Judging a Pet Dog Trainer by Their Own Dog?

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Q.E.D., baby,- Q.E.D.!
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 7:36am PST 
"What do y'all think? Should a pet-dog trainer have well behaved personal pets of their own? Is the "proof in the pudding"?"

You would think, huh? wink

Spooky Mulder
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 7:45am PST 
did they help clients with similar problems to mine, and were the clients happy? Do they use methods I am happy and comfortable with, and treat each dog as an individual?

This is important as well of course.
There are plenty of very "accomplished" Sch people around here, national and world level competitors... but personally, I don't consider them worth the paper their titles are printed on big grin

Still, I'd like to see SOMETHING beyond client testimonials. One of the first trainers I went to, one I was referred to by someone else and who has many people who sing his praises... is an SOB and a monster, who frankly abused my dog and who I hope rolls over in a ditch wink

Typically people who compete have something perhaps just as important as experience- exposure. They have been out in the "dog world", have seen other dogs work beside their own, have seen other styles and methods and perhaps have absorbed some of that to help with their clients should they encounter a dog with an issue or need they AREN'T equip to handle. Morons and sad-sacks don't last very long in the competition world, firstly because they rarely go far or achieve much, but also because SOMEWHERE along the line, someone's going to call them on their crap wink

Bitesports excluded. You can still get away with being a moron in some of those shrug
Czarka, CGC- UJJ

Why walk when- you can run?
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 7:49am PST 
As others point out... the proof of a good teacher is in how well they teach. I'm always more concerned with how the students turn out. What is their success rate? If you look at the trainer's dogs... depends on where they are in their training... and breed of dogs. A pug or basset that does a nice retrieve in obedience is more impressive than a corgi or lab... or GSD. Which also brings out the question of the students... a wide range of breeds having success? Good instructor. Single or limited set of breeds? Not so good.

ETA It is important to know what the trainer is doing... but also who they read and follow. Ultimately training is not just "aye sir" or "aye ma'am" from the student. You SHOULD be discussing what you both see, think, feel about given techniques and responses of your dog.

Edited by author Mon Nov 26, '12 8:00am PST


Sanka- I'll Miss- You

The ground is my- newspaper.
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 7:54am PST 
I wouldn't be so hard on that concept.

After all, we don't all want the exact same out of our dogs. Heck, my dogs pull a bit on leash. It doesn't bother me. Others might prefer their dogs walk in a heel or a loose leash.

So, if I were a trainer capable of training dogs to walk with a loose leash, you seeing me walk my dogs might skew your view on my skill set.

But it all depends on what you're seeing in their dogs too. If I see their dog reacts like they're intimidated by their owner, then I'd be asking questions. Is this just a naturally timid dog or is this the result of their training.

Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 7:58am PST 
Oh I dunno about that... I've had other competitors ask me not stand within view of the lanes when Em's team is on deck because their dog might leave the court to go after her. Because she's a Husky. And she looked at their dog while excited. Their dogs aren't trained so much as amped out of their minds and ball-crazy. I worry quite a bit about it when we're running.

Not to mention the constant puppy turnover and seriously underweight dogs... I suppose it's somewhat different depending on your sport. Agility would require much more obedience, for instance. But even then, a lot of tournaments are held with other competitions nearby... I've seen people leave agility and rally rings dragging out of control dogs on prong collars. It's not the norm, but it happens.

Spooky Mulder
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 9:25am PST 
I've seen people leave agility and rally rings dragging out of control dogs on prong collars. It's not the norm, but it happens.

But were these instructors, or people just going out to compete? And as you pointed... they walked out, they didn't title.

I trialed in OB a few weekends back, did awful, left the ring in tears the first day. I'm also not a "trainer", and would never claim to be.

I think that environment would be a lot harder on someone who was actually out there trying to make a name for themselves, vs. someone like me who's just doing it to do it. I was also given a wealth of advise while I was there, and was invited to join one of the local OB clubs... so if I DIDN'T know what I was doing prior to walking out, I sure as heck would once I was finished wink

Also I don't know much about Flyball... it never struck me as a sport that requires a high level of actual training, vs. innate drive and speed.
Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie"

My Little Dog, a- heartbeat at my- feet.<3
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 9:58am PST 
To me, it depends.

I'd factor in many things:
- Clientele testimonials and whether or not they got what they wanted, etc(in person or over the phone - website ones can be faked)
- My comfort level of their training techniques(any trainer that has to INTIMIDATE their dog into listening to them is not worth a penny imo)
- The dog itself(this can include its background, breed, temperament and level of training, or how long the trainer has had a particular dog)
- Goals, competitions, titles, etc
- Whether or not they keep up to date with modern training methods, behavior, etc(seminars, books, mentors, etc)

Keep in mind, as was already stated, that often times, dog trainers end up with clients dogs that clients couldn't handle.

