in a while — there will always be a workaround. Of course, if your dog has had severe tick fever or breaks out in hives during every bath (this shouldn’t happen; find out the cause), this doesn’t apply to you.
  • Their kids are the only people involved in training:
    I get it; your kids threw a tantrum, and you caved and got them a dog. Now you want them to learn some responsibility because hell no, you won’t take 100% of the load for this dog on your head.
    However, you cannot stop being the adult in this situation. While it’s okay (advisable even!) to involve the kids in your dog’s training, you cannot skip it. Like it or not, the core of your dog’s responsibility and welfare lies with you. You can share the load, but you should not shrug it off.
  • Is the only person in the family who is involved in training:
    If you have more family members living with you, your dog and your family will need to learn how to communicate with each other. Because humans are so complex, what works for you and your dog may not apply to anyone else at home. Even if you cannot ensure everyone’s presence at every session, get them to attend at least a few. Consistency across the family will save you a lot of trouble later.
  • Is inconsistent:
    Training needs to be followed like a prescription. You need to be consistent in training your dog the way your trainer has asked you to. If you’re advised to share updates on a schedule, you need to stick to it. Understand that you have an animal to whom you’re teaching new things. Dogs work very well with consistency — in training and in life.
  • Impatient and unkind towards the dog:
    It is one thing to do this with the trainer (which is also a red flag), but doing this to your dog will permanently fracture your relationship with them. You cannot train a dog based on fear. Remember, your dog is not trying to spite you.
Training from the best trainers will fail if you, the dog parent (+ the rest of the family), do not do your bit. Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Dog parent green flags:

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Pressure Kukur

Pressure Kukur

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A blog to take the Pressure out of all things Kukur. Taking care of your dog doesn't need to be stressful!