The Pooch Perfect Guide to Training Methods, Internet and Television Advice... *including our own!
Please read this article before taking any internet training advice -- including advice from this site!
A lot of dog owners (including some pro trainers) seem to be caught up in the debate between fans of Cesar Millan’s “Dog Whisperer” and fans of positive reinforcement – and pro trainers aren’t alone. Pooch Perfect gets quite a few calls from poor owners a few months after taking training advice from online or television training gurus or the pro-trainers that follow them – and it’s up to Pooch Perfect to help them out of these very sticky situations.
Although we don't mind a little extra business now and then, we would rather if people avoided bad advice in the first place. This Blog aims to help you separate big problems from small ones and good advice from bad. Read on to discover when, how and where to get the best advice for your situation, whether you go to a professional or not.
(I’ll be writing in detail about Cesar and “The Dog Whisperer” in a future Blog.)
“The Dog Whisperer” did some great things, but ever since it came out in 2004, there have been some problematic ideas and training advice floating around our popular culture.
Key Issues Introduced by “The Dog Whisperer”:
Behaviour problems can be solved and the average dog owner can achieve success with their dog!
This is great news and it got a lot of people more involved in dog training, but it also gets some people in over their heads when they try to address issues best left to professionals.
Behaviour problems should be solved quickly and easily – in a half-hour or less!
This expectation is pretty unrealistic. It takes time and effort to train a dog properly – especially if you plan to rehabilitate behaviour problems. In some cases we can be finished in half an hour, but that is the minority.
Every dog has the same problem: “Your dog is dominant and taking control. You’d better dominate your dog instead”.
“The Dog Whisperer’s” training methods and philosophy are super-simple and easy-to-repeat – one of the key reasons the show is such a success – but they really don’t capture the subtleties of real dogs and real-life situations. That would take longer than 30 minutes. Not every dog has the same problem.
Most training solutions used on the show involve punishment, force or intimidation of some kind.
Punishment, intimidation and force-based methods can certainly work, but they are prone to several drawbacks – especially if implemented without professional-level timing and technique. Not every dog needs the same solution.
Issues Surrounding Punishment and Force-based Training Techniques (*Blog coming soon)
But Cesar isn't the problem...
Despite the issues raised by “The Dog Whisperer”, the debate that arose out of the show is the much bigger problem.
In response to the popularity of "The Dog Whisperer", Karen Pryor came out with "Don't Shoot the Dog" in 2006 – a bible of the “positive reinforcement” movement. She suggests the opposite philosophy to Cesar as well as opposite methods -- and Karen Pryor fans started a whole movement against Cesar and his fans.
Each of these camps (attendant pro-trainers included) continually crow about who’s right rather than thinking for themselves. And these two camps are so loud and obnoxious, it’s easy to think they’re the only shows in town. But they’re not, and Pooch Perfect is here to try to help. It's not just apples and oranges after all.
The False Dichotomy of the Dog Training Debate
Without actually knowing you, your dog, or your issue, each of these camps already “knows” what’s wrong with your dog and how to fix things. That should be your first warning sign to stay clear of either one.
Millan: "Dominate your dog or it will dominate you! (Watch my show!)"
Pryor: "Click and treat only! (Buy my book, visit my site!)"
Which is right?
Neither! They are both selling their philosophy as "the only right way to train dogs" but Pooch Perfect still gets calls from both sides of the divide.
When Cesar fans run into trouble Pooch Perfect usually tells them to lay off the discipline and use more treats and praise.
When Karen Pryor fans run into trouble Pooch Perfect usually tells them lay off the cuddles (for a while) and set some sensible limits for their dogs and then enforce them (gently but consistently).
Dogs and their training issues are as rich as the variety of owners and living situations. Any training technique can be ineffective or counterproductive if used incorrectly or used in the wrong situation. That’s why pre-recorded advice or celebrity training methods can’t work for everyone who tries them. I’m not saying they won’t work for you. They might, but Pooch Perfect does end up rescuing quite a few people who end up using advice that claimed to be the right way and not getting results.
So when we're asked "what method do you use?", usually the asker is interested in knowing which camp we fall into -- apples or oranges:
- The Cesar fan club - which believes every dog needs to be dominated
- The Pryor fan club - which believes every dog needs more treats
...And the answer again is Neither!
The only thing we've decided in advance is that we want to improve your relationship with your dog -- and we can give you a lot of different ideas on how to do that.
So which method do YOU use?
The best answer isn’t the obvious choice between apples and oranges. Pooch Perfect doesn’t make up its mind about training and management solutions before meeting you and your dog. We don’t use canned advice or celebrity mantras. Instead, Pooch Perfect assesses your situation and makes recommendations based on your dog, your situation, your goals, your lifestyle, your skill level and your preferences. We work with you to develop solutions together. We coach you on the most effective techniques for you and your dog – and we support you when you need backup. That might mean we won’t get you to your goal in 30 minutes or less, but you can be sure we’ll help you get there. So while these two sparring camps could never help every dog, we can.
We hope that our openness to different training techniques (within limits) will also help advance the training world as a whole. If that sounds good to you, give us a call!
Read on to find out which training issues are best dealt with using online advice and which you should leave to a professional. (*Blog coming soon)
Training Truisms: Truthiness You Can Trust
Which popular advice you can take, which is best left alone and how to tell the difference (*Blog coming soon)
When you've gotten in over your head -- and what not to do in the face of behaviour and training problems (*Blog coming soon)
Things I've learned from Cesar Millan: Lessons in Critical Thinking (*Blog coming soon)
How to judge trainers by their "What you should look for in a trainer" articles (*Blog coming soon)