I find in my work that people are hesitant to call a dog trainer for help with their dog for a variety of reasons. Most dog owners never hire a dog trainer (though that is changing in some areas, thankfully). This resistance to getting help illuminates larger problems with society (people are also hesitant to seek help for their mental health struggles; why would they seek help for the mental health of their dogs?) that I will leave to your imagination. Instead of getting into issues surrounding asking for any kind of help in today’s world, I’ll address (and debunk) the reasons I think people resist professional behavioral help for dogs.
“I don’t know what will happen.” Fear of the unknown, especially when someone you love (your dog) is involved, is a hefty factor. The plain truth is that people have no idea what to expect when a dog trainer comes to their home. To help clear this up, this is what should happen: You should have already exchanged emails and phone calls with your trainer so that she has a good idea of what’s going on with your dog. If through your initial dialogue with your prospective trainer you have a feeling of unease or simply feel that your personalities do not mesh well, maybe you should call someone else. This is a teaching relationship you are entering into, and entering relationships that are rocky from the start is usually a bad idea. Your trainer should also answer any and all questions you have about how the session will work so that you don’t have to be unsure of the process.
Here’s an example of a typical session with a good trainer: You’ve had your initial exchange and your appointment is set. The trainer will arrive at your home, she will meet you, your family, and your dog(s). You will all sit down at a table because there will be a waiver to sign and she will have questions regarding your situation. Offer her a glass of water or a cup of coffee if you feel so inclined; she will appreciate it immensely. Next she will explain her proposed plan of action; and the path you take toward your dog’s recovery is always up to you. You will decide on a training plan and she will show you the initial steps to take with your dog. If there are specific behaviors to teach your dog, she will coach you on those. The rest is dependent on your dog and your situation, but one thing is certain: the following hesitation people have should NEVER be a factor.
“Will I be berated? Will I be made to feel like a failure?” Are unfortunate questions that many people have in their head when they are considering using a dog trainer but are hesitant. The answer to these should always beabsolutely not. Your trainer is here to empower you, not to cut you down. As a professional it is my first job to acknowledge that because you called me I know that you care. I know that you want what is best for your dog. I know that mistakes will have been made, and that more mistakes will come, and that is simply the way of life. No loving, compassionate dog owner should be made to feel like a failure. It is the dog owners who refuse help for their dogs that truly fail, never the ones that bring in a caring professional. You deserve to have a mutually respectful relationship with your dog trainer.
“What will happen to my dog?” People are afraid of dog training because they only know about the nasty stuff, and that is a sad truth. The fact of the matter is that a dog trainer in this day and age has no business doing anything to your dog that makes you OR him uncomfortable. Choke collars, prong collars, shock collars, citronella collars, and any other device designed to inflict pain or unpleasant feelings on your dog have no place in this field, period. Pick your professional wisely, because unfortunately abuse still masquerades as dog training frequently. A good professional will use kindness, respect, and compassion with both you and your dog, every step of the way. There are dog training professionals who claim to be “positive” who are not, so observe some of their work if you can and ask tons of questions. Refer to my previous post about picking a dog trainer for more help in this area.
Still have reservations? That’s ok. Everything happens in its own time, in life and dog training. Leave me a comment if you’re still unsure, or if you were one of those hesitant people and chose The Cognitive Canine anyway.