A prime example is my dog trainer friend, who ended up with a German Wirehaired Pointer. She had previously been locked, her entire three years, in the laundry room. Was never walked, was never let out, wasn't given any attention, etc. And even became extremely aggressive. In the end, the owners asked my friend to take this dog, because they were going to euthanize her if she didn't - what coercion eh? Anyway.. She took Zoey, and worked through many of her issues. She got her to a point where she could ask her to walk away from a bone when before, she would have attacked over a wrapper on the ground that wasn't even close to either of them. Was Zoey every normal again? No. But she was exercised INCESSANTLY on my friends group hikes, and was very well mannered with other dogs, and well managed around strange people. Was she still a danger? Absolutely, but this is also why she never took Zoey to her classes, unless she had a friend working with her specifically. She also had her muzzle trained for safety's sake too. In the end, it turned out that Zoey was having psychomotor seizures(snapping at invisible flies, unexplainable and random aggression or fear, shaking all the time, unusual head tilting, etc). Zoey collapsed one day while outside for a potty break, and began having grand mal cluster seizures, one right after the other and couldn't be pulled out of it(this was before my friend knew she was epileptic as Vet's had otherwise given her a clean bill of health!), and she ended up having to be put to sleep. I believe this was a year or two after my friend took her in. Did any of it make her a bad trainer? Not by any means. Her other dogs were/are fantastic. Zoey was just one of those dogs.

So it really comes down to several factors for me, because I absolutely would take my dogs to my friends classes - she has excellent reviews and has excellent outcome with all of the dogs that go through her, and even Zoey was doing great in comparison to what she was to begin with, and in such a short period of time too, and health issues considered.

I'm not lazy,- I'm just waiting- to play..
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 10:14am PST 
"Don't judge the trainer's dogs. Judge by their client's dogs."

I don't really think you could accurately judge by he clients dogs either... Some people just don't put in the effort at home. So if watch a bunch of petco/ petsmart classes some clients and their dogs won't do well through no fault of the trainer. If your going to a high end trainer though I would hope that wasn't the case.

I definitely agree with Sanka though, I think if the trainer has had their dog for a while and it is still fearful of the trainer that's a problem. Also, if they have had the dog from a puppy and it is completely out of control that's a problem. But there are just to many variables I think to judge without knowing a history of the dog and how long the trainer has had him/her.
Addy, CGC

Let's go for a- walk!
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 2:14pm PST 
I have a neighbor who has a sweet, lovely German Shepherd whom he dearly loves. He puts in a lot of time caring for that dog, and exercising that dog, and he has taken that dog for training to two different trainers both of whom I know to be knowledgeable, accomplished, and effective. They have different personalities and training styles.

Duke still pulls like a steam engine, and jumps on him, etc. He's a sweet, lovely dog, and I'm always happy to meet him, but I'm always alert for the possibility of being jumped on.

Not because the trainers are not excellent trainers, but because my neighbor, when push comes to shove, doesn't really want to change Duke's behavior. He is enough in control to satisfy himself and to safely walk Duke to and from the park where they can both really burn off some energy.

Anybody judging those two trainers by Duke's behavior would form entirely the wrong impression of them.

But I've seen both trainers with their own dogs, and they are big, powerful, high-energy, strong-personality dogs who are devoted to their owners, behave appropriately, and respond to even the mildest cue.

Addy is very responsive to me, several different trainers have commented on the connection between us, and I've worked with both of these trainers. I enjoy putting in a lot more time with training my dogs than my neighbor does, and a lot more of the training has stuck because of that.

But what has stuck is the stuff I either consider really important, or just enjoy working on. Not the stuff Addy and I learned just because it was part of the class we were taking at the time.

There's a lot to be said for seeing a trainer work with dogs and people before committing. Finding out if clients are happy is important, because if they're not, something is probably wrong.

But a dog trainer who enjoys what they're doing and is good at it has probably titled at least some of their dogs in something competitive. A new puppy or a newly acquired project dog is not going to have the behavior you're looking for, but the trainer should have, or have had, some dogs that do. Not because you want to title your dog (unless, of course, you do), but because having a well-behaved dog and being able to earn titles are a natural side effect of being a good trainer who still has joy and enthusiasm in what he or she is doing.

Member Since
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 2:56pm PST 
I think it's a bit like the old breeder question too: 'Why should I go to a breeder who breeds to standard or a breeder whose goal is to breed dogs for x purpose when all I want is a pet?'

..and the same answers apply.. smile
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