Do Your Research, But…
© 2019, Pamela Dennison
I’ll keep this relatively short.
A family was looking for a trainer for their 7 month old puppy, to help fix typical nipping and jumping problem. They asked around and got a referral to a trainer, who by her website (I personally checked it out after guessing correctly who it was), was pretending to be a positive trainer. All fluff and none of it true.
Within 15 minutes, they left in tears. The puppy had jumped on the trainer, (typical puppy stuff), whereupon she kneed the pup in the chest, proceeded to kick her, then hang her up in the air, off her feet, while on a choke collar and then dragged her across the floor. The pup defecated in fear, bit her own tongue, blood raining from her mouth.
They called me later that day and when describing the incident, she broke down. Her kids had been crying all day, the dog was freaked out, wouldn’t eat or drink, hiding from them and choking. I highly recommended that they take the pup to the vet to make sure there wasn’t any lasting damage – broken ribs, bruising and the like. I explained that our industry is not regulated – anyone can say “I’m a dog trainer” and hang their shingle out to an unsuspecting populace, and I suggested that they write out the entire incident and give a copy to their Veterinarian and the organization that this “trainer” belongs to.
We made an appointment for the next day – my first lesson is without the dog – and I wanted to make sure that her whole family came so they could overcome their trauma too.
Fast forward to the first lesson with the dog. It took pup awhile to come into my training building – she was terrified and hung back at the door, trying to shrink into the floor or get back outside through osmosis. After about 10 minutes we were able to get her all the way in the room and then I rewarded her by letting her go back outside.
The second time in, she entered without too much hesitation. She saw me sitting in my chair and started to pull toward me, wagging frantically, head down in what I perceived as a very nervous, scared way. I wanted to make sure there was no pressure on her neck, no reminder of the trauma she had already been through, so I told the owner to drop the leash. As the pup came closer, I sat there quietly and just presented some calming signals – squinting, head turn, blinking, lip licking. Pup instantly slowed down in a calm way, not in a groveling way, sniffed me and walked away. We both repeated that a few times and each time pup reacted appropriately, calming down and relaxing sooner each time, learning to trust me.
No fuss, no muss, no violence.
I won’t go into more detail, but suffice it to say, it may take a little longer for her to overcome that horrific experience, but I’m pretty sure she’ll be just fine.
So, why the title of this post? These people thought they were doing the right thing. Two people had recommended this so called trainer, and without actually personally checking her out and watching a class or two, they trusted the referrals and went through hell.
Getting referrals is a wonderful thing, however, I would highly urge you to also observe the trainer before signing up. Very often one can’t really tell what kind of methods a trainer uses without actually seeing it in person. Punishment based trainers are not going to tell you that they use kicking, choking, and hanging on their website and the only way you’ll know for sure is to observe them in action. If they won’t let you observe, then don’t go there. Not all trainers are exactly alike. There is a full range of fabulous, great, mediocre and downright horrific.
Get referrals, get recommendations BUT go one step further and check out the trainer IN PERSON.