YES, THAT'S RIGHT. YOUR'E NOT THAT GOOD!
If this statement offends you, it means your ego needs to be checked. There really shouldn't be much to debate. You may be the authority in your field, but there's still SOOOO much more to learn. And to say that you know pretty much everything there's to know, is to admit that you are no longer interested in learning.
Some of the best dog trainers I've had the pleasure of knowing are still learning! People I look up to. That's such a good lesson.
The typical arrogant douchebags dog trainers get so hard on their own ego, it makes me throw up in my mouth a little. And they're not even that good!
I've talked to dog trainers who struggle with the close-mindedness of this field. They see their co-workers, bosses and mentors act like they're all that but clearly are not. Or if they themselves come up with ideas, better, faster and more efficient ways to do things, the "expert" shows up and tells them it's wrong. Granted yes, sometimes you're just wrong and you have to be able to take criticism, but this is something I see myself on a regular basis.
I've had trainers question what I do and disregard it as wrong simply because they hadn't thought of the idea themselves or because it would have never occurred to them. I fight this urge myself. I tell people: "Hey, go for it, let me know how it works." But that takes effort.
Now now, there are BULLSHITTERS out there! I know this!
"Check out my newest training method", "In this system, the dog learns to...", etc.
I realize this makes me sound like a hypocrite. Here I am telling you to be open minded and on the next breathe I'm implying I don't listen to every new thing out there. That comes with experience, eventually you know enough to recognize bullshit when you see it, and see something that challenges your way of thinking.
Some dog trainers are bullshitters, meaning they're not really coming up with a new way of doing things, simply restructuring or rewording something that has been proven to work so many times before. Making something sound more complicated than it actually is, isn't being creative, it's just being a good bullshitter.
I know, I know, I'm saying bullshit a lot. BULLSHIT! There, I got that last one out of the way.
"Who are you?"
"What have you accomplished?"
"The proof is in the pudding"
"Show me your dogs!"
Who am I? You're right, I'm not an expert. I'm a simple dog trainer in a sea of dog trainers. I am good, far from perfect and still learning.
What have I accomplished?
Not much really, I was never on TV, I have less than 500 subscribers on YouTube, 191K views total on YouTube and at the moment, only about 4000 followers on my FB page.
I worked in Afghanistan as a Contract Working Dog trainer. I was one of the trainers (and for a good period of time, the only trainer) responsible for ensuring civilian contractors met and maintained K9 certification requirements.
I've trained many dogs in different areas of dog training: police work, Service Work and Pet dog training and currently train my dog in PSA (Protection Sports Association)
I've helped many dogs stay home when their last option was training with me.
I currently am the lead instructor at one of the top dog training schools in the industry.
By no means am I trying to sound like I'm all that, if anything, this only points to my lack of experience in dog training.
The proof is in the pudding, you're right. No dispute there. If anything, there are way too many talkers and keyboard warriors in the industry!
"Show me your dog!"
Again, no dispute here. There are too many talkers in the industry who claim this and that. It is nice to see if you can keep up with your mouth. Again, nothing to brag about with my dogs. Still a lot of work that needs to be done.
In closing, I'd like to challenge you to read a book, re-read a book and/or go to a dog training seminar. If by the end of reading that book, or by the end of that seminar you only learned ONE thing, it was money and time well spent.
First, let's briefly define what a service dog is...
A service dog is an assistant animal meant to improve their person's quality of life by performing tasks he/she cannot perform for him/herself.
This automatically narrows it down to task specific needs.
Now let's identify what a service dog IS NOT...
A dog that just gives you comfort IS NOT a Service Dog. Sorry, it's not. "But I get panic attacks", sorry, not a Service Dog. IF you get panic attacks that prevent you from performing a task you need to perform, then YES. That would be the exception. If your dog warns you before you have a panic attack, or hugs you when you get panic attacks, then that's a task. If you need a dog when you're stressed, and there's no task involved, you may need an ESA (Emotional Support Animal)
"My Service Dog goes to hospitals and libraries for people to pet him." No, that's a Therapy Dog. No public access, not task specific for you, it's handler/person.
"I put a vest on my dog so I can travel with him. So he's my Service dog when I travel."
Why is it important to know what a Service Dog is and IS NOT? You don't want to be the jackass bringing his/her dog to public places and have the dog make a fool out of you, itself and worst of all, the REAL SERVICE DOGS.
Yes, shitty Service Dogs are slowly ruining the reputation of REAL SERVICE DOGS.
TOP REASONS YOU SHOULD JUST TAKE THAT VEST OFF YOUR SERVICE DOG
1. Your Service Dog growls at people or dogs (or both):
Time to take that vest off, your "Service Dog" is now a pet. No really, I'm not making that up. Per the Department of Justice, these dogs are NOT protected under the ADA and an establishment is under their right to remove you from the premises.
"Well, my dog is fine for the most part, it's just some people (dogs)" NOPE! Your dog is NOT a Service Dog. This is why Service Dogs are not Made, they're born.
Plus, think about it. Do you really want a dog that adds that type of stress to your daily routine? You don't! I've seen "Service Dogs" that actually give their humans more stress than anything else! Do yourself, the public and especially the Service Dog industry a favor, don't call your aggressive dog a Service Dog.
2. Your Service Dog was trained for Protection as well:
I'll let the Department of Justice answer that.
“...People have asserted, incorrectly, that use of such animals (Protection SD’s) is protected under the ADA. The Department reiterates that public entities are not required to admit any animal that poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others.”
If you were sold one of these dogs, sorry, you were ripped off by someone who either didn't know what they were doing, or purposely tried to deceive you.
