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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Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 8:06pm PST 
I totally feel that, Sabi. I think my point is, you say you are not a trainer and I commend that, for I am sure you are tremendously helpful to those who come to you. And yet there are people who DO call themselves trainers with the tenth, or less, of the amount of experience you have. That's why I think you need to look at the resume these days.

I mean, if I have started my horse over fences and feel I need some critique and guidance, am I going to Betty down the street who has a tidy jumper, or am I going to George Morris? laugh out loud If it's my hard earned money, I think I'll go to George wink Even if all I want to do is dabble on weekends over a few fences, George could certainly improve things vastly for both myself and my horse.

You can have these contrasts where Trainer A has owned three dogs for five years, into which she has put 800 hours of training time. Three dogs, all pets, whose achievement is that they are well behaved. What they have been exposed to in which they have been well behaved is pretty much a guess. Now conversely is Trainer B, who has been training for 15 years, during which he personally has trained countless dogs, put in 18,000 hours of direct training time with a long list of non subjective affirmations that he attained his goals. Dogs who lacked the motivation he built, those who were intensely drive-y he channeled. There is a glaring gulch between those two profiles. I think as Sarah pointed out, some are crappy with people....heck know my main mentor is laugh out loud, but then again it doesn't stop people from coming....which are only those he'll tolerate having. I'd still prefer to expose myself to his rather curt style than someone who may actually have lower standards than I do wink I'd far prefer to opt for the higher standards and have George Morris critiquing some imperfection another trainer wouldn't have even noticed. At least where I end up will be advanced from what I was before I came there, which is to me what I am paying for. I am paying for an expert, not a dog owning buddy.

Who is more likely to help you get into your dog's head? I'd be helping them find someone who doesn't have less experience than you do, for what would be the point? You probably know your local trainers anyway and offer advice on the front as well.

Because I'm- Duncan, that's- why

Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 8:34pm PST 
Just to clarify what I meant. I don't mean to trivialize competitions and titles at all - they are impressive and those trainers have a very admirable skill. It's just that I'm questioning if it's not a different skill than that involved in teaching and helping pet owners to have great pets and/or solve their problems.

I wouldn't expect a high-end competition trainer to necessarily have a sociable, happy, balanced pet dog. I see no reason to expect that; one has nothing to do with the other. I would certainly think no less of their training skills (in their own field) if they did not have that kind of pet. Having a successful competition dog, or lots of them in various venues, or a great working dog, are different than having an excellent pet dog. Which is sort of the point, though. It's a different landscape.

Hmm. Tiller will have to remind me...a while ago on this forum, there was a discussion about some famous trainer. For his own personal dogs, he used a crate & rotate system at all times. He said that letting the dogs be loose in the house just leads to rough housing and problems. But I'm thinking most average pet owners would be hoping for just the opposite from a trainer. Someone to help them have the dogs act controlled in the house, and able to be trustworthy in that setting. And for average pet owners, who have jobs and kids and real lives to live, having a crate & rotate system would not provide their dogs a very good quality of life, I think.

It also seems to me that some of these trainers who title dogs, obviously, are carefully selecting the dogs they will work with to reach those goals. They are choosing high-potential dogs and honing their innate abilities. That doesn't show anything about the trainer's skill with some imperfect pet dog, trying to resolve a behavior challenge. Behavioral rehab, that sort of thing.

By the way, Addy, I'm impressed with the trainers you know, based on your description of their personal dogs.

Spooky Mulder
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 8:56pm PST 
For his own personal dogs, he used a crate & rotate system at all times.

That was probably Frawley.

Who I don't think most people would recommend to someone looking for casual OB/pet stuff anyway, despite how he likes to market himself.

Being experienced is one thing, but finding a style that you jive with is important too. You want your dogs to live together peacefully? Find someone who can train that... but find someone who is EXPERIENCED and is giving you the best possible tools to achieve that goal.

Don't set yourself on the low bar. You say you only want a nice pet... well, why settle for 2nd rate potatoes? You can get an average trainer with average experience and average results... or you can get the best.

Why settle for less?

Jackson Tan

Lad about town
Barked: Mon Nov 26, '12 9:52pm PST 
The only thing I care for in a trainer is that they know my breed, that's pretty much it. Their own dogs can be jumpy jerk heads at home as far as I care, but as long as they have plenty of experience working a kelpie, which can be a force unto itself, I'm happy.

