Sunday, September 18, 2011

Please Don't Call Me a "Dog Trainer"

After watching the DVD, Patient like the Chipmunks, about Bob & Marion Bailey and hearing them refer to their work as behavior technicians, it clicked that what I was doing as a “dog trainer” or even as a “behavior consultant” was not aptly described by either of those terms as much as the job of working with dogs and owners dictates.

Since seeing Bob Bailey present a two day seminar on animal training it is even more cemented in my mind that what I am doing is not simply “training dogs”. I am entering into the world of changing human behavior and demonstrating how to change dog behavior effectively, reliably and safely.

Dog training is just one aspect of what I do. Surely I can train dogs and build reliable behaviors. However that is only one part of the process. To say that I am simply a “dog trainer” is no longer accurate.

The letters after my name CTC stand for Certificate in Training and Counseling. This certification was obtained at The Academy For Dog Trainers at the SFSPCA.

I consult on behavior in sessions and through email support however there is component to consulting that extends beyond simply explaining what the potential outcomes will be for dogs and humans.

Obtaining reliable dog behavior based on following protocols would be more accurate.

That extra component of criteria based plans is where the technician side of things resides. It is also in many cases more important to address the human’s behavior first as that will in turn change the dog’s behavior.

The main function of the behavior technician is to educate the dog owner and advise on protocols that will reduce stress and increase success. The environment and the dogs’ history are the main factors in determining how to proceed with training.

The majority of the time once a dog’s environment changes for the better in regards to increasing desired behaviors and stopping the harsh stuff, the dynamic is much easier for all involved.

Humans by and large dictate the dog’s environment and the human’s mechanics & timing of rewards and humane consequences create the dog’s history.

By having proper legitimate information about dog behavior based in science, ethology, math and humane behavior modification we can then better understand human behavior as it relates to dog behavior.

This legitimate understanding is a foundation for a truly harmonious relationship with dogs. Plus as I said it is a whole lot less stressful and safe.

Once we fully understand both dog behavior and how human behavior effects dogs we can then proceed with assurance that we are doing right by our dogs and not simply getting results or “breaking” dogs of habits. Many of these “bad habits” are in fact intrinsic to a dog’s truest nature, scavenging, pulling to greet, barking or alerting to sudden environmental contrasts. All this has billions of years of genetic foundation and we’d better learn to work with it and use it to our advantage.

Once we have the legitimate information we are learning and then we are teaching dogs based on the environment, and then dogs are learning not just “obeying”.

Sure, I train dogs and of course I consult on behavior as it relates to the dog human dynamic, but “behavior is both a science and a technology” as Bob Bailey says.

There is science, mechanics, timing, sequences, and of course moods and emotions for both dogs and humans. All this needs to be taken into account and then addressed in a way to reduce stress and increase success.

The companion dog paradigm is a bond unlike any other. The variables are vast and many times unavoidable, it is not a perfect world. Despite that millions of dogs do relatively ok, work it out and maintain a level of profound dignity that us humans would do well modeling for ourselves.

By coming into someone’s life that is seeking help with their dog, the kids, the extended family & friends etc… I consider it an incredible honor and a huge amount of trust placed in me.

So I give the cases I take my all and I make sure that I am not simply training the dog. I make sure I am educating the whole dynamic to have success for the rest of the dog’s life. After all there is no guarantee they’ll call me again, so I strive to set up the dog for the rest of their life with enough proper safe info so that...

1. The people and the dog start having success.
2. So I can sleep well at night.
3. That is how I was educated.

When I say that my job is to first reduce stress and then train dogs it is mainly due to the fact that people are usually not contacting me because all is well and there are no issues.

Usually there is some type of concern ranging from basic manners issues all the way to a proven aggression incident. These issues reside squarely with the humans and how they behave, how they gave behaved and how they will behave in the future.

Reducing stress and having success with dogs is predicated on humans having the proper information for their dynamic, their life style and of course the environments that the dog will be in.

All these aspects are facilitated by human behavior. This is why even though there have been many amazing books written, DVD’s made and TV’s shows, none of these can compare to having a legitimate assessment of dog & human behavior backed by a written plan tailored to you and your dog’s life. That is what you are paying for.

Along the way even when it is serious or may be challenging I encourage fun and patience along with empathy and understanding.

This makes a real difference in the way we view our dog’s behavior or how we react to our dogs and how we interact with them (and other dogs).

By learning how to deal with situations that arise so reliability is achieved and stress is reduced and not perfection or “robot dogs” we truly create bonds and not binds.

Dogs are sentient beings and as our best friends they certainly tolerate many things in life that go against their very nature. It is my goal to help each dog and each owner better understand each other so the bond is never broken and only strengthened, so that the dog human dynamic can live up to it’s full potential.

Dogs are capable of amazing things as long the humans in their life are willing to be open and empathetic to the dog’s intrinsic nature, be patient, learn and make decisions based on humane and non violent approaches.

As Bob Bailey says, “Empower don’t over power”.

This is why I am not simply a “dog trainer”. I am a behavior technician.