3. Your Service Dog is a random dog that is being trained or was trained to be a Service Dog:
It's possible of course, but not likely that just any random dog has the right nerves to be a Service Dog. The selection process has to be done properly. Otherwise it's a hassle for everyone, especially the recipient.
Please be careful with Service Dog organizations. Everyone and their cousin has a Service Dog organization now a days. They're coming out of the woodwork and very few of them actually know what they're doing. The scary thing is that many of these organizations are legitimate. They have the paperwork, the donors, the facilities, sponsors, etc. But have no idea what they're doing. They have good intentions, but are not properly equipped or informed to select, train or assign Service Dogs.
"How do I know if the organization is good or bad?"
There are a few red flags to be aware of:
*Are they taking in any dog donations and turning most of them into Service Dogs? This tells me they're not screening the temperament properly.
*Are they training Service Dogs in just a matter of weeks? This could be an issue as it doesn't allow for enough screening or even proper training of the Service Dog.
*Is there little or no financial assistance available? This doesn't automatically make them bad! but I've seen people get burned by for-profit organizations and talked to people who ran strictly for-profit Service Dog organizations who did this for the huge paychecks. Their quality of training and screening was shit however.
*What are their trainer's credentials? Are they just volunteers who don't really know how to train dogs or have formal education? Doing temperament tests and training dogs to perform tasks is not something you learn on a weekend workshop. It takes experience and specialized training.
This quick article is aimed at dog trainers. I'm sure a refresher more than anything else as it's a very common sentence in the dog training industry. Especially if you work with driven dogs.
There are many times I hear dog trainers say things like: "I don't need to use food/toys for my dog to do the behavior", or "Toys as rewards are not really useful because it gets the dog out of focus too much".
-Training WITH drive- means we use the most motivating reward for the dog with the following stipulation: "You can have it if you follow these rules"
These rules don't have to be complex or difficult. They can be simple and easy at first, "You give me eye contact and then you can have the reward". At times simpler than that, meaning, sometimes you have to lure the dog into position.
Some trainers fall into the trap of "you have to do the behavior because I told you to do the behavior". This is definitely necessary in training, I'm not arguing that. But we also want to address the intense desire to do the behavior.
Look, if you're training your pet client to stop pulling, I get it, no big deal. The dog has to know the boundaries and understand the discipline of the behavior. But if you're competing, or doing demos with your dog. You want your dog to look intense, like this obedience exercise is the most fun part of its day.
If you don't want to train in drive, no worries, don't. I'm sure your dogs are very obedient and look equally impressive. Getting your dog to LOVE the exercise however sets you a notch above the rest.
"But what if the dog has no drive?"
Trust me, there is SOMETHING any dog is dying to get from you. You have to get creative sometimes. You may have to try different treats, you may have to withhold a meal AND try different treats. You may have to try different toys, you may have to try different toys and treats. You may have to use juice, broth, etc.
"Not necessary, I don't need it!" You're right! you don't "need" it, it's just nice to have.
"I use praise only!"
Ugh, for f***'s sake! why are you still reading this?
Below I have a video of a friend's dog(Husky) I worked for a few days. The main thing I addressed here was discipline, "Stop Pulling". I used food, but this was mostly a discipline exercise, there's little engagement. In many cases, you will have to start with discipline first.
Jackpots! Jackpots are your friend! If you want the dog to go from "stop pulling" to "I love to follow you", random jackpots will convince him that there's a probability of a high reward.
Discipline along with strong desire is what really paints a nice picture most dog trainers want to see. It's constant pull and push, carrot and stick, but it's certainly fun.
Let's cut right to the chase...
1) IT ADDRESSES TWO COMPONENTS OF OPERANT CONDITIONING
2) IT ALLOWS YOU TO HELP MORE PEOPLE WITH THEIR DOG PROBLEMS
Let's face it, when you put dogs and people in a household there's a lot of room for misunderstanding. Especially nowadays when adoptions are going through the roof.
I have seen first hand the incompetence of trainers that are purely positive AND "crank and yank" trainers who rely on one half the quadrant too much. This makes sense because if I only give you a set of tools to fix a problem, you wont be able to fix most problems. This analogy makes sense if you're a handyman as well.
Not to brag, but my students and I have been able to help so many people with their dogs when previous trainers were no help. That's not to say we're special or smarter, we're just armed with all the tools we can possibly use for any given problem.
3) IT'S MORE ENJOYABLE!
I can't tell you how frustrating it is to limit yourself to only one way of training! You end up blaming the dog or the owner. That's what I see a lot in the dog training industry. It's not the dog's fault that you're too close minded to help it. It's not the owner's fault that you decided to stick to your moral agenda.
It's frustrating, it's not enjoyable to train with a limited set of tools. I was a handyman at one point in my life and I know how irritating it was to not have the proper tools for the right job at the moment.
Training as a balanced trainer is satisfying and enjoyable because you can actually help the dog figure things out while maintaining a happy attitude.
4) IT MAKES YOU A BETTER PERSON
This may sound weird but it's TRUE! when you understand the principles of operant conditioning you understand how to properly communicate with an animal that doesn't speak your language in a very compassionate and clear way. Operant conditioning procedures were studied, developed and applied on animals, ultimately for the benefit of human psychology. Understanding these principles, automatically makes you understand people in a clearer way, thus making it more likely to be a better person.
**Just to be clear, calling yourself a "balanced trainer" while refusing to properly use Positive Reinforcement and Negative Punishment, justifying extremely forceful techniques on a consistent basis for the sake of convenience and taking pride in how you can make any dog behave in 2 minutes, doesn't make you a Balanced Trainer, it makes you an incompetent and insensitive douche-bag.**