By training here I'm talking in a herding sense more than an OB sense, although an OB trainer who could trial a kelpie would have my utmost, utmost respect, as they are difficult on that regard, and I'd go for 'em in a flash, regardless of what their pets are like.

I saw a car parked in alot today that had numerous kelpie stickers on it and the words 'dog trainer specializes in kelpies' printed on the side and spent like twenty mins circling it trying desperately to find the phone number, of which there was none, lol. (Silly person why no number?!?!) People must have thought I was casing that car to steal it. But man, I got excited. Have to look it up, lol. That's pretty much all I'm looking for at present.

Edited for spelling mistakes, my keyboard is all weird and sticky today. smile

Edited by author Mon Nov 26, '12 9:55pm PST

Onion- (Skansen's- Prove Out- Oni

Forever A- Gentleman
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 12:31am PST 
I think one thing to keep in mind in these circumstances is that...and I can only speak for Frawley here....the mix of dogs they keep may be a bit much. Not a normal pet situation to have four or five large and drive-y dogs trained for toughness and aggression in your home. Part of me says that. The other part of me says I kept a GSD Frawley would have popped a gut over in terms of pedigree and hardness for and a Giant Schnauzer, both intact males, in the house at the same time alongside a Dachshund and didn't crate. I didn't have to and whereas I am sure Frawley COULD, why would he want to bother, so he doesn't.

Which I guess is Duncan's point....he's not a pet owner per se, so why go to someone who doesn't even live in your own reality.

I get that perspective, but I see things differently. A trainer is a coach. You go and do your deal and they can let you know where you are, comment on your mistakes (such as timing), give you insight as to how to motivate your dog and so on. But they can't train your dog...only you can. At the end of the day he's your dog and you sure wish he'd behave nice and be civil.....your trainer may do many things, but one thing he doesn't do is live with your dog. If your dog has some glaring issue, that he can work with you on. But most dogs don't have "issues." They get agitated at your neighbor, raid your garbage when you are away, knock you down when you come home. These FLASH moments where....sorry to say it....you are on your own. In that moment, what you decide to do. You have to learn to think. You have to build that perfect pet you want. This includes not merely training, but socialization, an interesting life that satiates your dog, it includes exercise, it includes positive and varied experience, structure and so on.

There is no replacement for that. It's the scary part of dog ownership. That scary FACT that your trainer is with your dog 2% of his life. He can't help you in the majority. He can't build your dog. You have to do that. You need horse sense. If you have specific problems, you can address your trainer, but you can't crutch that, for if you do, then you'll be busy causing your dog all sorts of issues you now need your trainer to fix, who only has about 20% of a clue as to what sort of life your dog is living.

So that's my competitive trainer angle. What I know is they can train a dog to a very high level. And that's what I want. In addition to a well adjusted pet due to living a well balanced and properly structured life. Not as in Mr. Perfect 200 score dog, but as in dead trained for those moments I don't expect, but my dog is dead trained. I remember bumping into a brutally serious and very much unattended loose Pit Bull one night with Onion....two intact males from incredibly tough breeds on what they considered THEIR territory....and to get out of this somewhere I needed to drop the lead on my own dog, who was totally ready to rumble, so I could grab the Pit. Onion was told to stay. He had to stay....we were inches away from a massive dog fight I could not have broken up. And he DID stay. It was insane for me to expect him to, but he was dead trained. Well, sorta laugh out loud He loved getting the upper hand on me, my beloved Onion, was very naughty and full of mischief all the time, but in terms of his training and proofing, he was trained to not screw around in a moment such as this, and he came through. And he came through because I was coached by people who walk into a ring with a dog and can only afford for him to be perfect.

It doesn't matter if the trainer's dog is calm. Your dog doesn't have his genetics nor does he live in his house or mirror his life. If your dog is not calm, particularly if this is due to a mismanaged life, having him in class for the 45 minutes isn't going to make him calm if you go home and repeat the subtle mistakes your trainer isn't even seeing. You rely on your trainer to increase your dog's level of obedience, and that's where I agree with Mulder....why go with some second banana? The Ed Wood of the dog world who can't or won't step out with the big boys? Big boy skill matters much if what you want is for your dog to be reliable. That's where they can look at you and your dog and perfect the team. All the other life management issues, though, are up to you. That's why matching oneself to the right dog holds such weight. If it was purely a matter of training class training, that wouldn't be an issue. But it is.

I feel if we all think that the 45 minutes we spend with a trainer will mold that perfect pet, we are sadly misguided. Your dog spends the other 167.15 hours every week away from that trainer and in your complete care and control. You need the right match, you need to raise and manage your dog correctly, and you need a good trainer for all the pieces to pull together to allow your dog to be the best that he can be.

