5 Things Dog Trainers Don’t Do
Dog training advice is all over the map. While there are many contradictory beliefs about methodology and best practices regarding behavior management for dogs, here are 5 things dog trainers don’t do.
Dog trainers avoid dog parks
The only dog parks most dog trainers will use are empty ones. We know that dog parks are havens for inappropriate behavior (canine and human) and disease. Nasty right? need I go on – those two things right there are enough to convince most that their dogs do not need to visit a dog park. But here’s more detail, in case you’re on the fence about dog parks.
- Dog fights! Not every dog at there needs to be there. Many dog owners take their dogs to dog parks to “get used to” or socialize to other dogs. In a perfect dog park world that would be great but that may lead to your dog being the victim of an unsocialized or frustrated dog practicing and teaching your dog worse behavior.
- Dismissal of real behavior problems. Many dog owners take the stance that “dogs should just work it out” if there is a skirmish or a scuffle. I firmly disagree. Letting them “work it out” can lead to vet emergency room visits and add fear and anxiety to the mix of future problems.
- Health hazards. Parvo, bordatella, giardia, internal parasites, fleas, and ticks are just some of the health risks your dog is exposed to at the dog park. Some of that risk is minimized if your dog is healthy and current on vaccinations but your pet is still at a heightened risk and no one wants a sick dog with giardia induced diarrhea.
Dog trainers don’t use retractable leashes
- Flexible leashes teach bad habits like pulling. If you’re trying to teach your dog to walk nicely on leash the best way to wreck that is to put them on an extendable leash. The constant tension even though it is slight, commonly teaches them that mild leash tension is appropriate for walking, negating your loose leash walking practice.
- They can cause injuries. Google retractable leash injuries to see for yourself but be prepared if you’re squeamish. The thin cords can cause some pretty nasty burns and cuts and have taken off fingers and even dogs’ tails.
- They are way too long. You have much less influence over your dog should you need to give it instructions at 15-20’ of distance. They are hard to hold if you have anything else in hand and if you let go accidentally they wind up into your dogs’ rear end usually freaking them out.
Dog Trainers don’t free feed
Not only do dog trainers typically avoid leaving food down all day (free feeding) we rarely feed out of bowls. Adding food to enrichment toys and for training rewards is a much better use of food resources. This helps keep our dogs stimulated, encouraging calmer behavior later. Other reasons trainers don’t free feed include:
- It helps with house training. A more predictable input schedule(food) helps predict the output (poop) schedule.
- We can immediately tell if out dogs aren’t feeling well or if something is wrong with the food. If food is always available it may days to notice if something isn’t right.
- It helps to predict when our dogs will be hungry and ready to train. If your dog has grazed all day it is very hard to know when he will be the most receptive to food reinforcement.
- Dogs who eat within an 8 hour window or even once a day have been studied to be healthier than dogs who eat throughout the day.
- This can create picky or unmotivated eaters.
Dog trainers don’t recommend getting littermates
If one puppy is good, two puppies are great, right? Not quite. While is seems intuitive that getting two pups with keep each other company and be a time saving idea, in reality that can end up being one of the worst things dog owners do.
Raising littermates is harder than raising one puppy for sure and one puppy is hard enough in my opinion. On top of that it’s harder because everything you do with one puppy you has to be done separately with the second one, at least if you’re planning to have two well-adjusted adult dogs. Instead of doing these things with the two pups together, you have to do each of these things with each puppy, separately.
Because doing these things together leads the puppies to become dependent on each other. The more the pups depend on each other, the less they depend on and pay attention to you.
If you are raising two pups, you will need to teach house training separately. That is double the work right out the gates.
- Sleeping quarters: The pups need to learn to sleep apart from one another. That is now to crates, two beds, etc.
- Training classes: you will either have to hire a private trainer or take them to separate training classes. Creating independence is a critical task and they can’t establish it if they are together all of the time. It is also a huge distraction early on having both puppies present during class.
- Veterinary visits: When it comes to routine booster shots or wellness check, make two separate appointments. Each pup needs to establish confidence and independence especially when at the vet unless you want to bring both dogs to the veterinarian for the rest of their lives.
We don’t always meet other dogs on leash
This is one of my favorites which I often practice and suggest with pups learning manners on leash. Each dog and dog owner is an influencer. Walking up to another dog on leash can elicit arousal or fear from either dog. Leashed dog greetings often lead to misunderstanding and frustration since leashed restrict our dogs natural body language. This is especially true if the owners tighten up their leashes.
Many dogs aren’t looking to make friends with everyone they see and for the other ones, it can be overwhelming because of leash restrictions. I suggest using most stranger dogs as training practice to keep your dog’s attention on you. You can do this by feeding your dog a series of delicious treats when they see new dogs on a walk. You can pull over and let others pass as you keep feeding. This will eventually condition your dog to look to you when dogs appear.
So, I apologize in advance for not meeting your dog. It’s not personal it’s just my dog. I wan’t the best behavior from them. We can meet if the conditions are right.
- Both dogs and owners are calm and confident
- The owners make eye contact and communicate how they want the meeting to happen
- No one is distracted with a phone and leashes are loose
- No more than two dogs meeting at a time
- No one is using a retractable leash
I hope that gives you some insight on how a dog trainer might think in a few different aspects.
We already know how hard getting and maintaining reliable behavior from out dogs is and we have busy lives too so we might be less inclined to take silly chances to “socialize” our dogs when the chances for a positive interaction are unpredictable. The integrity of our dogs’ behavior is something that we work hard to maintain and we have simply seen too many unneeded negative consequences from making these simple mistakes.
Big thanks to the Whole dog Journal and Laurie luck who we used as a reference for this article.
Their perspective is greatly appreciated.