If your tooth hurts, do you call a plumber?
Of course not, you call a dentist. But do you call a dentist who would use wooden teeth to replace the ones he might extract from your mouth?
If you have a training or behavior problem with your dog and you call your friend, watch a TV show, pick a trainer from the internet or phone book without checking his or her credentials, or you buy a dog training book from the average bookstore, you are doing the equivalent of calling a plumber or going to an 18th century dentist and expecting him to know how to straighten your teeth when braces haven’t even been invented yet.
Training and behavior modification of dogs is a completely unregulated industry so, unfortunately, anyone can call him or herself a "Professional Dog Trainer," hang out a shingle and use any method he or she wants to try to train your dog.
Finding a dog trainer who will not hurt your dog, either physically or EMOTIONALLY, is not easy. You, as a consumer, especially if you have not adopted a new dog within the past 10-15 years, might not even be aware that science and the study of dog behavior has progressed leaps and bounds in recent years; there are new and more effective methods for training dogs that do NOT involve force, intimidation, or painful devices.
Many trainers who have years of experience (impressive, yes) are reluctant to give up the "tools" they have become accustomed to using (in spite of the fact that science has now shown that these tools actually hinder the learning process).
Years ago, most trainers were using some form of compulsion, from leash pops to electronic shock collars. And today’s compulsion or "balanced" trainers may still resort to the use of harsh tools and punishment. Some of them, realizing that public opinion is now leaning more toward science-based force-free training, are adopting language to fool you into thinking that they are much more positive in their approach than they actually are (for example, punishment is now "correction," shock collars have become "remote" or "reminder" or "vibration" collars set to "beep" — what these trainers don’t tell you is that those collars have multiple settings, and many brands routinely malfunction, resulting in painful shocks that are much worse than the "buzz" you felt when the trainer let you try it for yourself to prove how "harmless" it was). Or they may claim to use "scientifically proven principles of positive reinforcement" to get you in the door, but then have no problem labeling your dog as "stubborn" and slapping on an electronic collar when training isn't going as quickly as they would like.
So, how do you protect your dog from harmful methods that some trainer is telling you are fine?? Be present during the sessions, and if anything is being done that you are not comfortable with, stop the session!! You are your dog’s only hope of protection.
Another way to keep your dog safe from harm is to reject the services of anyone who operates a "boot camp," or who tells you that you need to be a pack leader, show your dog who’s boss, be the alpha, or dominate your dog. Veterinary Behaviorists (who DO need a solid education in animal behavior before they can practice) are now advising vets not to refer their clients to trainers who use such outmoded techniques.
You can also prohibit, in writing, the use of choke, prong ("pinch"), or electronic collars on your dog. If the trainer is hesitant about this, then you know that he or she lacks the skill to train your dog without those devices.
If you absolutely cannot be present for training, then send your dog to a Victoria Stilwell licensed Positively trainer (http://positively.com/
), a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (www.karenpryoracademy.com
), or find a trainer who belongs to The Pet Professional Guild (http://www.petprofessionalguild.com/GuidingPrinciples
). Trainers who belong to these highly respected organizations understand the science of dog training, are practitioners of positive methods, and pledge that they will not use choke, prong, or shock collars.