Edited by author Tue Nov 27, '12 12:49am PST


I am the Sock- Bandit!!!
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 10:10am PST 
Tiller: "That aside, I would be naturally dubious, if someone loves training dogs (which one would hope one's trainer DOES), they would fail to eventually branch out into titling. It's sort of that next level."

I get what you're saying, and it's probably the next level for traditional OB, but I can think of some really good trainers who don't compete simply because it's not their thing. They're often called on for certain breeds, dog sports etc. but may not be the actual handler at an event. Happens in racing, because ofcourse no one handles the dog during a run. Trainers may not be accepting the laurels, but they've helped to get the dog up there. They're typically not available to your average pet dog owner, however, word of mouth in certain breeds gets them all the work they need. Unless, someone's bought a topend dog from a breeder and is having trouble. I love training my own dog (and I am not a pro paid to train dogs) but I have no desire whatsoever to compete. If I ever own a registered dog, I know so many pro-handlers I'd pass her off to one of them for competition and it would be worth every penny. I prefer the grunt work, too wink and hate the ring.
Tiller- (Skansen's- Ira in the M

I DO Exist...To- Drive You Batty
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 10:31am PST 
I agree, but of course they are also known, as I pointed out. I was more referring to some "trainer" who is very proud that her "dogs are happy." I never trust a resume that includes a main sell how happy a trainers dogs are and yet they do nothing to substantiate this. It is to me all a little bit bizarre. "I took a trainer's course, I read books and my three dogs are so happy and very reliable!" And people should train with you because????.....shrug

I look at really pragmatically. Said three happy dog trainer, say she has owned them five years. She has personally trained those three dogs to the tune of about 800 hours of real time. Three dogs. Versus my sort of deal trainer, who has trained too many dogs to count personally....let's say 200....with 18,000 of time logged. Which has the superior potential to train my unique pet?

I see many trainers out there now who have not raised a puppy. And they give a puppy class! You know as well as I, you don't puppy learn in a book near as much as you do raising the little buggers laugh out loud The mere concept to me that this trainer is hearing of their clients struggles and has any perspective leaves me dumbfounded. I personally would never recommend a trainer to a puppy owner who has not raised litters and certainly who has raised multiple dogs to adulthood. You really need the experience, the perception, understanding. Much of the advice I see is simply not practical living 24-7 with a puppy. There are so many dropouts and people who give up and start isolating the dog (backkyard, tons of crating) because of this.

I eat you!
Barked: Tue Nov 27, '12 10:19pm PST 
I don't think trainers who train dogs for competition should be in the same category as trainers who trains dogs to be pet dogs. you wouldn't go to a competative trainer to train a dog for the blind. if you want your dog to compete than you should look at whats important:tittles and wins.

I always thought that the pet dog trainer trains you, the person, to train your dog. So, you would want a teacher who you feel comfortable and have a connect with. You should meet their dogs, not to see how their dogs behave, but to see if how they treat their dog is how you and/or the trainer would like to treat your own dog. The trainer might yell at their dog and tell you not to yell at your dog, will you still respect them after this?

It doesn't matter how impressive a trainers resume is, or how many people sing their praises. there needs to be a respectful bond between the trainer and you, the student.thinking

Edited by author Tue Nov 27, '12 10:23pm PST


When the night- closes in I will- be there
Barked: Wed Nov 28, '12 10:58am PST 
Much of the advice I see is simply not practical living 24-7 with a puppy.

Tiller soooo true. I am sure that everyone does things slightly different but some of the stuff I hear is so blatantly off base it's laughable.

Duncan I just wonder about judging a trainer on their dogs because I have known trainers who took on badly damaged dogs that had no hope of living 'normal' lives. Kept them where they were safe and understood. Would it be fair to hold that against them?

Because I'm- Duncan, that's- why

Barked: Wed Nov 28, '12 11:12am PST 
That's part of my question, Sabi; I don't know! Is a skilled rehabber able to turn around a badly damaged dog so that it CAN live a normal life? And, indeed, present as a model pet? Risa earlier said that trainers aren't miracle workers. Ok, so if I had a pet dog with a problem - what could I realistically expect from a trainer? Just help to improve, but not necessarily to fix the problem? Could I speculate though, that perhaps a good trainer could help to "improve," but an excellent trainer could "solve" the problem? In their OWN dogs, as well as clients'?
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